My theory of giving and receiving gifts is based on 12 simple principles:
(1) A gift should be wrapped … unless it is an event or an occasion (such as sex or a trip to the theatre), in which case something symbolizing the gift may be wrapped or enclosed with a card.
(2) The wrapping of the gift should itself be a gift. The giver should wrap the gift himself, if possible, preferably binding the package with ribbon or string, not tape. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it shouldn’t look slapdash or cheap.
(3) A gift should cost the giver something. It may cost time or money, but it should represent some kind of a (not necessarily big) sacrifice for the giver. Re-gifting is not the same as giving a gift, unless the giving of it involves some measure of real generosity on the part of the giver—i.e. not simply passing along something the giver doesn’t like or want anymore.
(4) A gift should be something both the giver and the receiver can appreciate. Ideally, it should be something the giver and the receiver can appreciate in some special sense … like a private joke. Also, a gift should be something the giver thinks will make the receiver a better person, but not something that is needed—such as, for instance, socks or urgent medical attention.
(5) A gift should be an unexpected surprise.
(6) A gift should pleasantly appeal to all the senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.
(7) A gift should pose no inconvenience for the receiver of the gift—i.e. no assembly should be required, unless the assembling process promises to be fun.
(8) A gift should be delivered in person … unless distance and scheduling are impossible obstacles to overcome.
(9) A gift should be opened at once, in the presence of the giver of the gift. The unwrapping of the gift should be as ceremonial as the receiver and the giver can feel comfortable with. A gift should be accompanied with a kiss and/or a hug … or, as appropriate, sex.
(10) The receiver of a gift should express gratitude for the gift—both in affect and words.
(11) Gift-giving among adults should involve alcohol and sometimes food.
(12) The giver of a gift should apologize for offering anything short of what is described above. The receiver of the gift should always accept the apology and assure the giver that none of this really matters.