The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 8, 2012

Ojanpa: Don't be a bad Santa

— Assuming it’s the thought that counts, there’s no such thing as a bad Christmas gift-giver. There are, however, bad Christmas gifts.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had to call upon whatever acting skills we possess when we open a package with kin gathered ’round and there sits (fill in your own downer here). 

A bad Christmas gift, of course, is a wholly subjective proposition. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, depending whether you like or loathe that smoked Virginia bone-in ham that comes with a certificate of authenticity and a “collector’s jar” of Coca Cola glaze.

As subjective as “bad” is in the context of holiday gift-giving, there are some objective guidelines one can heed to avert coming off as a clueless chump.

It’s best to stay away from giving:

* Self-improvement items. These can range from diet books to gym memberships to personal hygiene products. Yes, nothing says “Merry Christmas” like gifts telling you you’re fat and smelly.

* As-seen-on-TV crap. Sure, it’s only $19.99. That’s because all that stuff is $19.99, which, apparently, is the magic price-point ceiling at which Americans will buy stuff they know is dreck but will shut down their wallets if it’s a penny more. 

* Re-gifts. This one is tricky. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with re-gifting if you know the item will be well-received by the recipient.

 But a re-gift can go south in a hurry if the item was originally given to you by someone else in the room, if you stupidly give it to the person who gave it to you, or if it’s a gift that, by any standard, sucks.

* Celebrity fragrances. To paraphrase that Nike slogan, just don’t do it.

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