I do, however, belong to an organization that has a yearly Christmas gift exchange. It used to be just an ornament exchange until a few ladies pointed out that everyone now owns about 30 extra ornaments, and couldn't we just do Christmas "things?"
So the way the game works is that you buy a Christmas Thing for no more than $10, you wrap it and put it under the tree at the party, and everyone draws a number. You probably know how it works, but I'll say it anyway: The first person opens a present. Whoever has number two can either open a new present, or steal the present that #1 opened. If they steal, the first person opens a new present. Then person #3 goes, and they can either steal, or open a new one. And on and on it goes, until everyone is settled with a opened gift. Now, the way my ladies do it is each present can only be stolen so many times before it's out. Otherwise we'd be there until midnight. It used to be on the 3rd steal, but we reduced it down to the second steal a year or two ago. Seriously, there's like 40 ladies fighting over gifts!!
And I do mean fighting. It can get pretty nasty. I practically had my heart broken the first year when someone stole a beautiful angel ornament from me. So now I don't focus quite so much on ending up with a great present as I put time and energy into having a gift that everyone wants and fights over. This takes two tacks: First: A good present, and Second: Strategic wrapping.
I'm gonna start with the wrapping so you can get your hints now: if you have an oblong box (like a shoebox) don't wrap it the normal way, with the lid on the top. Instead, flip it on one end, wrap it, and put a bow on the "new" top. Nothing gets people's attention like a tall box. Or, do what I did this year and go for understatement: the only bag I had that fit the present was a brown-paper handle bag. Very dull. But instead of trying to decorate it, I just wrote on it with a Sharpie: Side 1 said "Pick Me. Don't let the pretty bags have all the fun." and side 2 said "I've heard the best presents come in unassuming packaging. Care to test that theory?"
Both of those ideas got my gift opened in the top 10. :)
And for the present, well I'm lucky because I work at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and they have a sample sale twice a year where you can get a whole lot of ornaments and decorations for great deals like "half-off of wholesale." Yessirreebob, it's fantastic. So I've ended up with $40 gifts that I paid at most $12 for. And some of them may have been worth even more.
But the really funny thing about this whole deal is the fact that in the last 5 years, 4 of my gifts have gone to the same person: Julie.
I kid you not. The first year I made a star ornament that she ended up with. I must say I'm quite happy that it's in such good shape--I really had no idea how long it would hold up.
Then the next year I brought in a wreath made of pinecones. This was the year I started buying stuff at the sample sale. There's a good chance it would have retailed for $50-60:
It was really just coincidence that Julie ended up with both of my gifts at this point. I believe the ornament was literally the last gift opened (the reason I started paying more attention to wrapping). I don't believe Julie knew I had brought the pine cones.
Then there was one year when I bought a tea mug and plate set. Julie did not win that. It was an off year.
But then, she ended up with the jingle-bell wreath. There is a good chance I pointed it out to her, just to see if she would start getting my gifts again... and she did. :)
But this year is the one that kills me. Because I got there before she did, I didn't sit close to her at all, I said nothing... and before I knew it, my lantern was in her hands on the final steal.
How funny is that? I mean, really. there are 40 women at each of these parties. And Julie got my present 4 out of 5 years. Of course, she does know that she's getting a good deal with my gifts, so perhaps she keeps her eyes open for something that looks like it costs more than $10.
Either way, I find it quite humorous that, while I don't decorate my house at all, I have had quite a hand in decorating Julie's.