Let’s Get Rid of Gift Exchanges


I absolutely adore giving friends and family the perfect gift and taking the time to wrap it cleverly. I’m not one to just grab yet another chocolate assortment from the corner shop or fuzzy Christmas socks with Rudolph on them (unless someone really loves chocolate or Rudolph and his red nose!) I actually like gifts to be both personalised and practical so that they don’t end up in someone’s junk drawer (and we’ve all got one of those!) Now, the best present my husband gave me one Christmas – besides my engagement ring – was a whiteboard calendar with a pack of multi-coloured dry erase markers because he knows I love to colour coordinate. Yep, I really am that easy to please!

However, perhaps because of the time I like to spend choosing and wrapping gifts, I really despise White Elephant gift swaps as I am bound to take home something completely ugly and useless. You know the sort of thing – a whole load of friends together with a few bottles of something alcoholic, pop round someone’s house and swap the gifts they don’t want for something they supposedly do want – one man’s rubbish is another’s treasure and all that!

The thing is, White Elephant gifts are supposed to be items you grab from your house that you really don’t want but hold onto anyway out of guilt or laziness (or stupidity?) You’re expected to pawn it off on an unsuspecting mate (hence the wine) and it’s supposed to be great fun (hence the wine!) However, there’s always that one friend who will go out to the store and actually pick out a nice present instead of a humourous one and then you feel bad for sticking someone with a used “Dreamgirls” DVD that your mum gave you one year.

This is also the reason why I opted out on participating in an ornament exchange at a mate’s Christmas party this past weekend. I was the only guest who did not bring an ornament and was seen as a poor sport. Maybe I was but I quite honestly did not want to receive a tacky ornament that would find no place on our perfectly colour co-ordinated tree. I am well aware of my craziness and who knows what my perceptions of the Christmas tree will be when our future child brings home an ornament made out of ice lolly sticks. But, for now, our tree has enough ornaments and everything has its place. And, as much as I love my friends, I don’t always trust their taste in shoes, bags or ornaments!

As everyone was unwrapping the ornaments they chose one by one, I could see their feigned looks of joy. “Oh, this is so adorable,” they would respond with a toothy smile to the group. But, really, what they had in their hands was some white, feathery mess that did not resemble anything at all except maybe a sparkly dust bunny – from the Heavens! While everyone walked away from the party with an extra ornament to hang on their tree (or toss in the dustbin), I walked away happily knowing that I didn’t have to put on an act in front of my friends – and with some extra money in my pocket.

I know I probably committed some kind of social sin by not participating in this ornament exchange but I stuck to my guns and walked away with pride. It was my first time simply telling people I didn’t want to do the exchange instead of making an excuse that I left my gift at home or that I forgot they were doing an exchange. It was oddly liberating, to tell the truth and, luckily, no-one inquired further as to why I didn’t want to participate. I’m sure the answer “because I don’t want something ugly in my house” would have lost me some friends.

What’s your take on Christmas gift exchanges? Is it a forced game for party guests or do you enjoy it? Do you ever make similar lame excuses to get out of it or am I just a Scrooge?

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