Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's So Hard to Tell Someone That the Present They Gave You Is Hideous. I Know, I've Had a Few

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's So Hard to Tell Someone That the Present They Gave You Is Hideous. I Know, I've Had a Few

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Rinder

T happens every Christmas.

ISome holy bore on the obligatory God-bothering radio slot will remind us all how dreadful it is that Yuletide has become so commercial. I can't stand this annual sanctimonious twaddle. Minus the odd bit of smiting, the Bible (both the original and the sequel) is full of exchanging gifts in one form or another.

When the Three Wise Men showed up at the holy stable, they didn't come with fashion advice; they arrived with the most fabulous presents they could muster. Frankincense and myrrh were the Jo Malone of the Late Bronze Age.

Despite being a religious outsider, I do understand that Christmas tidings of comfort and joy have nothing to do with PlayStations but that's beside the point. The problem is not commercialisation; it's that people are often dreadful at giving presents and even worse at receiving them. The golden rule? Speak up and be honest.

The moral imperative is clear. If you don't like a gift, don't keep it. While it is important to accept a compliment with grace and at least a veneer of pleasure, the same cannot be said about gifts. If you're not sure about a compliment, you can simply muster a "thank you" to avoid insult or awkwardness, and nobody has lost a thing. A bad gift, on the other hand, has cost somebody money and, likely, time. Accepting it not only wastes their resources and clutters up your home; it often marks the inception of a dreadful and unbreakable web of deceit.

The number of people I know with cupboards dedicated to dire gifts from relatives is a shocking indictment of this. I know one family who have created a spreadsheet to ensure that the hideous objects they have received over the years from their grandmother go back in the same place each time she visits. Imagine if someone in the family, years ago, before the charade had gone this far, had simply taken it upon themselves to say: "Look, we really don't share your taste for turn-of-the-century feline ornaments," and let her redirect her hard-saved money towards something which might bring happiness? …

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