Advice from Christine?

Send me your questions. I’ll help.

Advice from Christine?
Why yes! It’s a new regular feature of the blog.

A reader writes:

For 10 years, my parents, brother and I, along with our spouses have participated in a Christmas gift exchange whereby you provide a list of items you’d be delighted to receive to the person who has your name and you get them gift-wrapped under the tree.

Last year I was royally burned by my sister-in-law and received various unwanted items, something she has certainly done before. I am over this tradition and really feel that this idea is one whose time has come and gone. My brother is not taking the idea of cancelling the tradition well and my parents are caught in the middle. How do I extricate myself gracefully?

Christine helps:

Are there no children in your family? If there are, you could pose an “only kids get gifts” policy. That might work and not make you seem like a Grinch.

Christmas is for kids after all — adults pretty much get the short end of the Christmas stick. I remember one year, I got a grey cowl neck sweater with some odd sleeve thing going on. It was awful, but my Mother — who loved me — made it so I wore it. (I certainly never sought advice about how to handle the ugly sweater issue.)

I don’t think your S-I-L loves you enough to knit you a lumpy sweater. Think back, what did you get them for a wedding present? Was it on their register? Or was it a unique item you thoughtfully picked out, because you think a register contains mere “suggestions” for non-creative people? I am guessing the latter. No doubt she remembers those awful multi-coloured wine goblets and seeks to punish you every year.

She’s ignoring your “list of items you’d be delighted to receive” because you slighted her in some serious way. So yeah, my strong guess is the wedding gift. Don’t ask me how I know — I just do.

So what can you do?

Nothing. There is no way to extricate yourself gracefully from this.

Come on, everyone else probably gets a kick out of it — even your parents, who are not really “caught in the middle.” Truth is they just don’t want to say anything. (No doubt, you Mother has heard all about your creative wedding gift, but she’s said nothing to keep the peace.)

You can learn from her. Just say thank you warmly and donate the horrid things to your local charity.

Note: This question was emailed to me by a friend — honest, it was she who suggested I start offering advice — but I don’t think she made it up herself.


  1. Another idea would be to limit the cap on the adult gifts. Say $50 and under. Smaller amount=fewer unwanted things!

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