12 Studies of Christmas: Presents

Tom Chalton Hellyer



April 2022


December 2020

12 Studies of Christmas: Presents

Tom Chalton Hellyer



April 2022


December 2020

Christmas presents - a source of delight or a consumerist nuisance? We tore back the wrapping paper and asked 100 people about their experiences of festive gift-giving, receiving, and re-gifting.

First we wanted to work out whether it really is better to give than receive.

If you'd prefer to learn about a topic other than Christmas presents instead, sign up today for free to ask Prolific's 100,000+ participants.

69% of our participants said they prefer to give presents

They cited the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction they get when others open their gifts.

Some also said that they felt awkward or guilty when receiving presents. So presumably they preferred instead to make others feel like that when receiving their presents!

I firmly believe it is better to give than to receive. I'm older and have had many Christmas gifts but now there is nothing like seeing a child's face light up. They are amazed that Santa knew exactly what gift they wanted. It is truly magical.
I enjoy treating my loved ones and think that they deserve to have a lovely gift or two especially after this terrible year

18% of our participants preferred receiving presents

Although many clarified that they also liked giving and just preferred receiving more.

They were particularly enamored by the feeling of opening a present that surprises them and by the knowledge that others care about them.

For some it was just great to get something without paying for it!

I like getting and giving but mostly getting.
I often give presents, and people don't seem appreciated by them unless it's something really expensive. I like the feeling of receiving gifts better.
I like to receive free stuff

A surprising 13% were against the present giving tradition altogether

They wrote thoughtful, often lengthy critiques of the financial pressure and consumerism of giving gifts.

A recurring theme was that presents might be fine for children but are seldom needed by adults. Presents for adults represented consumption for consumption's sake.

I feel like the present giving tradition is outdated and, especially now, just isn't feasible. A lot of people don't have money for presents for others.
I think Christmas is a religious celebration that has been grossly commercialized. I see no value in buying people things they don't need one day every year.
I buy what I want when I want (if I can afford it lol)
A graph of the results. 69% said they prefer giving presents. 18% prefer receiving presents. 13% don't like exchanging presents.

Who is the best present giver?

The most popular gifts come from significant others, who received 22 votes in total. Close behind with 21 votes came mums. In a damning comparison, fathers received only 3 votes for best gift-givers and received 11 votes for worst gift-givers. Step it up dads!

3 participants diplomatically voted for everyone, claiming that all presents are equally great. As a counterpoint, we had 1 vote for "No they are all rubbish tbh".

Generously, 17% of our participants voted for themselves as the best gifters.

Finally, an honourable mention to "Uncle Richard", who received 1 vote. Everyone needs an Uncle Richard.

When is best to open the presents?

It's a frequent point of contention between households, and often between members of the same household. Should you hold off until after lunch or tear in as soon as you wake up?

For our participants clearly the early bird catches the worm as a massive 46% open their presents before breakfast. 1 person even went one better and opens their presents on Christmas Eve!

Between breakfast and lunch was the second most popular time-slot with 26%. Meanwhile, 8% showed remarkable self-restraint and managed to hold-off until after dinner.

A pie chart showing the most popular times to open presents.

Which presents get regifted?

37 of our participants had regifted a present.

The most popular (or is it least popular?) present to regift was alcohol, which received 4 votes. Lynx aftershave giftsets (a classic present) had been regifted by 2 participants.

One of the stranger re-giftings was a video camera, given by a participant's stepfather and regifted to their father. Money was another one, given by a friend, which the participant regifted to "street children". I guess charity really is the spirit of Christmas!

Want to learn about another topic?

Sign up today to ask Prolific's participants about any topic. They're ready for you anytime.

Or come discuss all things research with our community.