A friend and I were bemoaning the state of gift giving in modern society the other day. She complained that when she tried to purchase a baby gift in a store, she was told that it had to be ordered online. This has become a trend in recent years with the ubiquity of online shopping platforms.
Of course, there’s nothing new about gift registries. It’s great to be able to get a couple just what they need or want for their new home or their new baby. But my friend and I agree that we enjoy going to the store and actually seeing the items we might purchase for an occasion. We want to take the item with us and present it in person at the shower or wedding or birthday party.
My friend also said that she was disappointed once at her niece’s baby shower when the event came and went without her niece ever opening the gift she had brought. My friend had gone to some effort to give her niece a lovely gift and wanted to see her open it. This is also a pet peeve of mine. Particularly with showers, where the whole purpose of the party is to give the lucky couple gifts, it’s incumbent upon the receivers to open the gifts in the presence of the givers.
Even with children’s birthday parties, I think it’s important for the child to open the gifts his or her friends bring. I remember attending parties in L.A. in which the gifts were whisked off into another room and never seen again at the party. My kids were terribly disappointed not to see their friend open the gift they had picked out. I realize that there are all kinds of pitfalls in the gift-giving ritual when it comes to kids. But with a little prepping of the birthday boy or girl in advance as to how to receive gifts graciously – and a healthy dose of humor at the inevitable faux pas kids will commit anyway – the opening of gifts at a birthday party is usually a highlight of the festivities for children.
As “Manners Mentor” Maralee McKee says, “Gift givers are kind enough to search for, buy, wrap, and bring you gifts. At a party, or one-on-one, it’s gracious to open presents in front of them so they are there for the “unveiling” and so you can thank them in the moment.”
Obviously, there are occasions at which it is impractical to open gifts, such as during a wedding. A wedding is such an orchestrated event, usually with hundreds of guests, and it would be impractical to spend time opening each and every gift. at the actual event. That is what post-wedding thank you notes are for.
Gift-giving rituals evolve over time. But I think some traditions are worth holding onto, as gift giving is an important part of every culture the world over. It’s worth taking the time to consider the needs of both giver and receiver when taking part in them.