Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Morphing Gift Exchange Tradition

I know it's a bit late to be talking about Christmas still, but I wanted to share how our family handles the gift giving.

My mom's side is rather large and so no one (especially in this economy) can afford to get everyone a gift. So over 10 years ago, we started doing a white elephant gift exchange (which, for those of you who haven't participated, just means that everyone brings an anonymous gag-gift and we take turns opening the gifts or stealing them from each other... you can read more here).

This didn't go over so well as people were fighting over really dumb things like the singing Billy the Big-Mouth Bass and ended up stuck with really dumb stuff they just threw away.

So we decided to bring real gifts but it ended up being one of those things where only the women shopped so it was filled with potpourri and lotions and candles.

Now, my Stepdad is a quiet, unassuming type, but oh-so-funny. I guess he deemed our little exchange too dull or feminine and one Christmas, he brought a box of bullets. Everyone had a good laugh, the men felt involved for the first time and it was grand.

Each year has gotten progressively more interesting....

This year, I was texting Boyfriend-Fellow during the process and had to update him that "Cousin so-and-so just opened a Japanese sword..." and "Holy crap! Mom just opened a REVOLVER!"

Now, this photo is terrible, except for the hilarious face she's making. But if I posted it, she'd kill me, so I will have to deny you, dear readers.

What is your family gift tradition?


  1. my nuclear family is small, but my extended family is a full-on clan on both sides. we've always done christmas with my dad's family -- he's one of seven kids, so even with just his parents, siblings and their kids, it's a bit of a zoo. (think a somewhat-less-blue-collar version of dropkick murphy's "the season is upon us".)

    for "the kids," meaning my generation (i'm #2 of...10? cousins, ranging from 30 to 10 years old now), the adults would set a dollar limit & draw names, and then provide gifts for that kid from "the aunts and uncles." i have no idea what the adults did amongst each other, but they usually went in on something interesting (vacation, etc) for my grandparents.

    when i was halfway through college, they established high school graduation as an age-out for the A&U gifts (woohoo, i got two more christmas's worth than everyone else! =). there are four or five cousins still under that cutoff, but now everyone else (and the young'uns, too) does a yankee swap. it's the same thing as a white elephant, except it's not supposed to be a gag gift -- some years it's been giftcards, sometimes it's whatever you want. those exchanges get nice and rowdy. =)

    my family also gambles together, a dice game that's totally chance (matt wrote a simulation of it last year to try and determine a strategy, but there is none) and surprisingly fun. with a $3 buy-in per game and more than two dozen people playing, that leads to quite the pot. invariably, though, it seems to be won by either my grandmother or my youngest cousin...

  2. In my dad's family, there are about 40 of us cousins, so we don't have any sort of gift exchange. And my mom's family is small, so we just exchange gifts. But Ian's family does a white elephant gift exchange of sorts. The gifts are usually all new and funny. And depending on what you get, I would say more than half the gifts are things people actually want.


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