Chinese Christmas. Round Robin. Secret Santa. White Elephant. Yes, these are just a few of your options when it comes to your upcoming holiday gift exchange party. Are you looking forward to it? Or, are you being forced to go against your will? I’ve been there.
I remember my first Chinese Christmas. It was in Girl Scouts when I was in elementary school. This was the 80s. I went home with a card full of stick-on stud earrings. Do you remember those? Maybe they’re still around. They were the hard plastic multicolored ones.
My first Secret Santa experience was in Student Council in elementary school. The student council members and the teachers were paired up. As the hospitality chairman, I organized our Secret Santa party. As a fourth grader, I remember sitting on the floor of my parents’ bedroom making telephone calls to my fellow student council members and asking them to bring various dishes to our breakfast in the school library. That was back in the days before we helicopter parents started hovering so much and doing everything ourselves. My Secret Santa gave me a pair of Christmas socks, some fluorescent Crayolas, and several packs of gum.
That brings me to my next issue. When it comes to giving and receiving at these holiday gift exchanges, there really seem to be two schools of thought. Say you have a $20 price point, or limit, on the gift. Do you give one big gift, or a goody bag full of several smaller gifts? I remember as a kid, I liked my Secret Santa gift with the socks, the crayons, and the gum. More was better. I think many adults have a tendency to preference larger gifts, something that maybe they wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy on a regular basis. But, I also think that a lot of the women I’ve met love to give gifts with lots of little trinkets inside. I’m not sure why that is. It is probably more fun to shop for it, I’m guessing. You could go pick up a $20 gift card somewhere, or you could go mix-and-match 20 items from the Dollar Spot at Target. Don’t get me wrong, I love Target. But I don’t love clutter.
My husband is surprised at the fact that I was a hospitality chairman as a fourth grader. But, I believe that in most cases, kids are going to rise the expectations that are set for them, as long as they are realistic and fair. In this position, I wrote thank-you notes, I planned our breakfasts, and I organized our Secret Santa program.
Over the years, I have endured my fair share of holiday gift exchange parties, from family to friends, from school to the workplace. Some were fabulous, some crashed and burned. One of the most important things to consider is communication—make sure everyone is aware of the expectations, from gifts to price point. If the price point is $20, don’t be the guy who brings a $5 gift. The person who gets stuck with it probably won’t like you anymore. One time I was one of five people invited to a White Elephant gift exchange for the first time. This party had been going on for years, and I thought I had the perfect, most hilarious gift. They didn’t communicate to us newbies that it was really a Chinese Christmas. All of the regulars had brought super fun, awesome gifts, and all of the newbies had brought ridiculous White Elephant gifts. That lack of communication made it really awkward, and I felt terrible about my once-hilarious-now-lousy gift.
So, if you need to spice up your holiday party, make it a tacky holiday sweater party. Wear your most glittery, colorful holiday sweater vest with your antlers and jingle bell necklaces, holiday socks, and just get all decked out. Consider karaoke. Or not. And remember, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.