Don't choose to give used items with names written in it such as a book or a jacket. This is not the way a child should learn the truth about Santa. Also, it kind of spoils the whole anonymous thing. Yet . . . this happens with alarming frequency.
Don’t assume that an article of clothing with a small stain or a ripped hem or a hole will be welcomed by even the poorest person on the planet. If you are thinking “They’re so poor, they’ll be happy to get anything,”--a line of thinking that is especially easy to fall into when you don’t know the receiver or the receiver doesn’t know it’s you--then you have another think coming. (Just saying.) (I’ll admit I used to be in that boat. Now I’m in another. And then there’s the child in Africa to whom we send money each month so she can have decent clothes to wear, including spanking new blue and yellow shoes, an inalienable right of all people, in my humble opinion.)
Lastly, should the recipients be someone you know, don’t subconciously (or conciously) expect the recipients to be grateful to you or for your charititable act or for it to change your relationship or to invalidate any wrongs you have done said recipients because, you know . . . they don’t know!
Don’t wear a cashmere sweater set adorned with sparkly rhinestones to deliver gifts to the less fortunate thinking that it’s fun and festive. (And don’t refer to the less fortunate as “less fortunate”. It’s condescending even if it’s only the less fortunate who think so.)
Don’t focus on one member of the family (perhaps the harried mother or the disabled child) whilst shafting the spouse or the other children. It is wonderful (and by that I mean. Truly. Wonderful.) when someone who is having a difficult time in life is acknowledged in any way, however, Christmas is not the time to play favorites. The reactions of the other children (or even the spouse) can be so bad (and by that I mean. Truly. Bad.) that you wish no one had thought of your family at all. (Truly.) To be fair to the other children, they have had it up to here with special attention given to the one with special needs and they don’t need to be reminded—at Christmas, no less—that they just aren’t as special as their special sibling.
Don’t buy obvious clearance table items (defined by just whatever as long as it’s cheap with multiple price stickers still attached, or worse, just the price sticker goop) for one person whilst giving thoughtful and pointed gifts to the rest of the family. (Sooooooo passive aggressive.) (Actually, this applies to any gift giving scenario, rich or poor, bond or free, black or white . . .)
Gift card giving:
This is a great idea. I mean, really and truly. However. Be sure this is a store where the family shops. A $25 gift card to Nordstrom’s is a white elephant and by that I mean, you can’t buy anything at Nordstrom’s for $25 and the poverty-stricken recipient will need to spend money to get any use from it. (Not good.)
If these gift cards are to provide gifts Christmas morning for the kiddies, don’t leave them on the doorstep after they have gone to bed on Christmas Eve forcing an already beleagured parent out into the cold night to provide wrapped gifts in the quickly dawning A.M. Unless, of course, the gift cards are the gifts for them to open Christmas morning, in which case they all need to be for the same dollar amount. Again, Christmas is not a time to play favorites. (Still, it’s great fun for the doorbell to ring on Christmas Eve, so fun, in fact, that you could leave coal and no one would be terribly devastated except for the paranoid child of the family who just knows Santa has no gifts for him/her and will wake up Christmas morning to a stocking full of the black glittery stuff.) (Paranoia—the gift that keeps on giving.)
Also, make sure you supply the little piece of paper that says it has been properly loaded so that the people you are trying to help don’t get to the cash register with lotsa stuff only to be told that the card doesn't work with no way to prove that they didn’t lift it off the rack whilst waiting in line. (Merry Christmas!)
The White Elephant:
In India white elephants are revered and are to be treated like royalty and fed like a king. This is not something a poor person (that’s condescending, isn’t it? Let’s say “financially challenged person”) can afford to do. Behold, the white elephant gift.(Btw, this is one of those things that falls into the category of my having been the culprit as well as the victim so I’m not judging.) When bringing a bag or box or sleigh full of whatever to the needy person or family, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT be tempted to dig through your cupboards and drawers for any old thing just to make it look more abundant or to enjoy your newly clean pantry or to make yourself feel like a good person or for any other reason whatsoever. Those cookies that were so gaggy that you only ate a few and left the rest to get stale? Nobody will appreciate those. That laundry detergent that was too strong smelling for you? It will probably be too strong smelling for them, as well. That dog food that gave your dog diarrhea? It will most likely (so likely in fact that I would be willing to bet copious amounts of money on it) give their dog diarrhea, as well, and then they will have to spend money to take the horribly sick dog to the vet and pay someone to clean their hideously besmirched carpet. Or perhaps they will be forced to live with the besmirched carpet (which is easier to do when it is already heavily stained with paint from your painted furniture business). (Just saying.)