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Christmas Gift Mess-Ups

My immediate family and I are really into reading and have acquired many books over the years. We do not have a problem with giving or getting used books as long as they are in decent condition.

A few years ago in the month of August, I visited some friends and we went into the local Goodwill store. The minute I walked in the door, I saw something. Try to imagine when Clark Griswold found the perfect Christmas tree out in the woods, glowing. It was like that. The item was a book about John Deere tractors. Used, but in good condition. My Dad is a huge fan of John Deere tractors, along with other brands (the real ones and the toys), and agricultural history. I thought it would be a perfect Christmas present for him, and it was only 3 or 4 dollars! Since he had quite a collection of books in this subject area, I wasn’t sure if he had this particular book, but I was willing to take the gamble. I came home and showed the book to Mom, and she was sure that Dad did not have this book.

Fast forward to November, when Dad came home from the National Toy Show in Iowa. He had his new treasures scattered on the living room floor, like a kid at Christmas. Among all of the scale models of varying sizes, what should I find? That book! The condition of it was about the same. I ran to my room to double check, and sure enough, it was the exact same one. I was so disappointed! I went back out to the living room and Dad was showing us all of his new toys. When he came to the book, he was so giddy about “getting such a good deal on it for 10 dollars.” I let the cat out of the bag and told him that I got it for a better deal at 3 or 4 dollars. He was actually extremely impressed. He told me to go ahead and give it to him for Christmas and that he would sell the one he bought to his brother, who had also been interested in the book. So it all worked out in the end.

The funny part is that we have a repeat of this situation again this year. I had been eyeing up a certain cookbook and added it to my Christmas list. I had found it on Amazon for roughly 18 dollars. We receive a mail order catalog (we view this as our generation’s version of the Montgomery Ward) and this cookbook was 10 dollars.

I went into our local bookstore with a friend a few weeks ago and found this book on the bargain shelf for 4 dollars! Despite me telling my friend that he is not to allow me to buy anything, I bought one for me along with one for my Mom (she expressed interest in it when we were looking at the catalogue), and one for my sister. I figured since Christmas was still quite far off, Mom and Dad hadn’t placed their catalog order.

Later that night, my Mom was walking by and saw me removing this cookbook from my Christmas list. She asked why. I told her I bought it that day for a really good deal. She asked how good of a deal. I told her. She was impressed, but admitted that she ordered it from the catalog several weeks ago. She asked if I got any more since it was a really good deal. I admitted that yes, I got one for her and one for my sister, and had intended on using them as Christmas presents. My Mom said that it was absolutely fine to still wrap it up for her, even though she knows. Now she is debating if she should return the ones she purchased or keep them and give as wedding shower gifts.

Thank you for staying to the end; I know it got a little long. Thank you Jeanne and E-Hell readers for the wonderful site and always excellent advice. I hope all of you have a great holiday season with little craziness, although I do love reading the crazy stories.  1106-15


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  • Rebecca December 21, 2015, 2:27 am

    Gosh, I was waiting for the part where someone was rude about it, or some friend who had no business meddling went and gave someone a dressing down for buying a bargain book for a gift. Glad to hear it actually all went well!!

    • AIP December 21, 2015, 5:44 pm

      I know, it’s a Christmas miracle! 😀

  • just4kicks December 21, 2015, 3:39 am

    Yay!!! A story that has a happy ending!!! 🙂
    I admit, too, that I waiting for the other “shoe to drop”!!!

  • NostalgicGal December 21, 2015, 3:50 am

    Better than one of my cousins in a larger family, needed stuff he decided. It was mid November. We all begged him to wait until Christmas. Nope. He went out and came home from the store with everything and wiped out the entire Christmas present stash for himself. We literally had the confab and a bunch of things were detagged and wrapped and stores didn’t always take stuff back like that in those days and he detagged and was wearing everything. SO he ended up with two of everything. Lead balloon Christmas. (literally the week before Christmas he bought all the stuff, he could have waited about 4 more days and be gifted.) After that year (mid 1960s so there weren’t really gift cards or certificates) so we just passed a card, signed it and put money in it. He complained some years later about no more gifts for him, just the card from everyone, and we reminded him of the year he ruined the gift giving. Well he needed the stuff NOW so they should have given it to him BEFORE he was FORCED to go out and get the stuff (we are talking he was a grown man). We continued to pass the card and put money in it until he died.

