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Jeffries: Christmas has ruined gift-giving for me

I was recently at the store, buying things, when I heard a child argue with her parents.

Typically, I would have taken off running, as small children are sinus infection-carrying drains on my immune system, but the conversation rendered me unable to flee.

After a couple of sneezes that made my skin crawl, the child asked, “what are you getting me for Christmas, mommy?”

“Well, we already got you that guitar, so just a couple of little things.”

If you ask me, that sounds reasonable. I’m a musician, and I know even a beginner’s guitar can cost a couple hundred bucks.

That response was not enough for the walking sinus infection.

The girl continued to pester her parents until they had agreed to buy two new video games and a new dress, on top of the already purchased guitar and other assorted knick-knacks.

When the child and her parents had moved on — and after I compulsively lathered hand sanitizer between my fingers — I came to the realization that many people would have sided with the girl or condoned her actions as appropriate.

That’s when I discovered Christmas has ruined gift-giving for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts to people I care about. Heck, even the people I merely tolerate aren’t exempt from my benevolence when I’m in a good mood.

What I don’t love is the expectation of giving gifts that has evolved from Christmas. It puts too much pressure into finding the perfect gift, and one false step can ruin a relationship.

People complain when they don’t get that year’s top-of-the-line doohickey for Christmas. Dogs, on the other hand, are grateful for the table scraps you feed them. I know which one I’d like to buy a present for.

Over-dramatic, you say? Have you ever tried to give your significant other a gift card after they give you the handmade picture frame they spent weeks perfecting?

It doesn’t end well.

So, I’ve had to work year-round to create a persona which people expect less out of me during the holiday season. I only communicate with my extended family on rare occasions, so my aunts, uncles and cousins don’t consider me for family Secret Santa pools.

My friends all think of me as a cheapskate, so exchanging gifts with them will be at a minimum. I’ve set a firm dollar amount with my roommates, so even if they come up with something incredibly thoughtful, it at least won’t be expensive.

My only concern is my girlfriend, but she has multiple siblings to go along with her parents, so she’s agreed to keep things reasonable, too.

I’ve made sure to not get her a gift card. That doesn’t end well.

Jeffries is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at

Robb Jeffries

Robb Jeffries is a news coordinator for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota and previously served as a reporter and copy editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @robbjeffries.