The horror of gift giving

SANTA has arrived at our local shopping centres for a month of serious gift discussion, so I think it’s safe to say the silly season has arrived.

And with it comes a situation I slightly dread… That is, the horror of gift giving.

I’m not referring to all gift exchanges – some of it can be quite lovely. In my family we do ‘Secret Santa’ amongst the grown ups where we each get allocated one person, and this year I scored mum as both my recipient and my buyer.


She knows her homewares inside out and can sniff out a bargain two suburbs away, so that story is bound to have a happy ending (for me at least!).

So what’s the gift giving I dread?

It’s the handful of exchanges that still happen with my close girlfriends. And it’s because I get present anxiety.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get the balance right – I either buy too much or too little and the result is always awkward.

Two years ago, I gave a girlfriend a beautiful but inexpensive frame. I’d borrowed some recent holiday and family snaps from her Facebook page and had them printed to fit. The gift was thoughtful, but it didn’t exactly blow the budget.

She gave me a gorgeous and expensive Guess wallet. Awkward…

That same year, I gave one of best friends an expensive make-up gift set from Myer.

She didn’t get around to Christmas shopping until December 23 and couldn’t face the crowds, so she did all of her Christmas shopping at Australia Post. She bought me a calendar and a box of highlighters. Honestly, I’d have preferred some stamps!

The thing about Christmas gift exchanges is that the weight of expectation can cast a shadow over the whole thing. Unless there’s a clear and pre-determined dollar limit, you can end up in a world of awkwardness if the gift you chose for someone is valued significantly higher or lower than the one you receive.

Perhaps that’s why I love the Kmart Wishing Tree so much: see gift. Buy it. Donate it to someone in need.

Gift givers get to feel all warm and fuzzy for supporting someone down on their luck this Christmas, and disadvantaged Australians get to wake up on Christmas morning knowing that someone cared enough to consider them on Christmas day.

Everybody wins and there’s no awkwardness at all. Finally, a gift exchange with a pre-determined happy ending!

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