DEAR MISS MANNERS: In one of the variants of the tiresome “Secret Santa” office gift-giving games, wherein each person ends up with an anonymous gift, I found myself holding a gift card for a well-known store specializing in risque lingerie.

As a middle-age man in a monogamous relationship with another man, I found this, well, perfectly useless. I discreetly re-donated it to a young lady in the office whom I happened to know would be happy to use it.

Sure enough, this became generally known in the office gossip pool, and my motivations and reasons for donating it became the subject of unflattering and derisive speculation.

What should I have done? Just thrown the thing in the trash (discreetly, of course)? And what about the etiquette of selecting such a “gift” in the first place?

GENTLE READER: What about the whole silly idea? Does someone in your workplace really believe that it encourages camaraderie to play childish games that can so easily misfire?

This instance sounds close enough to harassment to be shown to management as an example of why Secret Santa does not belong in the office.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every year for the past 15 to 20 years, I’ve had three different folks constantly sending me Christmas cards with their family photos or their children on the cover.

I am sick and tired of receiving these. I never respond to them, but they still keep sending them. If a person does not send a card back, isn’t the polite thing to do to cease from continuing to send these cards? I haven’t seen or spoken to these people either (all this time!).

I think they’re rude and just harassing me. What should I do? Please reply. I just can’t tolerate it anymore! Thanks a million!

GENTLE READER: And thank you for putting into perspective what can make life intolerable. This being the time of year to focus on those less fortunate than oneself, Miss Manners trusts that you are commiserating with those who receive even more pictures of happy families.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I don’t see my sister-in-law on Christmas Eve or Christmas, so I give her the gift between the 19th and 23rd of December, but she doesn’t open it till Christmas.

I thought she should open the gift when given, so I can see the expression on her face when she opens it. Am I wrong?

GENTLE READER: Waiting until Christmas (or Christmas Eve) to open presents is a lesson widely taught to children. It fosters the excitement of anticipation, creates a ceremony out of opening them, and, yes, enables the parents to see their faces light up.

But that can be counted upon only if the parents have also taught the children how to react to presents. The natural reaction, even to something that does cause delight, is to become engrossed in it, ignoring the donor.

Presumably your sister-in-law still enjoys the anticipation and ceremony, and Miss Manners has no quarrel with that. It is also possible that she is not good at facially projecting appreciation — or if, for example, she already has whatever it is that you are giving her, disappointment. You should be satisfied — gratified — to receive her gratitude by mail.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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