Holiday Horrors and Other Gifts Gone Bad

 We’re just on the other side of Thanksgiving and bingo!  Here we go.  The office parties, Yankee swaps, white elephant exchanges, Secret Santa’s and other saccharine holiday cheer. Oh boy.

Nah, I’m not a Scrooge.  I really do love the holidays – all of ‘em.  You name it:  Alban Arthuan, Christmas, Eid-al-adha, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Rohatsu, Soyal, Yule, etc., and I’m happy to celebrate.  I’m an equal opportunity celebrator. 

 [BTW, if you don’t know what all these holidays are, scroll down to the bottom of the post for their meaning.]  

The month of December, or really the winter season, has a lot of holidays because many of them are linked in some way to the winter solstice.  Interpretation varies worldwide, but most cultures have some sort of recognition of birth and rebirth involving celebrations, gift giving, and general merry making.

Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder points out in the December 8th PRNewswire that “the economic scrooge may be loosening its grip on holiday cheer as employers indicate their intent to offer more holiday bonuses, parties, and gifts than last year.”  Surveying over 2,600 employers in early September, CareerBuilder found out that:

  • “Thirty-three percent of employers plan to give a holiday bonus this year, up from 29% in 2009.  Only 9% say they won’t be giving a bonus this year, down from 12% last year.
  • More than half of the employers surveyed (52%) are planning a holiday party, up from 49% in 2009, and 29% plan to give holiday gifts (up from 26%).
  • Twenty-five percent of employees say they plan to buy holiday gifts for co-workers this year, with 86% planning to spend less than $25.  Twenty-two percent plan to buy their boss a gift…”

As great as it is to get into the holiday spirit and spread some cheer, along with the hoopla comes the anxiety, sweat and tears because you’ve got to give gifts – and giving gifts at the office can be as  hazardous as that fourth or fifth glass of eggnog at the annual party. 

And then there’s the horrifying tales of the suck-up gift, the obvious re-gift, the totally inappropriate gag gift…you see where’s I’m going with this.

Sure, it’s important to give gifts during the holidays; it’s a great way to say thank you to those who have helped you throughout the year.  They just need to be meaningful and appropriate.  So, go get your gift-radar in gear and keep those eyes and ears open for some good ideas.

In the spirit of the season, here’s some thoughts to help you in your office giving protocol…one of my holiday de-stressing gifts to you!

First of all, get ideas for great gifts from the gift-getters themselves.  Everyone loves receiving that small something that shows true interest and thoughtfulness.

And speaking of small, don’t spend more than what the IRS usually allows, which is no more than $25.

If you’re “up-gifting” or giving a gift to your boss, be careful not to appear as if you are brown nosing.  Give something that relates to the person’s interests or hobbies.  When in doubt, make a donation to the person’s favorite charity or give a nice engraved pen.  Or better yet – don’t give a gift by yourself; make it a group gift with your colleagues. 

Don’t give alcohol unless you know if the person likes it or drinks it.  Careful here, it may be against company policy.  Do some gourmet food instead.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t assume the folks in your office crib share your tastes – tickets to the Monster Truck rally are just not for everyone.

And no gifts that even appear to be a gag or too personal.  That’s a no-no to Chia-pets, snuggies, toilet mugs, antlers, light up hats, or anything to do with politics.  Same goes for too personal things, such as lingerie, underwear, jewelry, perfume or cologne.  Yes, Will Farrell’s elf tights fall into this category.

Oh, and no funny t-shirts either, that say something brilliant as “I sue therefore I am” or “computer programmers don’t byte, they nibble a bit” or “accountants do it by the numbers.”

Flowers and plants are good; unless the person is allergic.  And be careful giving if you know the person has a house pet.  Many holiday plants are toxic  to dogs, cats, and birds.  You don’t want to give the biological gift that keeps on giving right on the living room rug, so unless you know, stay away from  poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, lilies, daffodils, and ivy.

Nothing should be given that could possibly be misconstrued.  Think gift certificate for the newest diet craze book, coaching tapes for the type A personality…you get the picture.

And finally, if your boss or a co-worker gives you a gift, it’s not necessary to give one in return unless you want to.  Most folks give gifts without the expectation of receiving one in return.  What you do need to do though, is show your gratitude by sending a thank you note to him or her. 

Sincere appreciation.  That’s the best gift of all.  

Happy December!

Alban Arthuan – celebrating transformation; the Sun God’s journey through the underworld to learn the secrets of death and life and to bring out those souls to be reincarnated. [Druidism]

Christmas – celebrating the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth, better known as Jesus Christ. [Christian]

Eid-al-Adha – celebrating Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, at the behest of God. [Muslim]

Hanukkah/Festival of Lights – a celebration of the successful revolution against the suppression of the Jewish religion by Antiochus and the restoration of the menorah to the temple where it miraculously burned for eight days. [Judiaism]

Kwanzaa – celebrating collective ideals such as responsibility, self-determination; cooperation, purpose; creativity, faith and unity.  Meaning ‘first fruits’, Kwanzza is based on the ancient harvest festival of Africa. [African American and Pan-African]

Rohatsu/Bodhi Day  – celebrating the enlightenment of the Buddha in 596 BCE. [Buddhist]

Soyal – celebrating the return of  the Sun and the rebirth of life. [Native American]



  1. John Jorgensen says:

    ‘Bout time someone recognized the Druids, however you forgot Festivus.

    Good post Heather.

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