Gift exchanges don’t always spread cheer

By Amanda Graf

Let’s face it: when the holidays roll around, gift giving can seem more like a minefield of awkward exchanges and insincere “thanks” than a way of spreading warmth and cheer to all mankind.

Maybe you overspend and incur the secret-Santa-exchange’s wrath for showing everyone up.

Or you send what you thought was the perfect gift, only to realize the strain of finals week sapped you of your sanity (“Of course I meant to send you the Rocky box-set, Grandma . I thought they would make nice coasters!”)?

Maybe someone you hardly know gets you a great gift and you shove your third-grade art project at them, adding you made it from the heart, especially for them.

And almost everyone has been on the flip side of the gift-wrap, counterfeiting a generous smile while you unwrap a Chia pet with the Walgreen’s receipt still stuck to the box.

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To avoid such awkward situations, here is a compilation of gift-giving advice to cure your holiday anxieties:

Mary Biesiada, sophomore in LAS and resident advisor at Babcock Hall, said to not feel obligated to get your roommate a gift.

“If you have no idea what the person would like that you’re trying to give a gift to, just don’t give them a gift. This means that you’re obviously not very close,” Biesiada said.

If you are good friends, a gift card is a great way to make sure they’ll end up with something they actually like.

She suggests food gift cards because “everyone needs to eat.”

If someone in your dorm who you do not know too well gets you a small gift, Biesiada says thanking them sincerely is enough. If you really feel the need to reciprocate, a small bag of candy is appropriate.

John Powell, clinical counselor at the Counseling Center, advises anyone in a dating relationship to talk about their gift-giving plans ahead of time.

“The danger is going overboard, trying to make the gift mean too much,” he said.

Powell suggests keeping presents simple, like gift certificates or tickets to an event that can be enjoyed together.

He said when in a relationship to not give gifts like underwear, which can lead to “sexual second-guessing.”

Powell also advises that if you get a gift you feel is too expensive or serious, deal with it in a straightforward manner, telling the giver it is too much.

Father Tom Holloway, assistant chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, said you’ll be broke if you let gift giving control you.

He suggests giving close friends gifts away from the school setting, as to avoid making people feel left out.

“For closer relationships, I have seen that a personally-made gift that reflects the relationship and shows time and care can be the most meaningful,” Holloway said. “And wouldn’t that be so much better than a shrink-wrapped copy of ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ or whatever?”

Should you find yourself trolling the discount movie bin looking for gifts, turn to the experts for some good advice. One good source is Emily Post has been setting the standards for etiquette since 1922.

Go to for more gift giving ideas.