A White Elephant Christmas

I do like the holidays, even if it sometimes means stress.  I like the lights and the decorations, I like getting together with my family and the smell of food.  Now that I'm older, I love that the friends that have dispersed across the country drift back through town.

And I like parties.

One popular activity is a white elephant gift exchange, which combines the joy of gift-giving with ruthless, cutthroat strategy and stealing.

Of course, I'm only joking.  Sort of.

This year, the HoCoBoCo (Books and Cooks) club did a comfort food potluck (which was amazing, but not part of this post) and an exchange.  My contribution was a picnic cheese board which slid open to reveal cheese-carving-implements.  And I attached the gift receipt, so at worst, the recipient got a trip to the exchange line at BB&B.

I picked number 13.  Each person who went before me selected a new gift, took great care in opening it, and was excited about their gift.  And they were all very gracious.  Paraphrasing slightly, it went something like this...

"I love opening a present!"

"Hm, it all looks good. I've had my eye on this one!"  

(The women in this group are all very, very nice.)

No one stole.

Until we came to me.

All of the gifts were very nice - a griddle pan, an electric fondue pot, a cupcake tree, etc.  But I was looking for something that I knew we would use (cool as the donut maker was).  Then the bamboo steam baskets appeared.

Mmm. Delicious steamed goodies, just one trip to H-mart away!
Steal!  Bamboo steam baskets for the win!

I did feel a little bad as their previous owner graciously ponied up.  However, she promptly stole the griddle pan, and set off a whole new round of stealing!  I was pleased.

Later, though, I realized this was not the first time I have resorted to thievery on such an occasion.

Last year, I did the same thing at our writing group; I was the first and only one to steal and I jacked a foot massager thingy from a very nice lady who'd just opened it.  At the Nth annual 'Dirty Santa' party, I usually plot and plan to make sure I don't end up with a less than desirable gift. 

Of course, that party is a dangerous place to play the 'unknown' card and open a gift.  Sadly... I was unable to come up with a 'safe' link to illustrate my point.

Anyway, I'm not sure why I play this way.  I do know that one part of my conscious thoughtstream is: well... isn't this the point of the game?  I think I 'steal' just because I know its an option and I feel like someone has to do it.  It's a rule!  

But maybe there are other reasons.  At one point in my life, before Amazon Wishlists and the realization that a new pair of tires is an awesome Christmas gift, I loved opening presents.  There was the thrill of the unknown - the whole point of the wrapping paper! 

Gifts then weren't about what I thought I wanted or needed.  They were the end point of a process in which someone who cared about me considered who I was and our relationship, and acted accordingly.

Is it a sign of disillusionment adulthood that I now prefer the known to the unknown?  Or has the act of gift giving become more material than it should? 

I'm not really sure, but I do remember Matt's reaction when I returned home and mentioned the gift exchange.  It went something like this:

"And then there was this cool donut maker..."


A moment of silence, in which he was clearly imagining how freakin' awesome homemade donuts would be - just minutes away! Nonstick finish!  

"I'm so glad you didn't return with that."

Are you an unwrapper or a stealer?  Tell me why in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment