Fred and I don’t shop for Christmas gifts for the kids or grandkids. We don’t even bother with gift cards. We give cold, hard cash, but we make them work for it.
Our family has been forced to suffer through roasts, where we choose a social crime or glaring shortcoming and give them an Archie McPhee gift that highlights it with money tucked inside. Or we’ve sent them through the house on a scavenger hunt to find their cash: Grandson, you were fascinated by this when you were a baby, and now your daughter is, too. (The chiming wall clock). They don’t know it yet, but this year they’ll be asked to go into the laundry room – aka Pat & Fred’s Christmas Bar – and fill out a 3 x 5 card with something about themselves that not everyone may know, something arcane and interesting. Then Fred and I will read them aloud, and correct guessers (not to include the writer or a significant other) will get $$$. When we’re finished, the money will be fairly divvied up per our wishes, but the one with the most dollars at the end of the guessing game will get a prize.
This process is more than just an excuse for not shopping. It’s about creating and celebrating family history, about reminding them of the glue that binds us together, and about our legends and appreciating each other.
I used these ideas in my corporate life as well. When managing a meeting of support employees from both our company and a customer’s, I would have everyone fill out a card with three things about themselves – two true, one false – and read them aloud so we could guess, an exercise that faithfully provided icebreaking laughs. At one of our company parties, attendees filled out cards like our family will be doing on Christmas Eve. We discovered some fascinating stuff: I was briefly an exotic dancer; My first spouse was gay and I didn’t know it until later; My uncle was the mayor of Bremerton; I helped a reporter write a book about the Seattle SuperSonics. It was a great team-building exercise. That was over twenty years ago, and I can still remember who revealed what. And trust me, memory is not my forte’.
So whatever you’re doing, make it all interesting if you can. Why not?
(BTW I was the one who helped write that book.)