I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant Christmas: A rambling on Gift-giving

Gift giving isn’t everyone’s forte.  It took my husband years before figuring out not to shop for my Christmas gift in a sporting goods store.  As much as I love to unwrap me some ski socks on Christmas morning (they’re so comfy!), the novelty and sentiment is only good for maybe a one-time gifting.  Not to worry — Mike D.’s grown since then, and has developed a better sense of what makes a good gift for me.  This past Christmas, he hit the nail on the head impressively.  Like, so impressive, it was almost uncanny:  a much-needed black v-neck cardigan (correct size), black/gray-marled sweater jogger pants (the right size, again), and a Lulu Lemon sports bra (the correct size, again! and for a bra!).  For the cherry on-top of an amazing gift-combo sundae, a seriously-cool black Swatch with a gold-colored face!  The perfect, comfy, KB-style-appropriate outfit, whose separate pieces I’ve been able to wear proudly all year long!  Way to go, Mike D., and cheers to excellent gift choices!

To some degree, even choosing a Christmas card requires the same consideration and care.  The two basic rules for choosing a gift or card, alike are:

  1.  Know your audience
  2. Love what you’re giving

Pictured is the card I got for my sister.  We like tasteless jokes in my family, so choosing this card satisfies both rules:  1) I know my sister’s sense of humor, 2) I think this card is adorable and hilarious, and I’m excited that it will give my sister a good laugh.  Laughs make great gifts, too.

In our house this year we’re opting out of gifts for each other in an effort to focus on the “peace” often associated with the Christmas season that we’re rarely able to observe (it can get pretty nuts this time of year).  Also, we’ve realized that anything we would really want for in terms of gifts are things that we’ve easily just bought for ourselves. We’re adults, after all. Still, gift-giving is a big part of Christmas tradition, and a favorite expression of love in our family. So, we’ll try to get our gifting fix via White Elephant exchanges in our respective offices and Friendsmas celebrations.  Surely, in the end, it will all suffice, and we’ll achieve that  “peace”, and likely a whole lot of merriment, all the same.

White Elephant seems to be the answer to the holiday gift-giving dilemma, more commonly when engaging with a large, diverse group.   It’s all the rage because of its non-specific recipient, and sometimes the added fun of it being an unconventional gift!  Last year proved to be the most successful White Elephant Christmas Eve party ever!  By “successful” I mean that I brought the most coveted, talked-about gift of the night!  Hoping this year will serve just as fruitful, but it will take some planning.

While the W.E. gift should alleviate some anxiety of thoughtfulness, a good gift that whoever ends up with it will actually enjoy still takes some effort. Same guidelines for choosing a gift or a card apply!  If your W.E. group is a more conservative crowd, stick to classy gifts that are useful and of general interest. Despite what SNL says, a candle makes a good, general gift.  It might not be a thriller, but it’s an acceptable go-to.  If your group is a little more on the wicked side, get creative!  A gag gift is one thing, but if it’s interesting enough, it’ll be worthwhile, and not so seemingly jerky.  Also, W.E. often has a price limit.  The higher the limit, the less gag-y of a gift you should get, without a nice-gift supplement (it’s pretty messed up for someone to leave the party with a gag gift when they legitimately spent the $20 limit on the gift they brought).

I’m so proud of the White Elephant gift I gave last year, mostly because I’d seized an opportunity to be creative.  It may also have been the closest to a DIY gift I’ve ever gotten.  Was it a jerk gift?  No. Those are too easy.  I really got into this, and was certainly aiming to please.  I gave a lot of thought to the group that was participating–  These folks really look forward to the whacky shock-value of the White Elephant game at this annual neighborhood Christmas Eve party.  I’d observed what gifts brought a lot of fun to the party over the years, and decided I wanted to challenge the types of gifts they found hilarious.  It involved some random doll parts that a co-worker had mentioned throwing out from a hoard clean-up.  So weird, it was like gold to me!  It was perfect.  I procured the doll parts and cased them in a handsome mason jar.  Next, some supplement items to off-set the gag, and add to the gift value (there was a price limit – gotta hit that worth).  I bought a couple of similar-sized jars of fancy preserves, and grouped them with the doll-parts jar, like they were items in a gift basket.  It was so much fun putting this gift together, anticipating the rise I would get at the party.  The pay-off was the jovial reaction to this weird, outrageous gift (opened, in the end, by the conservative patriarch of the house, who admitted to really loving the doll-part jar, mostly, of course, because of the laughs it brought to the party).  It was odd, interesting, and fun.  And like I said, laughs make great gifts!

What is gift-giving going to look like for your Christmas this year?  Do you have a strategy for choosing gifts?  Whether you go big or go simple, it’s really the thought that counts that will make this a meaningful, joyful season.  I’m certainly looking forward to all the ways that good intentions in the spirit of the holiday materialize.  Cheers to making the yule tide fun!

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