A newish co-worker leaned over yesterday in a meeting and quietly asked a question about the gift exchange my division does at the holiday party. “I don’t play that game, I hate it,” I told him – perhaps a bit too bluntly because he looked at me like he had made a mistake or perhaps like I eat kittens for breakfast. Some explanation was in order.
I don’t care for gift exchange games. Nobody’s on the same page about what kind of gift to bring, everyone argues over the rules of the game, and there are always people disappointed by the outcome. I know, it’s just a GAME and it’s meant to be fun and not taken seriously. I don’t find it funny when I spend money on a gift and bring home crap that’s going straight to Goodwill. Or when I pick something nice and my friendly co-worker steals it from me. Someone recently told me a story about a gift exchange where she unwrapped an empty box, and everyone laughed and laughed like it was the funniest thing ever. That sucks.
I wish people could just get their gift exchange shit together, and not treat this as an opportunity to unload junk you have been too lazy to donate. As a fan of de-cluttering, this is one of those activities it’s easy for me to back away from. Yes, I’m the one person sitting among 40 or so not playing, but I am snacking and visiting with co-workers just the same and having a fine morning NOT getting angry that my gift has been stolen for the third time and now the only thing left for me is the VHS tape of George of the Jungle that reappears every year.
A “White elephant” is defined as a possession that is useless or troublesome. Why don’t we stop encouraging that and have GOOD gift exchanges? Come on – you see what the coveted gifts are every year. Why are we not all bringing those things and everybody goes home happy? How about don’t shop at Spencer’s for a gift? How about not having a full page of rules and instructions on how to play? How about just bringing:
- Scratch-off instant lottery tickets
- Whatever is a coveted food item in your area: a box of Krispy Kreme, a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Biscoff cookie butter, etc…
WAIT you say – What about that person who is a recovering alcoholic, has a lot of food allergies and thinks gambling is a sin? They can swap out their gift for that George of the Jungle tape we’ll be keeping in the back for just such an emergency. Or that coffee mug filled with generic hard candies wrapped in red and green foil, because I’m sure you need another coffee mug. Hint: NO ONE NEEDS ANOTHER COFFEE MUG.
Please, please, people who get the unenviable task of putting together their office holiday party, set some gift exchange ground rules to make it suck less. I know there will always be that one asshole who insists they need to carry on the tradition of passing off that Yanni cassette to some poor celebrant who was hoping for a Godiva bar, and that’s not your fault. At least you tried and I for one appreciate it.