Gift exchange dos and don’ts


Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are right around the corner. That means neighborhoods, buildings and stores will soon be awash in holiday splendor. Social schedules will be full, and men and women everywhere will shuffle to complete their holiday shopping.

Grab bags are a staple of this season of giving, and the following are a few dos and don’ts to ensure participation in gift exchanges is fun and friendly for all involved.

DO set a gift amount limit. Holiday grab bags are more about having fun and exchanging a little something with friends and family members than walking away with amazing prizes. Establish a spending limit so everyone receives a gift of roughly the same value and no one feels slighted or left out.

DON’T exceed the spending limit. It can be tempting to spend more to make your gift appear more impressive. But overspending defeats the purpose of the gift exchange. Grab bags typically are anonymous, so being overly generous will not win you any style points.

DO make it a game. Tossing gifts in a bag only to have others reach in and grab one is certainly effective. But the concept can be even more fun if you make a game out of it. Try passing wrapped gifts around in a circle to a holiday song. When the music stops, the gift you are holding is the one you open. Experiment with your own variations to make gift exchanges more fun.

DON’T let anyone see the gift you bring. The idea is to keep things as secretive as possible so as not to sway the selection of presents.

DO ensure your gift is unisex. Unless you know specifically that only men or women will be opening the presents, select items that will appeal to both genders. Food, gift cards, music, or home staples make great grab bag gifts.

DON’T forget to consider ages as well. Gift exchanges may include both children and adults, so include gifts that appeal to all ages when necessary. When the exchange has ended, allow participants to swap gifts if they want to.

DO expect some grab bag gifts to be gag gifts. Such gifts are entertaining and may make up the majority of the grab bag gifts. Keep your sense of humor and you’re likely to enjoy grab bags a lot more.

DON’T regift items to use as grab bag picks. Should the person who gave you the gift participate in the grab bag, he or she can trace that gift back to you and may be offended.

DO make sure everyone is aware that there will be a grab bag gift exchange, as there needs to be an equal number of gifts to participants so everyone gets a treat. Hosts may want to have a few extra wrapped gifts around just in case someone forgets to bring their contribution.

Gift exchanges in the form of grab bags, auctions, swaps, and other games make for fun additions to holiday festivities. They also can be a part of any family or friends gathering to add excitement and entertainment to the occasion.