    • Willynilly December 21, 2015, 9:43 am

      That seems a bit mean spirited. I understand why you started the card with cash, but once he explained he didn’t like it, why continue it? He messed up once and spent years – the rest of his life – paying for it, instead of ever being given the chance you show he had learned his lesson.

      • paperdream December 21, 2015, 3:02 pm

        I’d get this if he had shown that he got why they started doing it, but it sounds like he still thought he was in the right. I’d’ve continued passing the card too.

        • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 2:07 am

          He thought it was perfectly right, to go out on the 21st and buy all this stuff we had already bought for him. And he had decided in Mid Nov he needed (new bathrobe) and such and HIS MOTHER said to the effect of oh I think that’s the perfect gift I can get you. He told her and the rest of us if we were going to gift him, he needed them NOW and we should have given them to him NOW (trust me the old bathrobe would’ve made it to Christmas easy) . Now being mid November.

          • padua December 22, 2015, 1:02 pm

            it makes sense to make the point the first year, but i agree with willynilly. he didn’t want the envelope with cash in subsequent years, so either get him something he wants or don’t give him anything at all. he complained about getting the cash for years, and yet people kept giving it to him. i’d be so frustrated…

          • Ashley December 22, 2015, 11:47 pm

            For some reason the reply feature is not showing up under the post I want to actually comment on, so this is directed at Padua, who is showing up below this as I type it. He set himself up for the frustration, by always buying the gifts before people were able to buy the gifts for him. No one could buy him gifts because the likelyhood of him going out and buying it himself before Christmas was too high. If he didn’t want an envelope full of cash, he should have learned PATIENCE and not bought all the things people could have bought him.

    • TKD December 21, 2015, 10:04 am

      Was it “mid November” or 4 days before Christmas? There’s a huge difference between those in terms of waiting to get an item you need.

      In the future, leaving the tags on gifted items might be a good idea in case they need to be returned–aside from the possibility of duplicating an item the recipient already has, they might not fit or could turn out to be defective. You could mark out the price itself with a marker rather than remove the tag entirely.

      • AIP December 21, 2015, 5:52 pm

        I’m a bit confused by that too. When he “wiped out the entire present stash for himself” do you mean he took others’ presents or just bought stuff from his Christmas list? (Gosh, ye must’ve stuck to those lists like glue back then, no John Deere deviation for you! 😉 – only joking, I realise that in the 60s many gifts served a practical purpose)

        • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 2:12 am

          The rest of us had spent from mid November to mid December getting everything for him he said he ‘needed’. Then he bought the entire array himself (some were exact items) so we had nothing ‘new or different to give him’ other than what he just bought himself brand new, some duplicates. Most of us were stuck with money spent, can’t return it, here’s another pair of slippers identical to the ones you bought four days ago

      • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 2:08 am

        This was about 1966, tags and returns often went differently. We’d detagged the presents and boxed and wrapped them which was more common for then.

    • Ally December 21, 2015, 9:32 pm

      I’m confused about the part about having had a confab?

      • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 2:19 am

        The ‘confab’ was we’d already bought him the gifts, most were unreturnable, and he’d just gone out and bought everything we had bought him for gifts. Um, getting something last minute wasn’t in our power (budget) and nobody else was that size or had that taste in things so no last minute could we swap some stuff around.

        We decided next year on the card with cash so if he couldn’t wait for Christmas (he was 23 and a normal functioning adult) he could buy anything he wanted any time he wanted and the cash could ether ‘cover what he bought’ or he could spend it as he liked.

        Until he died he still thought when he said he needed the bathrobe in November we should have given it to him THEN (and we didn’t get to find out if would have had a fuss with no presents under the tree because he’d gotten them already.

        • wyntertime December 22, 2015, 9:04 am

          NotalgicGal – isn’t it exhausting trying to explain a submission that is so easily understood? I’ve had this experience a couple of of times, and finally I just give up. It’s like people WANT to make a bigger thing out of it.

          • Amanda H. December 22, 2015, 1:35 pm

            Agreed. I got the gist of NostalgicGal’s original comment. Guy has a wishlist. Decides sometime mid-November that he NEEDS that stuff RIGHT NOW and people presumably try to talk him into waiting. By mid-December he just goes and buys the stuff anyway, in a time period where returns aren’t as common or easy-sans-tags, and then for the rest of his life doesn’t understand why people were annoyed with him or retaliated by just giving him cash (because it was the most hassle-free answer) and a card.

