Why do people give each other gifts on Christmas? Jesus? Unconditional love? Ancient cultural traditions meant to fortify the bond between humans, in the interest of maintaining social order?
All terrible guesses. People give gifts for two reasons ONLY:
1. To see if you appreciate the gesture and thus deserve more presents in the future
2. To get ideas on how to react without looking like an asshole when it's their turn to open presents
Here are five reactions I use to keep the presents coming year after year.
1) The "Robert De Niro"
Delivery: Lift one eyebrow, and try to smile and frown at the same time. Much like De Niro himself, this reaction gives the viewer whatever emotion he or she wants to see, regardless of any nuance or thought on your part. Just keep nodding and saying, "Aallllright, allllright, thank you, thank you."
Works for: Books, clothing accessories, gift certificates, cheap shit, confusing shit
2) "P.R.E.C.I.O.U.S." (or Pretend Receiving Everything Causes Immediate Overwhelming Unbearable Satisfaction)
Delivery: In a whispered tone, say the name of the person who gave you the gift. "Grandma ", "Dad ", "Girlfriend " Add lip bitting for effect. Look up a lot. A single tear won't hurt, which should come easier once it hits you the card is empty.
Works for: Cards, homemade goods, framed pictures, cards, things that come in small bags with lots of tissue paper, and um cards.
Delivery: Initial smile, followed by a "No." Look at mom to check. "No," you repeat as you let the smile turn to sternness gradually becoming adamant that this gift has defied the laws of physics and that you reject it on account of it obviously being the product of witchcraft.
Works for: Printed out plane tickets to family vacations you already knew you were going on, PlayStation 2, autographed sentimental dad hand-me-downs.
4) Bill and Ted's Excellent Christmas
Delivery: Just a lot of "whoaaaaa" and "awesooooome." High-five your relatives and spray around superlatives from the '90s. Look at the person who gave you the gift and exclaim "no way," to which they will respond a cheerful and resounding "way." For added effect put the wrapping paper on your head and say, "AND YOU GOT ME A HAT!"
Works for: Art supplies, novelty items, Magic Eye books, clothing you just saw your brother get, like, 10 seconds earlier.
5) Der Tanenbaum
Delivery: Silence. Size up the gift. Touch it with the purpose of testing it's quality. Remark a stern "Yes." Shake it a bit. Become engrossed in it as to signify that it has yet to fail your rigorous litmus test. Take a knee maybe. Get close. Close your eyes. Now take a deep breath through your nose as if smelling it for any imperfections. Stand up and dust off your hands and remark a monotone "Yes."
Works for: Functional items like plastic bins, cookware, Omaha Steaks, tools, weaponry, and anything replacing something broken.