It’s hard to say which is a worse stress during the holiday season: buying gifts for people we know really well, or buying gifts for people we hardly know at all. While it doesn’t run the emotional risk as trying to find something your mom might actually like this year, it can also be overwhelming to try to figure out what to give your hairdresser, or your kid’s teacher or your mail carrier.

Though you are not obligated to get those folks anything at all, some of us like to (or at least feel like it would be rude not to!). And, like with so many things, we turn to social media for guidance. At least a few times a day for the past few weeks I have seen posts from people looking for suggestions about these types of gifts, and on every single one of those posts, most people have suggested the same thing: wine.

Woman holding bottle of wine

It’s not surprising seeing those comments, because there is absolutely an assumption that alcohol is at worst a neutral force in our culture. But it’s worth spending some time pulling apart all the different reasons that is not everyone’s experience:

1. They might be in recovery. This is probably the big one. While it is easy to just suggest that anyone who doesn’t drink simply pass on a bottle of booze to someone who does, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. For folks struggling with addiction, being handed a bottle of wine can be a perilous thing.

2. They might find alcohol triggering. This is the group that I fall in! I was raised by an alcoholic mother, and I grew up pouring bottles and bottles of alcohol down the drain hoping it would make things stop. Seeing a bottle of wine in my space, or being expected to react to it with appreciation, is pretty difficult.

3. They might have health concerns. From liver damage to depression to interactions with prescription drugs, many people have their own personal reasons for not being able to drink. It can be awkward to navigate to maintain that privacy while being constantly given bottles of alcohol.

4. They might be pregnant or trying for a baby. Many people keep early pregnancy or attempts at conception under wraps for as long as possible (which is no shock, given how much unwanted advice someone instantly gets when they become pregnant).

5. They might not drink for religious reasons. While observance varies from person to person, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, the Bahá’í Faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, the United Pentecostal Church International, Theravada, most Mahayana schools of Buddhism, some Protestant sects of Fundamentalist Christianity and some sects of Hinduism all discourage their followers from drinking.

Couple eating popcorn in movie theater

The truth is, I recognize that neutral gifts can be challenging overall. People who struggle with eating disorders and body image issues, for example, can have just as strong emotional reactions to food as the above groups might to alcohol. Here are a few ideas that are likely to cause minimal distress and maximum appreciation:

1. Fancy Grocery Store Gift Cards: It’s nice to be able to pick out a fancy treat or meal ingredient without having to worry about the price tag!

2. Book Store Gift Cards: Especially for teachers, book store gift cards can be a real game changer. And even if they’re not a big reader, the next time they need to pick up a fancy candle for their partner’s mom or some magazines for a sick friend, this card will have them covered.

3. Drug Store Gift Card: The way drug stores are now, you can pretty much get anything at them. Whoever receives this will be able to get anything from stick-on nails to fancy candy to toothpaste. Win win!

4. Movie Gift Cards: If the person receiving the gift is a dating person, they can upgrade their Netflix and Chill to Back Row of a Theatre and Smooch. If they’re a person with kids, they can redirect some funds to the babysitter budget, and grab a coffee after the movie (and also smooch in the back row!).

5. Handmade Gift: Taking the time to make someone something is really lovely. And while there is no guarantee that your weird handmade card or festive decoration will be passed on to future generations, it is likely to be met with fondness and appreciation, at least in the moment.

When it comes to gift-giving, most of us were raised with the message that “it’s the thought that counts,” so let’s all do our best to not be thoughtless — during the holidays, and all year round.

What’s your go-to gift? Tell us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)