            My guess? He would’ve complained about not having gifts under the tree if he’d been given those items NOW in November, given how he complained about not having gifts under the tree when he was receiving just the card with cash.

          • Ashley December 22, 2015, 11:49 pm

            Agreed, I understood what was going on right away.

            I’m glad that in my family, if it’s near the holidays, if you mention buying something for yourself, and it’s something that someone has already bought or is considering buying, you get a polite but firm “You’re not allowed to buy yourself anything but food til after Christmas” or something to that effect.

  • JO December 21, 2015, 5:46 am

    So glad it worked out both times, and to see everyone was able to see the humor in it! A book lover myself, I’ve had similar situations. I think saving the cookbooks for wedding/shower gifts is a great idea.

  • Mustard December 21, 2015, 6:32 am

    This story illustrates how good the OP and family are at buying gifts for each other!

  • Tara December 21, 2015, 6:56 am

    Oh man, this Christmas has been just like this for me and my mom! Throughout the year I mention a bunch of things I need to my mom (just as part of conversation, not as gift ideas). This year I needed new suitcases (my old ones fell apart), a particular bathrobe, and new jeans. Some of those things get added to my amazon wishlist, some don’t.

    So all these things went on an excellent Black Friday/Weekend sale online at their respective websites. I bought all of them (among other things) because I need them. I told my mom later about the great deals I got and she was so upset because she got me exactly the same things! She had already shipped me the suitcases even. But it all worked out fine, because now I have 5 hard-sided suitcases instead of the 2 I ordered, and it doesn’t hurt to have an extra pair of jeans. She’s returning the bathrobe she ordered for me though, because where I live there is no store to return to, and I really can’t use 2 bathrobes.

    We coordinate Hallmark ornaments… I find out which one she’s planning on getting me so we don’t double those up. But I didn’t think she’d be buying me all those other things!

    • Devin December 21, 2015, 10:38 am

      Luggage is a popular gift in my family since we all have to fly to see each other (and the airlines seem to have a knack for breaking or bending the back spines on every trip). If I put luggage on my wishlist, I know that I’ll be receiving an early xmas gift. My parents will ship it directly to me a week before I fly home for xmas so that I have fully functioning suitcases (handles work, wheels all attached). One year I hadn’t asked for luggage, but my stuff was getting a little shabby looking. My big bag was severely damaged on my flight in (the airline actually had to duct tape it back together after something had ripped the canvas apart), and to my surprise a new bag was waiting under the xmas tree the next day. I ditched the old bag, and had brand new bag to take home with me.

  • keloe December 21, 2015, 6:59 am

    In my country the gifts are distributed during the Christmas Eve dinner.

    Once I went to a different country for summer holidays and bought a shawl for myself. I wore the shawl to the Christmas Eve dinner at my aunt’s house.
    It turned out that my aunt (the hostess) bought me an absolutely identical shawl for Christmas in our home country (it was a nice shawl, but not some sort of special handicraft) and had a shock seeing me coming in wearing “her gift”.
    Nothing bad happened of course – we just had a laugh about it.

  • Dugzma December 21, 2015, 8:57 am

    I love it…the spirit of giving and the spirit of graciousness all wrapped up in a single story! It’s nice to see. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all!

  • siamesecat2965 December 21, 2015, 9:18 am

    I love this story! my mom and I are kind of like this as well. We are pretty casual about gifts, regifts, etc. For example, I got, one as a birthday freebie from Sephora, the other as part of a set as a gift, two lipstick pencils. Both are much darker than I’d normally wear, but they suit my mom just fine, so they’re going in her stocking. I won’t tell her they are “regifts”, but if she asks, I will and she won’t care.

    I’ve also bought myself things ahead of time, becuase I needed them, or for her to give me, if something was a really good bargain, and i knew it would be gone by Christmas.

  • Dawn December 21, 2015, 9:33 am

    This is all just so charming. You have a sweet family.

  • starstruck December 21, 2015, 9:46 am

    I have a suggestion. Since your family loves books so much and this keeps happening, how about a gift card to Barnes and nobles or amazon? I know that might not seem as personal, but it would be fun to try it one year. My husbands gets me books for Christmas after I mentioned the ones I’ve been waiting to read and has also gotten me gift cards . Both were great!?

