It's not just less blessed to receive, a sizeable minority of Miss Manners' Gentle Readers claim. It's a downright nuisance.
While she is kept busy chastising the greedy for their blatant demands, the background hums with G.R. grumbles:
-- "My home has slowly become totally cluttered and overrun with a vast array of crafty, cutesy, tasteless decorative items and accessories given as gifts. I am running out of room, I no longer enjoy the way my home looks, and gift-giving season is upon us."
-- "For years now, my aunt has persisted in giving me bath oils and salts, chocolates and new-age music. I am allergic to chocolates and perfumes, and I find nature recordings and new-age music generally irritating."
-- "My husband and I boycott items manufactured in a certain country, because these places are notorious for the ill use of their workers, many of whom are underage. We also try to instill in our daughter that Christmas is about love and family and charity and kindness by doing volunteer work and making donations. But every year, we end up at my husband's parents' house and his family gives her far more gifts than she needs, many of them from the precise country we boycott."
-- "My brother decided to present to all his siblings a contribution in their name to a certain charity, unfortunately selecting a charitable organization that my wife and I do not support. Indeed, we oppose its mission and goals, and greatly suspect its management of incompetence, at the very least. My brother knows, as well as he knows his own name, how my wife and I feel about this organization."
-- "We live in a small apartment and have two garbage bags full of stuffed animals already. I have tried to get it across to both sides of the family that the children don't need any more -- I have even suggested storage units as gifts -- and only one person got the hint."
-- "My brother is a minister. Our religious views differ sharply. Each holiday season, he gives my two young children numerous gifts such as books, videos and puzzles, with overly religious messages, which I perceive as an attempt to influence the religious views of my children. I don't want my brother to give them any more such items."
As all of these people swear that they accept graciously whatever they are handed and try not to look crestfallen, Miss Manners is slightly abashed. The gift registry, the gift certificate and gifts of cash would also solve their problems as much as those of the ungraciously greedy.
Miss Manners does not waver in her opposition to the solution of eliminating the elements of thought, symbolism and surprise from presents, and having people simply pay one another for getting through the holidays. But she is feeling responsible for the consequences. What about all that awful, unwanted stuff?
Here is the polite procedure for minimizing the damage.
Hints are in order in advance ("Check out my Web site" is not a hint), as are mutually negotiated deals, such as, "There are so many of us now, why don't we agree to get presents just for the children?"
When those fail, as Gentle Readers testify they so often do, the polite recipient protects the donor from knowing the present was a failure. Thanks, and no complaints. To refuse a present is a high insult, and that includes asking the donor to go exchange it.
However -- here comes the relief -- the donor is equally bound to silence, which means that the present does not have to be used or displayed. (Exceptions are wise when the donor is beloved and close at hand, but these are voluntary.)
This leaves room for returning, giving to charity and re-gifting, none of which is rude if the rule is strictly observed about protecting the donor from knowing. This requires fresh wrappings and logs of who gave what, and a ban on yard sales and re-gifting anywhere near the donor.
And, most of all, it requires an attitude of "I didn't really expect to make a profit on Christmas anyway."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was approached by the sister of a young man (they both work at a local establishment that my husband and I frequent) who was expressing her wish to purchase a rather expensive Christmas present for her brother. Not knowing this girl very well, I told her that it was a very nice gift, but far more than I could ever afford, even for my own husband.
Her response? "Well, I thought I would take donations from everyone here at the restaurant (myself included). That way, I wouldn't have to bear the brunt of the whole thing."
I was FLOORED, and would like to know how to politely respond with "not a chance" when asked for a contribution.
GENTLE READER: "That's very generous, but wouldn't it be too much of a financial burden for you? Because, of course, then you'd be obliged to help all of us buy what we'd like to give."