The matriarch of our family, my eighty-something year old mother, proposed an idea this year for gifts: The gift exchange.
You may have seen them before – they tend to show up at office or command Christmas parties. The idea is that everyone brings an unmarked gift, then takes turns selecting and opening one of the presents in front of everyone. The next person gets a choice – he can either select one of the unopened packages, or steal one from someone who already had his turn.
It is all designed to be a load of fun.
And since a few people always bring some goofy presents, it is. Laughter fills the room when some poor sap opens up a bad present. The others laugh with delight at the misfortune of the recipient – more to the point, they are laughing at the recipient, bringing a whole new meaning to the Joy of Christmas.
Often, especially if alcohol is involved, the game gets a little tense toward the end because in addition to the white elephants, a few really nice presents show up too.
Everyone wants the nice present.
Here’s how it happens. Someone opens up a present and finds an iPod or something. His face beams with delight until the realization hits him that he got a really nice gift. His angst increases when comments like, “That won’t last long,” or, “Don’t get too comfortable with your iPod,” erupt from the crowd.
Sure enough, he loses his new gift (someone steals it), and he must then choose another present, or steal one from someone else. He knows there are probably some white elephants under the tree, so he steals a good one from one of his coworkers – not what he really wants, but better than nothing. That person, in turn, gets mad, steals from someone else…and before you know it everyone in the room is either angry or owns a white elephant. Except the guy with the iPod.
So when my mom proposed this for our family, I immediately envisioned the danger of such a game with three brothers who played college football (these are not small men), none of whom like to lose.
It would be “Gift Exchange meets Ultimate Fighter”, the cage match being held in my eighty-something year old mother’s living room.
So I dissuaded her, and she has decided that we’ll stick with a more passive program like drawing names. It doesn’t have the death-defying excitement that a gift exchange would bring, but the chance that her living room gets destroyed goes way down.
Feelings won’t get hurt, no one will be the brunt of the joke, and we can focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Besides, I already have an iPod.