  • starstruck December 21, 2015, 9:47 am

    Oh and since u mentioned you didn’t mind used books,(neither do I) amazon has a ton of used books for sometimes less than a dollar

    • AIP December 21, 2015, 5:56 pm

      True, especially as – if it’s the book I’m thinking of – it’s out of print. (I’m no tractor aficionado, but it is a beaut)

    • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 3:06 am

      I have had several rounds in the last year of buying a gently preowned book from Amazon, it went through as being in stock, they charged me, they give me a ‘it shipped’ email, then they send me one saying the seller was out of stock. Amazon still claims the book is coming, then asks me in that cute email to rate my purchase. I’ve had several email discussions with their customer service that I ordered the book, they claimed it shipped, then store claimed out of stock, then they refund, yet still ask me to rate my purchase that never happened.

  • PJ December 21, 2015, 10:23 am

    I love how your family is so in tune with each other that you know the Perfect Gift when you see it, that you are like-minded in your appreciation for saving a bit of money and re-using rather than discarding, and are so cooperative and gracious with each other on gift giving. It sounds like you are all a blessing to each other!

  • just4kicks December 21, 2015, 10:34 am

    My mom always starts Christmas shopping in the summer, and more years than I can count, one or more of my kids have gotten duplicates of books and other things, because my mom had forgotten she already got one until she sat down to wrap them.

    • AE December 21, 2015, 1:24 pm

      My aunt used to do that. Except she’d wrap and tag stuff when she bought it and would be as surprised as us at the duplicates! XD

      • @just4kicks December 21, 2015, 7:17 pm

        @AE: That’s a riot! I love it. 🙂

        Our youngest daughter bday is in December, and when she was younger she worshipped at the altar of that is “Hello Kitty”.
        On her birthday she opened a very pretty HK charm bracelet, and I saw a very strange look on my Mom’s face.
        When I got her alone I said, “I saw the look, let me guess….you meant to give the charm bracelet to her on Christmas?”
        My mom burst out laughing and said, “uh….No, but she WILL have one for BOTH wrists!!!
        I just wrapped the same damn one for Christmas yesterday!!!”

    • Amanda H. December 22, 2015, 12:21 am

      My MIL did this to me once with a gift. She’d apparently purchased a lovely necklace-and-earring set for each of her daughters/DILs, and had given me mine several years, which I’d worn many times since.

      Come Christmas two years ago or so, we’re opening gifts from MIL. I open one package to find…that jewelry set. I tried to hide my surprise and thank her properly, but I must have looked surprised at first because MIL took me aside later and asked if something was wrong with the gift because she’d noticed my expression. She was worried I didn’t like the gift (she already knew I have no jewelry-related allergies). I apologized and explained that it was because I already had the jewelry and loved it, so I was surprised to see the duplicate.

      She ended up taking the jewelry back, with no hard feelings, because apparently she’d not given it to one of the other ladies in the family in that case, and I didn’t have to worry about regifting it later.

  • Jessica December 21, 2015, 10:42 am

    I have an early December birthday. So I make one wish list for my birthday and Christmas. Then after my birthday, I have to force myself not to take any birthday money I received and buy stuff I have on my wish list. Sometimes it’s really hard!

    I love OP’s story, and her family sounds really great! And I think if her mom chooses to hang onto the cook books she purchased and gives them as wedding shower gifts, that would be a great idea. Plus sometimes if you send an item back to a catalog company, they charge a restocking fee. It depends on the company, of course.

  • BMS December 21, 2015, 11:12 am

    My husband and I have over the years instituted a moratorium on buying things for ourselves for the month before Christmas, after several instances of me buying him something, only to have to return something because he bought it for himself a week before Christmas. We’ve extended that moratorium to our now teenage kids. It has definitely helped avoid awkwardness!

  • crebj December 21, 2015, 11:13 am

    I have a date for Uncle of Nostalgic Gal! MIL asks for X, then buys it for herself because it was such a good deal when she saw it, and now we can just give her the money. She beams, we “grin” and return X, and swear we won’t fall for it again.

    Surely these two were made for each other.

    • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 3:13 am

      First cousin and no longer amongst us but otherwise I’d introduce you.

