When the holidays approach, every year we notice the little changes that occur. If the stores haven’t beaten it to revealing the season, the weather is usually the first thing to shift into holiday gear. After that, the people either become generally brighter and more cheerful, or anxious and snappy. And then the annual traditions start up, usually involving the good old family.
My family is an interesting bunch, as we come from many walks of life and like to change up how the system works… frequently. We meet every year around Christmas (sometimes before or after, if schedules don’t permit us to all meet on Christmas Day), taking part in one of the most common of American traditions: exchanging gifts around the decorated Christmas pine tree.
In the past, because we’d rarely see each other, we never knew what to buy people (who ever knows how so-and-so’s interests have changed). So last year we came up with a plan.
We began a new kind of gift-giving, which made it easier on all of us. We set a $20 limit per gift and started an email chain letter between us that involved each of us sending a “Dear Santa” list of 20 things we wanted. Not only did this mean that everybody should have been happy with their gifts, but it made buying those gifts a lot less stressful, as well. No more calling Mom asking if she knows if Lis has mentioned anything recently-I can just look at Lis’ list! Sounds like a good idea, right?
RED FLASHING LIGHT RED FLASHING LIGHT-It was a BAD idea! If you’re okay having nine different email conversations going at once, people accidentally finding out what they’re getting from whom, and one person receiving the same present from three different family members, then this is a fantastic method! It wasn’t really for us, though.
So, this year we’re nixing that idea. Instead, we’re starting a new gift-giving tradition, one that has worked among professional, educational, and social groups for ages: Secret Santa.
The plan is: have everybody fill out a form with their updated interests and the things they want, then put all the names in a hat and draw. You become Mr. Cringle for the person you draw, and you use the form they filled out to aid you in picking out the best gift! We also set a $120 limit, which actually ends up saving us in the long run, because usually the total for all gifts combined from a single person ($20/gift) comes out to around $200. In addition, each person has the potential to be gifted something incredibly nice, something they really want.
Changing it up every year makes it fun-we never know what to expect from the Holidays! And, in that sense, diving into to the unexpected has become our sort of family tradition.