Ask an Apostle: How can I repay an expensive gift?

Teresa Coda answers your questions this week.
Catholic Voices

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Q: My brother gave me a too-expensive Christmas present. How do I reciprocate without putting the focus on things?

—Strings attached?

A: How generous of your brother; I hope you liked the gift!


In general, I think it’s a good policy to let go of the goal of reciprocating when considering gifts. Reciprocating implies responding in a like-manner, or returning a favor, and, well, I just don’t think the verb fits with the philosophy for which most of us aim when giving Christmas gifts (or any gifts, for that matter).

At best, your brother chose the (too-expensive) gift because he knew you would like it and he wanted to make you happy. If this is the case, he’d likely feel bad if he knew that you felt pressure to reciprocate. At worst, your bother does expect an exchange of similarly valued gifts; if this is the situation, it’s just as well to break the cycle at this point rather than setting yourself up for years of frustration, discomfort, and possible resentment.

Individuals and families have different circumstances as well as different approaches to gift-giving. Wherever or however you find yourself, you can’t go wrong if you give openly and thoughtfully and receive graciously and gratefully.

About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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