Every Christmas we draw names; every post-Thanksgiving holiday season we spend the days hurriedly shopping for extended family members and keeping it at (or below) the arbitrarily set spending limit. If years of this rut have you looking for something fresh and exciting in the gift giving department, help is on the way! Just because you have ‘always’ done it ‘like this’ doesn’t mean you have to continue the same type of gift exchange until Jesus walks down Wilshire. Instead, shake things up – even just a little bit – and get the fun back into the gift giving. A few simple tips and tricks make it possible.
The $1 Rule: Friends and family members who do not know each other very well might just be tempted to buy the usual generic presents – oven mitts, gift cards or picture frames. Shake things up by exchanging functional gifts that either cost only $1 or are handmade. You will be amazed at the wealth of attractive dollar store pitchers or attractively packaged handmade baking mixes and wood carvings you see. In fact, before long the handmade gifts become the order of business and you accomplished the goal of nipping the senseless gift-buying for virtual strangers in the bud. Over time, you get to actually really know everyone by the handmade gifts they give.
The Story Sweater: Everyone knows about the ugly Christmas sweater exchange. While most folks have a good laugh at giving one another the ugliest pieces of holiday sweater wear they could find, why not do it the other way around? This is a great gift exchange for annual holiday gatherings that usually feature the same participants. The challenge is to give an attractive garment that tells a bit of a story. If the story is not readily apparent – for example, if there are no stars in the sweater décor to remind of the starry night – then the giver has to make up a story. The kids love the holiday season for the wealth of new (and sometimes not so new) stories. One uncle outdoes himself each year by telling folk tales from different countries!
The Pet Lover’s Club: What do you give the person who has everything? Nothing! Instead, give her or him something for Fluffy, Rover or whatever their furry, scaly or finned companion pet might be. Children love to go and buy animal toys and treats and then put them into an attractive basket. In fact, it has been my experience that going dog toy shopping and gift wrapping is a lot easier on the kids than buying toys for another child! Of course, the pets join in and “buy” presents for the children at the party (anyone under the age of 12 is considered at child in our home). Everyone wins!
The Baked Good Exchange: In this version of the holiday gift exchange, the main gift is the baked good. This could be a cake, cookies, bread or anything else that is made in the oven. It may be homemade or store-bought. The rules are very simple; rather than drawing individual names, each family draws the name of another family. Obviously, this type of gift exchange works best if there are numerous families involved. Each gift is for the entire family and consists of baked goods that are packed in an attractive basket or tin. It is up to the giver if she wants to mix and match or give a big batch of reindeer cookies. Some folks get rather creative and I have been known to include homemade doggie cookies (properly marked, of course) for another family’s pet in the mix.
Although the tried and true tradition of ‘gift stealing’ exchanges is gaining in popularity, I personally have found that there are a lot of hurt feelings to go around with this practice. The person who really wanted a gift frequently does not get it and the one who brought it might be offended at the fun poked at the offering. Err on the side of compassion by bringing things that holiday party attendees will actually enjoy getting (rather than getting rid of).
More by Sylvia Cochran:
DIY Christmas Gifts that Cost Nothing
Top 5 Gift Ideas for the Handyman
Worst Christmas Gifts for Movie Loving Moms