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I Hated Giving and Receiving Gifts… Until I Got This Surprise

By Ann Richardson November 20, 2023 Lifestyle

I think I’m a bit strange. I dislike almost all presents, whatever the time of year. I don’t much like giving them, and I certainly don’t like getting them. It has been ever thus.

Giving Presents

It is wonderful to give presents to children. You generally know from their parents what they are longing for – and there is such delight when they receive the gift. No problem there.

Once in a while, I realise I am looking at something in a market or shop that someone I know would really like to have and there is again great pleasure in buying it for them. They would treasure it; it would be a surprise. There will be happiness all around.

Nowadays, my family – and I suspect many others – all have an Amazon wish list telling me exactly what presents they would like to receive – which book, which pair of slippers, which annual calendar.

Buying these is rather like doing your weekly grocery shopping. Check the list, buy, wait for the post. No artistry in this. No surprise when the package is opened.

The one benefit is, the person will welcome the addition to their wardrobe or library or whatever and won’t feel the need to send it back.

Getting Presents

I never much liked getting presents either. As a child, there might have been a longed-for item – a special doll or a pretty dress – and when I happened to receive it, there was a moment of real pleasure.

But most of the time, I would receive the wrong thing. My grandmother had good intentions, of course, but was not very good at working out which age was appropriate for which toy. My parents, somewhat surprisingly, were not much better either.

Even when I was a fully grown adult, my mother could not resist buying some dress that she thought would ‘look cute’ on me, which was never to my taste.

Aversion to Waste

I have always known – but it grows stronger as I get older – that I have a strong aversion to waste in all its forms. The wrong present is a complete waste – a waste of money, a waste of someone’s time acquiring it and a waste of any effort I make to wear it or read it or use it however it was intended.

It’s a waste and an embarrassment. I say thank you, of course, but it all makes me very uncomfortable.

The Surprise

So this brings me to the surprise. A few weeks ago, it was a grey afternoon and I was quietly working on my computer when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anyone, so I surmised it was probably one of the charity workers who would come along at Christmas time. I let my husband handle it.

A moment later, he shouted up to me that we had a large parcel. I knew we hadn’t ordered anything, so I rushed down, hoping I could catch the delivery man before he disappeared. Too late for that. My immediate thought was that it was going to be a nuisance to get this thing taken back.

But the parcel had my name on it, so I began to investigate. Inside was a large basket. After removing coloured ribbons and layers of see-through plastic, I realised it was some kind of hamper full of fruit, a variety of chocolates and sparkling wine. What a nice thought on someone’s part, even if it was surely not intended for me.

Oh, and there was a note! I was shocked that it was actually addressed to me, from my lovely neighbours who were temporarily away, thanking me for looking after their house. It was for me, after all. A complete surprise on a grey day. A present I liked. Not a waste at all.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you like giving presents? Do you like getting presents? Do you share an aversion to the waste of unwanted presents? Please share your thoughts below!

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Toni Stritzke

I just submitted a written piece to a newspaper, after they asked how do you save money on gift giving at Christmas?
I like the search for the “right” present and I love that eureka moment when I find it.
My daughter in law loves Earl Grey tea and when we were travelling I found some special tea at a little cafe where they produce their own brand.
I sew and it’s my “tradition” to give everyone a pair of funky shorts (it’s summer here in Perth.)
I do check and ask if they actually want and like them! But my other daughter in law said her friends and family look forward to seeing what she gets each year and the grandkids asked for Grinchmas fabric this year.
At my local Crochet Play Day, a clever young lady was making very realistic tarantulas from her original pattern. I bought one for my 7 seven year old grandson who gave me the “side eye” a few weeks ago, and said, I suppose you’re going to give me another book this year! Well, that’ll make him think. I like my presents to be fun.

Ciara Roots

A few years ago, I asked everyone that gives me gifts for any occasion to please not give me anything again and instead, donate the money to the nonprofit of their choice. And I told them that I was not going to give gifts but rather donate to nonprofits. I can buy myself anything I need, and so can those to whom I give things. I’ve made a few exceptions to this, but those gifts have generally been things like a meal or experiences, like tickets to a play or concert.

I still do give things to the kids in the family who are still in elementary, middle, or high school, and to a family member who is in college and works three jobs.

No one has complained, and we all have less stuff we can’t use.


Very well put. Thank you for this. Sixty and me is the real gift today and much appreciated.

Ann Richardson

Thank you.


I’ve never heard anyone express my feelings so accurately. Thank you for sharing.

Ann Richardson

Thank you.

Janne Perry

I have always loved giving but was an awkward receiver of gifts. That changed some years back when it was pointed out to me that in always being ‘the giver’ I was selfishly denying someone else the pleasure of actually giving to me!

The truth in that statement changed the way I think. I still give but I am a happy receiver as well – no matter what the gift is, it’s still a gift. I too dislike collecting ‘stuff’ – my local charity shop may eventually do well from my regifting to them!


The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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