Bethlehem Press

Monday, March 30, 2020

Respectfully Yours: During holidays, the gift is to the giver

Thursday, November 21, 2019 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

I was embarrassed and caught off-guard during the holidays last year. I received a gift I was not expecting and did not have one to give in return. What should you do when someone buys you a gift and you don’t have a gift for the person?

Dear Reader,

Chances are that the gift-giver just wanted to treat you to something nice without expectations attached.

Naturally, it’s awkward and uncomfortable when you are on the receiving end and you didn’t buy the person anything.

Instead of getting hung up on that beautifully wrapped but totally unexpected present, try to concentrate on showing your gratitude. Thank the giver for the gift and respond in the same spirit that the gift was given.

Smile and show your genuine surprise and appreciation. To express heartfelt appreciation, say, “You are so thoughtful. Thank you for thinking of me.” The worst thing you can do is make the giver feel he or she has made you uncomfortable.

Don’t make excuses and pretend you have a gift at home. You can decide later if you would like to give the person a gift in kind, but there is no obligation. To further show your gratitude, follow up with a personal handwritten thank-you note.

Still unnerved by the idea of being without a gift this holiday season?

It’s not a bad idea to have a few just-in-case, universally-liked gifts stored away. Have them wrapped with a tag that reads “From our home to yours.”

It is inevitable that there will be awkward moments during the holiday season. Keep in mind that many people give gifts without expecting anything in return. The gift is simply a thoughtful gesture.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation.

All Rights Reserved © 2019 Jacquelyn Youst