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20-40-60 Etiquette: Giving (and receiving)!

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: November 17, 2011

(Editor’s Note: Any etiquette questions out there? We will do our best to answer them! HFW)


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 profusely, and wrote her a note, then that should be enough.

I do know people who keep extra small gifts in reserve — like a small candle or nice soaps — in case something like this happens. If you want to do this, you don’t have to hand anything to the gift-giver right away, but say something like “I have something for you but it’s not wrapped, and I’ll drop it by later.” 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.

I plan to take friends a gift this year because they did something nice for me during the summer, but I would be horrified if they thought they owed me a gift in return.  I really just want to say thanks and give my wishes for a Merry Christmas.


GUEST’S ANSWER, Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Blog and book author:  I think food gifts generally come from the heart, without strings attached. When I deliver cinnamon rolls to friends around town, I never expect that they would give me a gift in return; I just love baking and delivering rolls to people at Christmastime.

If you wanted to do something nice this year, you could give her a pretty cake plate (you can find inexpensive ones anywhere) with a note about how much you enjoyed the rum cake last year.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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