Last night Mr. G, Mr. B and I snuggled up for some bedtime reading on the floor. Mr. G jumped up and ran across the room to grab a blanket--and he returned with a blue one. "Don't you want that nice new pink one over there?" I asked. He rewarded me with a look of pure disdain and scorned the huge pile of Pepto-Bismo-pinkness saying, "I like blue." Mr. B nodded vigorously. Score one blanket for Green Girl on merit of color. Snuggie satisfaction achieved.
And speaking of things that work like a charm, let me explain the Pirate Game (AKA "Dirty Santa", Blarney, get your mind out of the gutter!). For years and years Mr. D's family exchanged gifts with everyone, for everyone. This involved 8 adults and 7 grandchildren during the height of our consumerism--one year the gift opening lasted over four hours. For some families, the expense of buying that many gifts was overwhelming. For others, the sheer effort of shopping for that many people was a chore of Herculean proportions. (Okay, that was mostly my issue, but come on! We don't live near my in-laws, so finding gifts that they'd each like was no easy trick. Not liking to shop didn't help much--and mind you, younguns, this was in the days before Internet shopping.) The annual Christmas celebration had become Mostly Obligatory and Not Much Fun, certainly not the holiday God had in mind for us.
We didn't quit this tradition cold turkey. First we weaned things down to a gift exchange where we drew names. But now the kids (cousins) draw names and the adults play the Pirate Game (AKA "Dirty Santa"). Here's how it works:
1. We set a price limit--in our case $25 (in the past people have brought Godiva chocolates, liquor, games, golf balls, home goods, steaks, and Hawkeye/Badger gear)--and each person brings to Christmas one wrapped gift.
2. After the meal, the kids open their gifts and we get a lull in the football games on TV, the adults pile their "Pirate" gifts in the middle of the room.
3. Numbers are drawn (we use playing cards) to assign 1st, 2nd, and so forth to insure a random game.
4. The first person picks a gift from the pile and opens it.
5. The second person may steal the first person's gift or pick a new gift from the pile.
6. Each subsequent person may steal an already-opened gift or select a new gift from the pile. When a gift is stolen, the giftless person may then steal a gift from another player OR choose an unwrapped gift.
7. The last player has the choice of opening the remaining present and leaving it there to steal another already-opened gift.
8. The game continues until there is no gift remaining in the center.
9. You may not "steal back" a gift someone steals from you. (This does not preclude your spouse stealing a gift from you in order to free you up to steal back a coveted gift. Couples in our family totally team up against each other.)
I've heard of families who play this game using White Elephant gifts, only edible gifts, or only homemade gifts. This game worked like a charm in making our Christmas more fun and less tedious/expensive/work. Everyone looks forward to the game--some years people bring really funny gifts, other years (like this last year) all the gifts get swapped and stolen and the game lasts a long time. We laugh, rib each other about gifts from years past, and the older kids in the family look forward to when they can play with us because it's that much fun. And I, personally, remember a single gift won in a game more than I can recall who gave me what when I return home with a huge pile of stuff from everyone. In a weird way, the Pirate Game has made Christmas more meaningful and memorable.
Spill it, reader, do you play the Pirate Game at your Christmas? Does it work like a charm? If you don't, will you suggest it to your clan? No one in ours has ever regretted starting this tradition.