exchanging christmas gifts

Exchanging Christmas Gifts

Coming up with Christmas gift exchange ideas can be hard for anyone.
1. Start a rotating gift box
Anna Baldwin, a reader from Arlee, Montana, does this with her three best friends from college She fills a box with locally made, low cost items one for each friend and a personal note, and mails it off. The first friend takes out a gift, puts in three of her own, adds to the note, and ships everything on to the next. The box rotates like that until it has made the rounds of all the friends, ending up back with Anna, complete with personal notes from her pals and their gifts to her.
2. Introduce a gag gift
Wrap up your most egregious or inexplicable Christmas present from last year (sad eyed ceramic cat, anyone?) for an unsuspecting family member. It becomes that persons responsibility to pass it along, like a hot potato, the next year.
3. Have a cobweb party
This wacky search game was all the rage during the Victorian era. Designate one room for the party, and assign each player a yarn color. Tie one end of a spool of yarn to each gift blue yarn to one players gift, red yarn to another, and so on. Unwind the yarn as you zigzag across the room, trailing it under furniture, looping it around banisters and over curtain rods, anywhere you can. You want to make it as difficult as possible for the gift recipient to follow his or her yarn through the cobweb of different colors to find the present. Hand each person his or her spool of yarn and let the mayhem ensue.
4. Do a kids musical chairs gift exchange
With children you have to be really careful because of their feelings, says Lisa Kothari, owner of the national kids party planning business Peppers and Pollywogs. You have to make sure that everyone gets a gift. Kothari suggests playing a version of musical chairs by having the kids sit in a circle and passing around wrapped gifts while Christmas music plays. The children get to keep whatever theyre holding when the music stops more exciting than just picking a gift out of a bag.
5. Do a Yankee Swap White Elephant
Stealing from other participants gives this gift exchange game an element of unpredictability. Invite everyone to contribute a wrapped gift (a new item if youre following Yankee Swap rules; a used one if youre doing White Elephant). Draw numbers out of a hat to see who gets to pick from the pile first. Player No. 1 chooses and unwraps a gift, then shows it to everyone else. Player No. 2 then either steals that present or picks and unwraps another one from the pile. Player No. 3 can then steal either gift, or choose and unwrap another, and so on. Any player whose gift is stolen gets to pick again. The game continues until everyone has a gift.
6. Play holiday trivia
Can you name all nine of Santas reindeer? If so, you get first pick of the presents in the pile. Players use clickers or simply raise their hands to answer, and once they get a present, theyre out of the competition. At the end, the moderator gets to either choose the last gift remaining or steal a gift from somebody else a one time only privilege for all of his or her hard work.
7. gift with your family
In lieu of presents, try renting a ski cabin for the weekend after Christmas or going on a beach escape together.
8. Eliminate the guesswork
I ask gift recipients to send me a wish list that I buy from. It saves time, effort, and returns, yet still preserves an element of surprise, says Real Simple reader Robin McClellan of Lehigh Acres, Florida.
9. Buy recurring gifts
Youll know what to give, and the recipient will look forward to getting, say, an annual shipment of Florida citrus fruits or Vermont cheeses, a series of theater tickets, a museum membership, or even a nice desk calendar.
10. With family
Tell them up front youre going to cut back. Dont make it a money issue with your kids, but talk about it in the context of what the holiday really means This is the time to be with family, not for getting new skis, says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies ($22, amazon.com). Children are resilient, adds Meg Cox, who wrote The Book of New Family Traditions ($13, amazon.com). If you make the change gradually theyll accept it. Let your extended family know as early as possible that youd like to give and receive less. (Though some, like grandparents, may be loath to do the same.)