The Do's And Don'ts Of Regifting

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, December 17, 2006

What a minefield giving can be.

And it can be particularly complicated when you're a regifter, which involves giving someone something that you had received as a gift (or an item that you have stashed in the back of your closet).

I remember one regift I received that I didn't appreciate -- at the time.

When I was dating my husband, we surprised his mother by stopping by just before Christmas. We were dropping off gifts from the two of us early because we were going to spend the holiday with my family. After we gave her the presents, she disappeared for a bit and returned with a nicely wrapped present for my husband and something else for me.

However, my gift looked as if it had been hurriedly wrapped. When I opened it, there were two wooden dolls dressed in traditional Mexican costumes. The dolls were in plastic bags and looked like a child's souvenir.

I thanked her, but I was a little hurt. Clearly I had been regifted.

After that Christmas and about six months before my wedding, my husband's mother was murdered during an attempted robbery by a man who had previously done handy work around her home. She was helping out a friend's unemployed son, a recovering drug addict. Or so she thought.

It's been 15 years since her death and I've kept those dolls. A gift that once looked cheap turned out to be a treasure. It was the last present she gave me.

This year, I want to regift those dolls to a granddaughter she never had a chance to know. My daughter, Olivia, collects dolls and I know she will appreciate that they came from her Grandma Lucy.

"With regifting it's all about the meaning, motive and intent," says Barbara Bitela, the author of "The Art of Regifting: Your ABC's Guide, the Do's and Don'ts, Urban Legends and Folklore."

I realize now that my husband's mother was probably embarrassed that she didn't have something for me.

The debate about regifting heats up every holiday. Some people, like Bitela (and me), see nothing wrong with it if you do it right. Others think it's crass. The thought, the latter group argues, needs to be followed by the spending of ones own money for a gift to really be a gift.

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