      For a good number of years, until we retired, a lot of times DH’d forget so I’d just buy something (like that $20 Hibiscus plant) and show it to him and thank him for the lovely gift. a) DH spaced it b) I wasn’t mad, I just did my own shopping c) I loved it of course d) saying ‘you’re welcome’ got him off the hook. Now that we’re retired it’s a bit different…..

  • Dee December 21, 2015, 11:19 am

    Perfect examples of how the receiver should act when presented with a gift they already have/don’t want/ can’t use. No excuses, just gratitude and graciousness. OP, your family does it well.

  • Arizona December 21, 2015, 11:21 am

    Those are the kinds of mistakes you want to make. You know you got a good gift when the person ends up buying the exact same thing for themself!

    We had a funny one this year. My grandma has an incredibly difficult time shopping for me because I don’t often ask for things and most of the physical items I want come from online shopping, which she doesn’t know how to do. So it’s become something of a pattern that I can expect a scarf or a coffee mug (travel or at-home) from her in alternating years.

    I was joking with my mom that this year was scarf year and, sure enough, the next day Grandma tells Mom that her shopping is done and she got me a scarf! Mom said she had such a hard time not laughing about it, and we had a good laugh when she told me. Now I can’t wait to open it Christmas morning and see what kind of scarf it is.

    At least Grandma makes sure I’m always warm during the winter. 🙂

    • manybellsdown December 21, 2015, 12:19 pm

      I linked my husband to a funny-t-shirt that I saw online and liked. At first he was mad, because he thought I’d bought it, but then he was happy because he’d actually ordered it for me two days ago, and now he knew I was going to like it!

  • PWH December 21, 2015, 12:27 pm

    I’m glad that everything worked out for OP.

    We have someone in our family who is famous for adding items to their Christmas list and then going out and buying the items for themselves before Christmas – B. We’ve begged B to hold off on purchasing personal gifts until after Christmas, but it kept happening. After years of last minute scrambling to return and exchange items, the family finally decided to put an end to it. One of the large ticket items B purchased for himself was taken by his wife, wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. That year he also received two gifts he’d already purchased and was left to exchange them himself. He must have learned something because that was the last year it happened.

  • Princess Buttercup December 21, 2015, 1:28 pm

    My family always had the rule that in the last 3-4 weeks before your birthday or Christmas you couldn’t buy any “wants” for yourself. You could buy needs since we didn’t give practical gifts like clothing but no toys or just for fun things. I had to teach my husband this because his family didn’t have that rule. Some times he would want to buy himself a treat just before his birthday as a gift to himself and I had to teach him to wait till the week after. Plus then he may have birthday/Christmas money to buy an even better version of what he wanted.

  • Lanes December 21, 2015, 6:02 pm

    My Grandmother used to take bargain duplicate gift giving to a whole new level.

    I have a sister, 5 years my junior, and for three years in a row we received the Exact. Same. Doll. Yes, we had 6 of them by the end of it all.

    This wasn’t the only time she’d ever done that, and she still does it now. She buys several of a bargain item and then keeps giving them year after year, usually to the same people!

    • Cat December 22, 2015, 2:42 am

      You could have brought the dolls with you and then, when you opened the duplicate, say, “Oh, look, dollies, you have a new sister!”

  • Jared Bascomb December 21, 2015, 7:46 pm

    I’m glad this story turned out well – I was waiting for it to go south!

    I must admit that I used to be the person who bought all kinds of goodies for myself right before Christmas, so the point where my SO banned purchasing anything for myself between my mid-September birthday and Christmas. This was in the days when there were plenty of brick&mortar bookstores stocked with all kinds of books, and Tower Records* and Tower Video were in their heyday. I’d come out of there at Christmas with armloads of CDs and DVDs to us from Santa!

    *Google it

  • Kaye December 21, 2015, 9:27 pm

    My version is slightly different; because my son and his wife are still setting up house, when an occasion calls for a gift, I buy from unpurchased items from their wedding registry. One of their gifts for this Christmas is a futon cover. Well . . . yesterday someone gave them a couch and they are giving away the futon! I found it so funny that I decided to give the cover to them anyway. They each have a sense of humor very similar to mine. I’m sure they’ll laugh, too.

  • Kayesse December 22, 2015, 2:05 am

    We had something similar happen one Christmas. Favourite author released a book in time for Christmas. I bought the book for mum, mum bought the exact book for me and mums best friend bought her the book for mums birthday 2 weeks before Christmas so we nearly ended up with 3 copies of the same book. Mum was able to return hers and I sold mine to a work colleague.

  • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 2:41 am

    Books were always prized in our house (pre ‘pong’ tv game, okay?). Giving me a book was a great thing until the Christmas where I sat down and cried because out of the 12 books I received I already had 9 of them. I was 8, excuse me for that one. Instead of 12 books I never had seen before….

    My godmother aunt asked my mother to ask me, in about early October, for a list of books I wanted that I didn’t have (a really thick one was $3 so most of this wasn’t expensive giving) Mom suggested I put the rest of what I wanted on there too. There were about 200 items, a lot under $1, a few in the about $100 range, and over 60 books (paperbacks). I traded with younger cousins so under $1 was a big list; and in turn I could ask their moms what would be good…. and that year I got 8 books that I wanted! Success. My folks got me four of the $20 or more items, and I got several of the dollar things. I didn’t EXPECT to get the whole list, I got stuff that wasn’t on the list, but the issue was the books. I got a few with clearance stickers, or a creased cover, but they read just the same.
    [the next year was the broken Christmas, my godmother replaced the globe she’d bought me and replaced the three books that got ripped up and colored in, bless her]

  • Cat December 22, 2015, 2:50 am

    Let us remember those souls who were born on December 24th or 25th and who, throughout their lives, have been given one gift, always wrapped in Christmas paper, and have been told, “This is for your birthday and for Christmas.”
    My mother was born on December 24th and I am convinced that is why my brother and I were both born in August.

    • longestday December 22, 2015, 9:12 am

      Haha! I was born the first of January, and I never got any birthday presents then either! :0)

    • Outdoor Girl December 22, 2015, 1:11 pm

      My BF is a New Year’s baby. He’ll be getting his birthday present in June on ‘Birthday Weekend’. My family used to have 5 birthdays between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so we’d celebrate all 7 occasions in the one weekend. And I started adding in the other two birthdays in the family from October. We’re down to 3 birthdays and Father’s Day but it works out well – almost 6 months from Christmas to be spending money again! 🙂

      We still call each other for birthdays and those who can make it have at least a dinner on or around the actual birth date. BF and I will celebrate New Year’s Eve.

    • Amanda H. December 22, 2015, 1:44 pm

      I would only consider this acceptable if the gift was double the normal value, and only if the recipient was old enough to understand that. Let’s face it: little kids aren’t going to realize that their one big gift is worth two when they’re getting the same number of wrapped gifts as their siblings.

      My husband has me in my family’s sibling gift exchange this year (the way we rotate names, sometimes someone ends up with their spouse). I told him I didn’t mind getting a double-value gift (exchange gift plus the one he would normally get me), since I’m old enough to understand that’s what I’m getting, so it was up to him whether he did two smaller gifts or one bigger gift. But for our kids? It would have to be two, because even the nine-year-old (Dec. 29 birthday) would get upset if each of them got to open one package, and we told her that hers was for both holiday and birthday. Your sense of fairness as a kid can be a bit skewed.

      • Anonymous December 23, 2015, 1:29 am

        Honestly, I think it’s valid for people with birthdays on or near Christmas, to prefer to have separate gifts for each occasion. Even if the one Christmas/birthday gift is worth the value of two separate gifts, doing separate gifts, and giving them on separate days, does more to separate the two occasions. Even in the best-case scenario, where the birthday is celebrated on a different day, in a room decorated with birthday decorations (or at a venue that does birthday parties), with a proper birthday cake served, there’s still going to be the Christmas tree in the other room, the friends who couldn’t make it to the birthday party, because of some Christmas event they had to go to instead, the birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, and even though the event is clearly stated as “Sally’s birthday party,” since it’s Christmas time, someone, at some point, is probably going to mention Christmas. I guess what I’m trying to say is, a child who complains “That’s not fair; they got two gifts,” might really be saying, “That’s not fair, they get to celebrate their birthdays and Christmas as two separate occasions.” There are ways around this that don’t involve a lot of extra money or hassle. For example, Christmas wrapping paper can be turned inside out, so the white side faces out. Big-ticket gifts can be given strategically as well–give an iPod as the Christmas gift, and then a cool case or an iTunes gift card as the birthday gift, for example. Also, I don’t think it’s out of line for adults with Christmas or Christmas-adjacent birthdays to feel the same way about wanting two separate occasions–after all, this is normal for everyone else.

