QUESTION: Last year I received an unexpected gift at Christmas. An acquaintance brought me a rum cake. I thanked her profusely, but did not reciprocate. Did I show terrible manners by not getting her something?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: People do not give gifts to get a gift in return. It is all about giving, not receiving. As they say, 'tis the season. Of course there is always next year — or, this year.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: If it's been a year and you're still feeling like you dropped the ball with your acquaintance, then get her a small Christmas gift this year. Since you're still worrying about it, maybe that's your answer to yourself about whether you should have reciprocated. If you thanked her and wrote her a note, then that should have been enough.
I do know people who keep small gifts in reserve — like a small candle or nice soaps — in case something like this happens, and you want to reciprocate, but your acquaintance probably didn't give anything to you with that expectation. You can be thoughtful and reciprocate without being expensive, or you can just be thankful that someone thought of you for Christmas and let them know.
HELEN'S ANSWER: It is always fun to give and to get an unexpected gift. I don't think you should feel really bad about not returning the favor. If you had not planned to get her something, then don't just run out there and get something to be getting it. Your thank you was enough, and you could send a holiday card or a note thanking her.