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…Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying…five golden rings…four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Have you ever participated in a gift exchange at work or with your family? My extended family is huge. Instead of buying something for everyone, we do a gift exchange. I’ll be hosting Christmas Eve dinner and the much anticipated exchange.

The minimum is $10 per gift, not to exceed a max of $25. My husband is notorious for giving terribly tacky gifts. He includes a gift card to make up for the insult of receiving the worst item of the evening.

Our exchange allows folks to steal gifts away from each other. Recipients of the less-than-stellar gifts look on as the hot items get stolen back and forth. 

My husband’s contribution one year was what we’ve dubbed “The Nubian Prince”. The Prince was found on the side of the road. It’s likely that he fell off the back of a truck en route to the dump.

Lesson One: The biggest gift isn’t always the best one. 

Cousin W, the unlucky recipient, wasn’t able to convince anyone to “steal” the Prince away from him, so he hid it in Cousin A’s bedroom at the end of the evening.

Poor Cousin A’s wife walked into the  bedroom, flipped on the light and saw the Prince staring back at her.

And screamed.

Cousin A wasn’t into the faux leopard aesthetic. He pitched the Prince into the trash.

But Cousin A’s wife, seeking revenge, rescued the Prince from a darker fate. A few months later, she managed to slip the Prince into Cousin W’s house unnoticed. The Prince resided there while Cousin W patiently waited for the perfect opportunity to sneak His Highness back into Cousin A’s house.

Now, the Prince is a nomad, without a real home.

Sneaking him into the home of an unsuspecting family member has become a twisted ritual, which kind of reminds me of “The Thomas Crown Affair” but without hunky Pierce, bowler hats and posh hotel rooms.

Months pass without a word, then suddenly taunts and references of the Prince’s whereabouts pop up on my Facebook page. The latest clue hinted that the Prince was last seen leaving San Francisco on a yellow Vespa wearing a Hermes scarf.

The Prince is bigger than a bread box, too big to hide in a bag, so it’s not easy to move him around without being noticed.

But no home is safe from the Nubian Prince.

It’s rumored that he’s in my house, but a top to bottom search hasn’t revealed any sign of him.

Last year, my husband found Clark in a pile of junk the neighbor was having hauled away. He added the dollar bill bowtie for a dash of savoir faire.

Lesson Two: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Okay, I’m not sure what this says about my family, but Clark was so popular that he was “stolen” three times during the gift exchange.

Over the years, I’ve noticed family members using paper or gift bags from upscale stores to entice others to choose their gift.

Lesson Three: You can’t judge a gift by its bag.

There’s nothing funnier than seeing someone who thought they were getting a cool gift from Williams-Sonoma or Restoration Hardware end up with a Scooby Doo lunch pail and a bottle of soothing cucumber hand lotion.

But that’s what makes the exchange so much fun.

So what about you? Are gift exchanges a part of your holiday tradition?

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