Ask Amma

It’s Called a Party Favour!

In What on 5 January 2014 at 11:55 am

Time for Amma to step upon the soapbox for a topic on which she has had to bite her tongue on many an occasion.  No longer!

Please note:  there is no such thing as a “return gift.”    You may have heard this phrase and even used it yourself, but to quote to higher authority, “These practices are no less vulgar for having become commonplace.”  Miss Manners is talking about practices such as gift registries and continues,  “There is no polite way to tell people to give you money or objects.[1]

Calling something a “return gift” indicates that you expected a gift in the first place.

A birthday party is not an exchange market.   Neither the host nor the guest expects any gift, though s/he would graciously accept one.  S/he would appreciate the thoughtfulness and generosity and not merely the goods received.  While one can plan on giving a gift to guests, it is not in “return” for anything, certainly not for a received gift.  To avoid perpetuating these ungenerous notions, one may use the more delicate term, “party favour.”  As in, “thanks so much for coming and celebrating my birthday with me!”  “It was all the more fun because you came!”   What one appreciates, I repeat, is not the gift but the pleasure of the guest’s company.

If parents took a little time to express these sentiments, compared to the amount of time they spend shopping, and making a production of distributing the goodie bags at the end of the party, they would model positive social behavior.   In my experience hosting and attending kiddie parties over the past 10 years, kids are interested in having time to goof around together and not in the goods exchanged, unless people make a big deal about them.  I have even seen parents organizing party games and then telling kids that if they don’t stand in line they will not get a “return gift.”  Whereas if they organized fewer games, and skipped the “return gift” everyone could have more fun.   One or two games to break the ice is all most kids need.  Time to spend together with space to be loud and run around is the best gift you can give.  A mud puddle or some chalk for the pavement is always a plus.

Stay tuned for more on keeping greed, waste and the food industry out of our parties:

10 Fun Party Favours
Healthy Party Treats
Co-operative Party Activities

Note [1] From “Miss Manners’ Guide Updated,” CBS News, May 9 2005.  Scroll down to the section “On Profiting from Others.”

Miss Manners also cites the “gift registry” as an example of the increasing normalcy of greed, in answering a reporter’s question, What etiquette breach do you most dislike? in “Q & A with Miss Manners” by Arcynta Ali Childs in Smithsonian magazine, July-August 2011.

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