Regifting Done Right

By Siobhan Adcock,

Regifting stories gone horribly wrong are the stuff of legend, and every year you probably hear a new one…

"I accidentally gave my aunt the cookie tin she gave me two years ago."

"I got caught big-time! I didn't count on there being a second card-addressed to me-inside the box!"

"The rice cooker I got from my cousin actually had leftover rice in it. But, hey, at least I know it works."

"My family has been shamelessly passing around the same reindeer candle for seven years."

Horror stories notwithstanding, regifting does have its upsides. You don't have to be a tacky, sneaky cheapskate to appreciate the eco-value of "recycling" something you haven't used. Indeed, sometimes it takes a true friend to recognize when a gift was really meant to belong to a buddy instead, someone who would love it and get good use out of it.

Related: Our Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

So, if you're a closet regifter, rest assured: You're not alone. In fact, a Code of Regifting Ethics has emerged from the shadowy, persecuted regifting underworld, marking nightmares like the ones you've heard of as the clear signs of amateurs at work. Follow these simple commandments, and you, too, can regift with class, dignity, and little-to-no fear of karmic retribution.

Regifting Rules

1. Thou shalt not regift anything you've already used. This is the single most important rule. Don't try to fudge it. Think of this rule as your excuse to give that gently used cookie plate to a worthy charity (and stop racking your brain to think of a friend who won't remember seeing it on your holiday party table last year).

2. Thou shalt carefully examine your regift from every angle. Check for gift notes tucked into the box. Check for inscriptions on the first ten pages of the cookbook. Check for damage. And for the love of sweet pickle juice, check for monograms and personalization.

3. Thou shalt be certain, beyond a doubt, that the person who originally gave you the gift does not know, and never will know, the person you're regifting to. File under "duh."

4. Thou shalt regift with the same care and generosity with which you, er, regular-gift. Wrap the gift nicely, include a thoughtful card, and observe your usual gift-giving discretion. You wouldn't tell a friend how much you paid for a gift you bought, right? You don't need to tell her how much you didn't pay, either. (Total honesty might make you feel better, but in this case, it won't have the same effect on the recipient.)

5. Thou shalt only regift things that other people might actually want. To wit:

The Food Lover's Regifting DO List:

• Bottles of wine and Champagne-these are almost universally welcome regifts
• Unopened specialty cooking oils, salts, sauces, spices, and rubs
• Best-selling and quirky cookbooks (make sure all the pages are clean, of course)
• Edible goodies that not only are fresh but also look fresh-individually wrapped chocolates or
cookies, for instance
• Like-new or vintage serving pieces that suit the recipient-don't give a pie plate to the aunt who's
been on Jenny Craig for years, and don't give a serving tray to the friend who rarely entertains

See also: The Best Cookbooks of 2011

The Food Lover's Regifting DON'T List:

• Small appliances and gadgets (sell these at a garage sale instead)
• Edible gifts that may have been around the block a few times-always check the expiration date on
edible regifts, and if there isn't one, think twice
• Those reusable holiday tins…unless you've taken the trouble to pack something homemade and
delicious inside
• Anything that was itself obviously a regift, unless you're headed to a white elephant party

The Only-If-You-Dare List:

• Anyone who's ever been married has probably regifted at least one wedding present. We ain't sayin' it's right or wrong. But wedding gifts are typically pretty easy to spot as regifts-there's just something about them (perhaps they look like they're trying too hard?). Be warned, then, that if you regift that mosaic trivet or tanker-size gravy boat, there's an even chance that the recipient will guess where it came from, which isn't exactly the desired effect.

Which brings us to the final rule of regifting:

6. Thou shalt remember why you give gifts to begin with. We give presents because we want people to like them. We give gifts out of generosity, and because as a species, we like seeing each other's eyes light up with delight and surprise (one of many characteristics that distinguish human beings from, say, woodpeckers or garden slugs). If you can't see a regift making somebody you know happy, maybe that regift deserves another recipient. Like a charity. Or the recycling bin.

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