Gift-giving and Christmas simply go together, but choosing the right gift for the right person, or deciding whether to give a gift at all, can be difficult.
The giving spirit of the holiday season seems to fade a bit in light of obligations, finances and the dilemma of giving to those you want to buy for as opposed to those you feel you should buy for.
To whom are you obligated at Christmas: your boss, your child's teacher, your cousin in Minneapolis? What about your children--should they give presents to people other than family members?
Some larger families, because of economics, resort to name-drawing at Christmas. Would it be proper to give a present to a family member whose name you didn't draw?
When should you give homemade gifts? What about liquor?
The questions are many, but there is an etiquette of gift-giving at Christmas and other times.
Homemade gifts are most appropriate as Christmas gifts, according to Stuart E. Jacobson, author of "The Art of Giving."
"Homemade gifts are wonderful. A gift of imagination, a gift of creativity, a gift that shows time was put into it are the most meaningful," said Jacobson. "The greatest gift of life is time. Anything that's created is a wonderful present.
"Christmas is a spirit. You can always find ways to give gifts without cost. Do something for someone. Give time. Clean someone's home, baby-sit your sister's kids. There are so many ways to use your mind in terms of giving to someone other than putting a dollar sign by it."
When considering a homemade gift, think about the person who will receive it, he said.
"If you were going to make a sweater for someone, find out what color they like," said Jacobson. "The whole essence of giving a gift is to bring pleasure to the person receiving it. A lot of times, people think this will please me, so this will please the other person. That's not necessarily true."
Dawn Bryan, author of "The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving," agrees.
"Christmas is the time to make your own presents," writes Bryan. "From a loaf of bread to a framed silhouette to a photograph of someone's child or house, this gift is from the heart as well as the hands and brings meaning, friendship and love to the season."
Homemade items are wonderful presents for children to give, said Jacobson.
"Children can create things because they have a wonderful imagination," he said. "I always think one should ask the child first. Make sure the child realizes the gift is coming from them, and that it's a form of appreciation."
Your child should feel free to give a gift to anyone he or she spends a lot of time with, be it a teacher, baby sitter or friend, says Jacobson.
A few caveats are in order for children, Jacobson said. There should no pressure on them to give at Christmastime, and they should have a hand in choosing the recipients of their presents.
"No monetary value should be placed on what a child should give someone," he said.
There also are a few prohibitions, Bryan said.
For example, never give a pet unless parents agree or adults request. It's also inappropriate to give something oversize or fragile to someone who will have to travel home by train or plane. You should offer to pay the cost of shipping, she said.
Bryan also said you should never give personal gifts to people you do not know well or a substantial gift to a business person with whom you are negotiating a deal. Do not give perfume or cologne unless you know the recipient's choice or preference, she said.
Jacobson, who does not support the name-drawing idea at Christmas, said it would not be proper to give a present to someone whose name you didn't draw. "If you're going to accept that method, you've got to play by the rules."
"Giving alcohol is not inappropriate if you know the other person enjoys it," said Jacobson. "I personally give bottles of cognac. Cognac is a wonderful way to express time and friendship. You need to find out what the person drinks."
He said that liquor, perhaps champagne, is an appropriate gift for the host or hostess of a holiday party, and that for those who like to spend time in the kitchen, a gift of wine or alcohol used in cooking would be welcome.