My family has a holiday tradition that we have religiously followed for as long as my siblings have had children. Since we were all buying presents for said children we decided that the gifts for the rest of the family would be part of a white elephant exchange.
Now, while we all thought that was a stroke of genius, I can’t quite recall whose idea it was.
I will admit that while it was not mine, I was quite happy with the decision. I was living in Northern Virginia at the time and spending way to much money on luxury items such as food and housing.
The tradition has become quite enjoyable and now includes all of the children. They did not want to miss out on the fun. Yes, we consider the verbal abuse of each other, in a structured setting of course, quite fun. Doesn’t everybody?
The gift exchange has become a time honored tradition. The rules however are not so much of a tradition but more of a yearly agreement.
I am pretty sure we have not played by the same set of rules in any one year let alone consecutive years.
Some of you may suggest “why don’t you just look up the rules on wikipedia or google them.”
For you I would have two responses: 1) Wikipedia, really, are you nuts? You are asking to crowdsource information on something no two people can seem to agree upon. 2) Where is the fun in that? Sure we spend at least a half hour negotiating the rules before we start the exchange but that only adds to the fun.
Among the usual topics for negotiation are determining who goes first. Yes, it sounds simple and we do draw numbers but after that the process is pretty much a crapshoot. We are a very creative family .
“ Is the lowest number first or last?”
“A reasonable question. Let’s do the opposite of last year. Does anyone remember what we did last year?”
“Do we weight the numbers with the age of the person and if so do the older or younger persons have more weight?”
Now these are the less imaginative of the ideas , with any large group of people the suggestions can get quite outrageous.
“Can we consider birth order?”
“We already discussed age of the person so we have covered that.”
“No, I mean by the month. Which month you were born in, so like January comes before February.”
“Interesting idea, So you being born in January has nothing to do with that idea?”
“Of course not.”
“Nice try. Next.”
“What are the rules of stealing?”
“Rules, You mean is it punishable by law? If so I am not sure you understand the concept of the white elephant.”
No, I mean is there a restriction on the number of times a a particular person can steal?
“You’re still angry at me for stealing your waffler last year aren’t you?”
“That was two years ago. Of course not.”
“There is not a restriction on the number of times anyone can steal.
There is only a restriction on the number of times an item can be stolen.”
“What if it’s a really good item? Shouldn’t everyone have a chance to steal it?”
“No. That would be a disaster of biblical proportions.”
“Ok, how about no gift can be stolen more than 3 times.”
There is a limit on the amount spent on the gift. That was set a few years ago and probably will not be up for renegotiation until all of the birds have flown the coop and are on their own. I for one hope that my fifteen year-old niece will be working on a doctorate.