        • Amanda H. December 23, 2015, 3:10 pm

          Oh no, I agree with you completely. My comment was to say that one should never give a combined Christmas/birthday gift unless they know the recipient is understanding, and little kids are especially ill-equipped to understand the combined gift. Only adults and maybe teenagers should be receiving the combo-gift, and then only if the gift-giver knows the recipient is understanding and won’t be hurt.

          If we had any kids who actually had their birthday on the holiday in question, we’d be asking them when they want to celebrate it during the year, to make sure it gets its fair attention. If they want to celebrate on their birthday of Dec. 24th/25th, fine. If they want to hold off a week or two, or even six months, that’s fine too. I do know that when I was expecting my oldest, the December baby, I was told by several people in a forum I’m part of who have birthdays around the holidays or friends with birthdays around the holidays not to force the child to wait six months for their birthday celebration, because that can make them feel devalued just as much as doing the combo gift. So really, it’s up to each individual birthday person.

          The way we currently do birthdays with our children, it’s nuclear-family-only on the actual birthday (cake, family gifts, etc.), and the party for friends is planned for a day a week or two off of the birthday, either before or after. This started with our oldest, who as I said is a Dec. 29th birthday. Half her friends were out of town on her actual birthday, so we just had the family party then, and then had a party with friends two weeks later when everyone was back from holiday travel. It was a relief to me because it gave me more wiggle room for planning the party, and we kept that for our spring and autumn kids too so that no one gets the friend party on their actual birthday, and we’ve had no complaints.

    • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 6:23 pm

      School classmate was born on 25 Dec, so about first weekend of December they would hold her birthday party. I was invited to a couple of them. A few rules: 1) no Christmas wrapping paper on the gifts. Christmas wrapping paper went on Christmas presents. 2) No ‘dual’ gifts unless they were really big expensive ones (consider in our bucks, over $1000) 3) upstairs was Christmas decorated, basement rec room was the birthday zone and decorated for the event.

      One of her relatives dropped by one year during the birthday party and I had come up to get something on orders… and they dropped a dual present. Her mother handed it back to the relative and said two gifts or no gift. I looked at the mom and said how about I give her one of my birthdays for a present? (due to clerical errors and whole saga of my last month before birth and the month after, I had two legally proveable birthdays according to things). Her mother said what, and I said I had two legally proveable birthdays. I could give (birthday girl) one of mine… neither were near a legal holiday. Mother gave me the item I had been sent for, and the relative was red.
      So I deserve a tuffet in the hot draft inside the door for ehell even though I was seven.

  • Outdoor Girl December 22, 2015, 9:22 am

    One year, my Mom wanted a stainless steel roast pan for her Christmas turkey. As I was buying it, I decided to get one for my brother and his wife, too.

    So I gave my Mom her gift early, on Christmas Eve, so she could use it to put the turkey in first thing, since the turkey always went in the oven before we did gifts. Dad looked at it and said, ‘I think you better try that in the oven; it looks too high.’ Sure enough, the handle on the lid was hitting the element, even with the oven rack at its lowest. Mom grumbled and dug out her old roast pan and decided then and there that she was buying a new stove on Boxing Day that would fit the roast pan. The old one had lost some of its electronics so the clock and timer didn’t work, nor did the self clean.

    My brother and SIL piped up that they’d take the old stove, if that was OK, because theirs was in even worse shape. You see where this is going, right? As I slid the parcel over to them to open the next morning, I asked if they wanted the cash or wanted me to replace it with something else. They had confused looks on their faces and then the light bulb went off. They laughed as they opened it. I gave them cash and returned the roast pan.

    Then Mom, Dad and I went all over town after Christmas to various stores, telling them that we needed an oven that would fit this roast pan. Boy, did we get some strange looks! But Mom loved her new oven; we even moved it to my Dad’s new apartment last fall. And I liked it, too. When I had to buy an new stove a couple of years later, I bought basically the same one.

    • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 6:37 pm

      My Mom got one of those but Dad took it to the basement and cut the handle off and bent the top in a bit. It took dexterity and the ‘put your hands inside’ potmitts ‘and a pryer upper at the edge to get it off but.

