Friday, November 23, 2007

What Makes a Good Grab Bag Gift?

This Saturday the girlfriend is hosting a small Christmas party for her friends. By the time plans were settled, there was no time to draw names from a hat, so the gift exchange will be grab bag style as opposed to Kris Kringle. This means of course that we are tasked with picking a gift that anyone would like.

So what makes a good gift in a grab bag context? I'll set the following criteria.
  1. The gift should be consumable, that is the act of using the gift destroys it. Food, spirits and candles are examples of this.
  2. As a corollary to rule 1, if the container for a gift is meant to be saved and reused, it should be as small as possible. Stackable is an inferior but satisfactory substitute for small.
  3. As an exception to rule number 1, if it can be mostly assured that the gift's receiver will be able to make good use of the gift something permanent may be given. Seasonal items also count in this context of permanence. Examples, would be Christmas tree ornaments.
  4. I would shy away from giving something personal. Its a grab bag.
Now for the explanations.

I'm of the belief people have too much junk. I'm by no means an advocate of green living and low carbon foot prints. I just think we collect more things than we need. This is why I'm a big fan of consumable items. If I receive smoked salmon I will eat it and not have to store it in my attic. If I receive a smoker, I will cook smoked meat two or three times and then it will take up space in my garage until the statue of limitations on selling it at a garage sale passes.

Items specifically marketed as gifts in stores fall into two distinct categories. Those that come in pretty cardboard boxes with gold accents, and those that come in pretty reusable containers of non cardboard material. Opt for the former not the later. Some people are very good at making use of square wicker baskets, but most are not.

If you absolutely must give something permanent, a Christmas tree ornament is a good idea. However, there are exceptions to even this rule. Parents of older children generally have more ornaments than they need. If you compare the Christmas trees of younger adults versus older adults you will see that younger adults tend to have ornaments that are sold in ten packs and older adults have acquired more than their share of unique ornaments of sentimental value.

Am I being just slightly heartless here? Yes I am. However, that is the point. I am a packrat by nature. Many others are like me. We all like to give and receive gifts. If you give me a gift I probably will never throw it away, and the same is true for my fellow packrats. By following my guidelines, you allow the gift giving and receiving to continue, without causing attics to become needlessly cluttered.

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