As Christmas rapidly approaches (54 days ... sorry), the subject of gift exchanges came up today at work. What works, and what doesn't.
As a concept, the Secret Santa system is a good one. Instead of buying for ten people, you only have to buy for one, meaning it not only costs less, but you can take the time and make the effort to find something meaningful, that you know your person will like. Sure, there is the downside - people paired up with people they don't know well, or people who can't be bothered to get a good present, leaving their recipient feeling uncared for and maybe a little bitter about the whole thing.
Then there's the 'present stealing' system. In this system, everyone at the party brings a wrapped present, worth an agreed-upon amount. One by one, the people at the party are chosen, by drawing names, or by dealing cards, or by whatever other method. The first person chooses a present and opens it. The next person has a choice: they can either choose another wrapped present, or choose to take the already opened present from person number one, who then takes and opens another wrapped gift. The third person can choose either of these opened presents, or open a new one of their own. And so on until all the presents have been opened and claimed. This can go terribly wrong. The last time I took part in one of these, a bottle of wine was in the mix, making all other carefully chosen and purchased presents unwanted and their purchasers feeling insulted and unappreciated. Thanks to a few jerks who ended up as the final 'choosers'.
The best Christmas gift exchange I've taken part in in a while, aside from my yearly exchange with friends in Windsor, was an 'unwanted' gift exchange. Everyone was invited to bring something from home - nothing bought. It wasn't to be garbage, but rather items that you were maybe regifting, or that you'd bought for yourself and never ended up using - something that you just didn't want, for whatever reason. Then we went through the gift stealing scenario above. The items were all decent, but none were so much better than the others that there was a struggle to get them.
However the gifts are going to be handed out, it's about time to start gathering them together. Not to mention getting the needles clacking a bit faster.