These gifts take the (fruit)cake

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  (Tribune illustration by Rick Tuma / December 22, 2010)

It never hurts to ask recipients' friends/family for hints.

You won't go wrong with homemade cakes, cookies.

Avoid predictable generic gifts (like guest soaps).

Gag gifts often backfire.

It's not about you: Give what they like, not what you like.

A gift card is boring but always welcome

Re-gifting protocol

I'm a big believer in re-gifting, especially if you think the recipient will actually enjoy the present. However, etiquette expert Anna Post says, "I prefer other options whenever possible." And if you are re-gifting do it with "transparency" she says as in, "I had an extra copy of this book and thought you would like it."

Post, of the Emily Post Institute, says if you do re-gift it must be in the original packaging and never a handmade or unique present crafted with love by someone just for you.

— E.W.
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