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Can We Honor the Dead at Christmas Without Making It Sad?



"This may seem like a silly question, but my mother died last month. How creepy would it be if I wrapped up some of her belongings and gave them out at our family gift exchange? My mom was always such a wonderful gift giver and her absence this year is really going to be felt by everyone.

I was thinking of something of Mom’s that each person might like--a piece of her jewelry, or maybe a special kitchen utensil she used. I think the items might be appreciated but worry if it’s just too much or if it would be off-putting to my family members. What are your thoughts?"



Remembering the departed on special occasions is an oftentimes appropriate and touching thing to do. How it’s done varies from family to family, but I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way.

Here’s what comes to mind regarding your plan:

  • After death, the property of the deceased becomes a legal situation. Gifting items that are the property of the deceased can be done if the heirs agree. While you might be referring to sentimental value only, one never knows what value others assign to items. Before you start wrapping, you need to sort this out with the heirs of her property. Now, if your father is still alive and he is the heir, you have no issue as long as he is on board.
  • Do consider the sensitivities of the family. I don’t think you should pretend that your mother wrapped the gifts or wrote a note, unless she actually did. Personally, I’d state that you are gifting the items to provide everyone fond memories of your mother. In other words, own that it’s you who is making the gift of your mother’s items.
  • Consider your family gathering. If mom’s death becomes the entire focus, you may end up turning the celebration into a second funeral. Think through how this might play out before you wrap up 20 or so items from your mother’s home.
  • Run your idea past one or two of your siblings. They know your family like you do and will hopefully give you valuable feedback.

Remembering our deceased loved ones during the holidays is important to most of us and brings back memories of times we spent with them. Hopefully, doing this brings about feelings of gratitude and contentment.

I hope you do remember your mother in some way over the holidays. It can be in your thoughts, in conversations with family, or in gifting these items. Whatever works for you and your family is what you should consider.