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Christmas: A Time For Logistical Nightmares

, , , , | Related | June 13, 2018

(The following unfolds over several years of my family trying to “organize” Christmas. Three aunts have somehow become the ones who lead the “vote” with all the aunts and uncles on how to plan things, a vote which somehow usually happens after my parents — who live four hours away — have had to leave. One year:)

Aunt #1: “So, I don’t want to do the ‘draw a name from a hat’ exchange this year. It’s not fair!”

Aunt #2: “Why? Everyone buys one gift under $20. You don’t have to draw a name if you don’t put yours in. The kids have a separate name draw, and your son is an adult so you don’t have to buy for any kids, anyway.”

Aunt #1: “Because my son and his wife are poor, and with the new baby, everyone gave them extra presents last year and they felt bad! They can’t buy presents for everyone in return, so people shouldn’t give them anything!”

Aunt #3: “But… those were because it’s the first baby in ten years and we wanted to spoil her. They don’t have to buy anything in return.”

Aunt #1: “It made them feel bad. It was rude. If everyone wants to give them presents, everyone should give everybody else presents. But not so expensive…”

(Which is how the next year we ended up with a system where every family member had to buy EVERYONE a gift, under $5. Since it’s a big family, that put each of us — kids included — on the hook for over $50. And we each ended up with piles of cheap junk nobody wanted. The next year:)

Aunt #1: “We need to figure out something better for Christmas. My son can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone again!”

Aunt #2: “Why don’t we go back to the old system? If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to participate. Then he won’t have to buy anything!”

Aunt #1: “NO. That would make him look cheap! I have a better idea…”

(The next year, the adults don’t exchange names, but instead pick a child’s name from the hat. Since there are more kids than adults, some adults are randomly picked to have to buy for multiple kids. [Aunt #1]’s son gets stuck buying three gifts for other kids while only getting one for his own daughter. The next year:)

Aunt #1: “Christmas was so unfair! My son was so upset that he had to buy three toys and only got one back. He couldn’t afford to get anything for his own daughter!”

Aunt #3: “We would all love to buy things for her! She’s still the only little one and I love shopping for little girl clothes and toys.”

Aunt #1: “NO, that makes them feel like you’re saying they can’t afford nice things and aren’t raising her right! We just need to limit who is in the gift exchange more so there aren’t as many kids to buy for.”

Aunt #2: “How? We could put the age cut-off at 18, or high school graduation.”

Aunt #1: “I’ve been thinking about this, and I have a plan…”

(I live far away, and my parents later told me that the aunts had decreed that only kids would exchange names, with each other, so every family would only buy as many gifts as they get. But they limited the pool of kids by decreeing that anyone not in school was not allowed to exchange presents. As the only one of the “kids” who had just finished college — I know, pretty old, but I was the oldest of that generation of grandchildren — that only cut me out. I was sad to be excluded, but figured it was fair, as my next youngest cousin was only a year behind and soon we would both be out. But no, [Aunt #1] decreed that since she was thinking of going to grad school, she would still be in the exchange until she graduated again. She went to nursing school for six years, so was allowed in the “kids” exchange until she was 28. The next cousin after her was taking a class through the community college, so he got to stay in, too. For seven years, I was the only one of the grandchildren not allowed in the “kids” drawing. And [Aunt #1]’s son continued to get piles of presents every year from then on for his daughter, since he complained constantly and loudly about not being able to afford anything for her. And that’s the story about how I got voted out of Christmas because my adult male cousin felt bad that his daughter was getting too many presents.)

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