Originally published December 22, 2014
Before I get carried away with myself, I wish all of you much Peace, Love & Joy! Happy Chanukah/Hanukkah! Cheers to the Winter Solstice/Yule! May your Pancha Ganapati be mirthful! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! And last but not least, I hope my Buddhist friends enjoyed a peaceful Bodhi Day, earlier this month! My sincere apologies to those I’ve missed acknowledging.
Keepin’ it Merry & Lite … and Bright.
(I’ll aim for that last one, but I may get a little silly.) Oh, and I will probably get a little “naughty” … Everyone who really knows me knows I can’t help myself from going “there.” 😉
I’ll be honest with you: I’m itching to get back into The Political Scene, but it’s the holiday season, and this month I’ve made it my religion to stay away from contentious subjects. However, after the New Year … We’re gettin’ back to business!
This past weekend, my husband and I hosted a small party with old friends, and we had our first ever White Elephant Gift Exchange. I’ve often heard of a “white elephant gift,” and I’ve known it’s not something you desire, but I don’t remember if I’ve ever participated in the game, which is also known as “a Yankee swap.”
It’s called that because it’s a Christmas party game played primarily in North America and because of the “swapping” (note: friendly stealing) that makes for some good-natured rivalry. Each participant (recommended: six or more people) brings a wrapped gift; all are placed together, and one person is chosen to begin by choosing and unwrapping a gift. The next person (to the right or left; the order is determined by the group) can select a new present, or “steal” the other person’s gift; that person can then choose another gift to open. And, so on, and so forth … until the last person has taken their turn. There are variations to these basic rules (see “a Yankee swap” link above).
The genesis of it is in the ancient kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), when the King of Siam gifted rare albino elephants to courtiers he wasn’t happy with; subsequently, the gift became “their burden” because they could not afford to take care of the exotic animals.
I’m thinkin’ that clever King bordered on the maniacal.
The term “white elephant” — for a “high maintenance” gift that is no longer useful to the giver — has stuck around and spread throughout North America. Maybe since 1828, when Ezra Cornell — the founder of Western Union and co-founder of Cornell University, made it a popular game/term at his many soirées. (Click on the link, and I think you’ll agree that Ezra needed to cut loose now and then.)
Since I’m not an exotic queen directing the staff to clean out my palaces and stables, nor am I a high-society dame who can afford to discard last year’s silk-and-ivory corset, I settled for wrapping up a couple of items our oldest daughter left behind more than a decade ago (note: college-style decor) … items that would be going to The Salvation Army or into the trash. I told our guests, “No need to buy anything! If you’re like us, you’re cleaning out your homes. So, wrap up your ugliest, goofiest stuff!”
I’m proud to report that our daughter’s items elicited the most interesting comments; one, a “velvet” night scene of the Golden Gate Bridge framed with distressed wood was described by the recipient as “eerie.” My husband commented about our daughter’s “Goth” phase, also that he expected to see it hanging in our friend’s home the next time we visited. To which our friend said, “I’ll hang it in the attic.” The most fought-over item was a bottle of red wine. How that could be burdensome or no longer of use, I don’t know … But, the thing about this game is that people tend to play fast and loose with the rules.
So, there are three more days before Christmas …
Which means you still have time to organize something for your family get-together! I wouldn’t regift any “stinkers” you received from family last year … Save those for a New Year’s party with your friends. You and a sibling or cousin could call and/or send out emails with instructions for guests to root around in their closets for that special conversation piece. Or, suggest they do some last-minute shopping and spend no more than $15 – $20 on a gag gift from someplace like Spencer’s Gifts or another nearby novelty store.
Some ideas, for the young, the old, and the furry — be they naughty or nice:
No, you weren’t imagining it … That last item was a Penis Christmas Wreath. Ho, Ho, Ho?
I told you … I can’t help myself! 😉 Okay, to make up for that, I’m “gifting” you this quick & easy, delicious banana nut bread recipe; it’s moist and light, like a cake instead of a bread, because you use yellow cake mix and instant vanilla pudding mix. Seriously — Yum!
Merry Christmas! ❤