      Love the story about the buying the oven to fit the pan and catching the oopsie on the inherited oven.

  • Ashley December 22, 2015, 11:41 pm

    Ugh, I love my new job but I hate not being able to check this site as often.

    I actually have a similar story to OP’s. Earlier this month, probably the first weekend or so, I had called my mom to ask her for some ideas for what she wanted, and to ask about a gift for my dad too. She starts telling me about some ideas she has, and is careful to avoid telling me things she already told my brothers (specifically to try and avoid situations like OP had). Then, while she’s telling me this, I hear my dad come in from outside, and he’s puttering around the house putting his stuff away, etc. As he’s doing this, he catches on to who my mom is talking to and what about, and starts yelling “Tell her I’d like a new jigsaw, they are on sale at a few stores!!” then he goes on to list the stores.

    I laughed because he sounded so excited (He’s taken up some basic woodwork and furniture building as a means to fill some time as he moves closer to retirement), but I told my mom that I know NOTHING about jigsaws, and that if I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pick one he would like/would have all the features he wanted, I’d default to a gift card and he could pick his own.

    Flash forward to the weekend before this story was posted. I was out shopping for all the presents I had left to buy, including my father’s jigsaw. The day had been one disaster after another, so I called my mother to mope a little, and ask if she had any ideas for a replacement gift for a niece, because the requested gift was sold out EVERYWHERE including online. Then I said to her “The last thing I have to buy is a jigsaw for dad”. She says “Oh…I already bought it.” She wasn’t doing it to be spiteful or anything, something about how I had worded what I said about the gift card lead her to believe I was just going to get him a gift card.

    So, I got him the gift card. There’s always something he wants at the hardware store.

    • NostalgicGal December 23, 2015, 2:28 am

      Be glad she got the tool and not a jigsaw puzzle in a box.

      One of my favorite jigsaw puzzles is ‘hay in a needlestack’. It’s a huge pile of needles with a bit of straw (grass end) stuck in it. The picture on the box glues around to the inside of the lid and they still don’t show you the whole puzzle. There’s a second piece stuck in there and they don’t show you that. That is a most evil alternative….

      • Amanda H. December 23, 2015, 3:16 pm

        My grandmother (who loves puzzles) received one of those “impossible puzzles” one year for Christmas. The list of things that made this puzzle so hard?

        1. The picture on the box showed a baby surrounded by daisies. This was maybe 1/20th of the full image, as the picture was part of a repeating pattern with ever so slight differences between each baby and bunch of daisies.
        2. The puzzle had no flat edges. Instead the finished piece would have the same bumpy jigsaw edging as every interior piece.
        3. The puzzle contained five additional pieces that weren’t meant to go in the puzzle, just confuse you.
        4. The puzzle had the same image printed on the reverse side, but rotated 90 degrees, once again to add to the confusion.

        I don’t honestly recall if she ever finished that particular puzzle, but she did enjoy receiving it.

        • NostalgicGal December 23, 2015, 9:43 pm

          Oh now I have to find one of those.

          Place I worked at answering phones, you called us and I keyed your order in directly. We had Secret Santa/pal and the idea was the little gifts…. and it was legal for someone else to drop off a gift for a certain other person. We sold this ‘world’s hardest’ jigsaw puzzle’ that was about 8×8 inches. Each piece was square but in the center of each side was a tab out or a cut in of a shape you’d find in the suits of a deck of playing cards. It was colored green, solid green. Almost every jigsaw has a grainline or pattern to the surface or definitely on the backside. This one showed a flow one way on the back. I turned it over, oriented all the pieces by the direction of the cardboard, and very quickly assembled it. The person who was my secret pal walked by four minutes later to find me turning it over, done. I found out who my secret pal was early that year because she freaked.
          The hardest one I have ever met was a 500 piece round, with each piece a random different color. And the other side could be a different color. No picture, just 500 pieces of a randomly piece colored round puzzle, printed both sides. It took I swear a million years just to get the edge pieces done….

          • NostalgicGal January 8, 2016, 6:02 pm

            One other moderately evil one was an alpine meadow scene, flowers and in a corner the Matterhorn, and. They had two extra straight one side pieces. That went together somewhere in the flower field and LOOKED like edge pieces. Until I had the entire puzzle except those two together did it finally dawn that that was the way they were cut, they were not edges and there was one straight edge to straight edge match IN the puzzle.