November 24, 2006

Christmas Name Draw for Gifts/Presents

Christmas is upon us. Hopefully I'm not the only one who hasn't bought a darn thing yet. My family does a name draw so you are only "supposed" to buy a present for one of the eleven family members thus sparing yourself any excessive expense. But there are always the overachievers in the group who go ahead and do something wildly generous. A few years ago my little sister knitted everyone extra long scarves that she served on Christmas morning out of a basket like chubby puppies. My Dad buys piles and piles of presents every year and on Christmas Eve he needs a helper for at least an hour to get them all wrapped for the gang. And then there is my oldest sister, Allison, who always gives a homemade present to everyone in addition to homemade wrapping paper.

I've never been in the overachiever category and usually sit quietly in the corner on Christmas kicking myself for being so uncreative and stingy with my gift. I let myself be lulled into a false sense of security with this whole name drawing charade we go through every year. Things were so much easier when we were kids and everyone just did something for everyone. We would open up the toy box, find the little knick-nacks that had fallen to the bottom and wrap them up in tin foil to present to our other siblings on Christmas day. Or even better, we'd go through our closets and find the clothes that we'd stolen from each other and give them back wrapped in pillow cases.

Of course, none of us really cares what we get, but there is always the one who first runs out of presents to open first and sits watching the "popular" sibling open presents for the next hour. Each one of us Benacs remembers the Christmas(s) that we were that person. There is just no way to keep the proportion of gifts equal in such a large group. I remember the Christmas it was me. I was barely 16 and had just gotten a used car with no CD player. I had been dropping hints that all I wanted was a CD player for my car for Christmas. Christmas morning came and I eagerly scanned the pile under the tree for my big promising box. I found a few smaller ones from my mom - a few CD's she had burned for me, some homemade magnets and a couple of pretty barrettes. But there was no "main" present. After I had dug around and determined there were no more presents with my name on them, I sat sullenly by the tree watching everyone else open their dream presents with a ever deepening scowl. I knew I was being a baby, but couldn't hide my disappointment.

Finally my mom asked me what was wrong. Didn't I like my presents? I motioned to the useless CDs she'd burned me and said they wouldn't be much good without a CD player. She look confused. "But didn't you get one?" "No." After a second of thought, she ran out to the garage and brought back a brand new CD player for my car apologizing for forgetting to wrap it. Of course, I was glad to see it, but ashamed at the same time that I had let the mere presence of this present dictate my mood on this otherwise beautiful Christmas morning. I felt terrible for being a crank and terrible for feeling better at the appearance of the present. At 16 I should have known better.

I know they say Christmas isn't about the presents. I find it very misguiding then to dedicate the first half of the day on Christmas indulging in just that. I don't want to sound like a grinch, but I would be much happier this year if everyone just wrote Christmas letters to read on Christmas morning. Big long loving letters about all the wonderful things about each other. You know, since it's not about the presents and everything. But could I could get away with it? I doubt my little brother, Johnny would appreciate my new-age spin on our Christmas tradition just when I've drawn his name for the year. Or maybe I'll just break out the tin foil and give everyone used cosmetics. Which would they appreciate more?


Silly Marie said...

We do something similar since we have a large family. But instead of drawing names we rotate. I keep the chart and email it out to everyone. (I have it made out until 2010). That way you never give to or receive from the same person two years in a row.

The Editor said...

Eeeactually, we also rotate. Sarah just calls that drawing names.

compulsive writer said...

That's so funny--I could see myself doing that--Oh! I'm so sorry! I forgot to wrap it!

One year my mom bought me expensive earrings that I really hated. She told me she would take them back to the jeweler if I wanted (before she knew I didn't love them) and we could pick out something different.

I really debated long and hard about it and then decided if it were me and I'd spent that much money on someone (this was an exceptionally generous year for my mom--she'd just remarried) I would want them to be honest and have something they really wanted.

So I told her I didn't really wear earrings very often and would probably prefer a ring. She complied, but I often wondered if that was an ungracious move on my part.

Good luck--at this stage in my life I'm ready to just say (and I have at times before) don't get me anything--just make a donation to the homeless shelter or some other worthy cause.

Adrienne said...

Well, you know Sarah, your teen years are for being an uptight, sullen pill. It's okay.

If it makes you feel any better, I spent every birthday and holiday from the age of 16 to 22 wishing, hoping, PRAYING that this would be the year I'd get a car. Which is awful, I know, because tons of people never get cars at all, much less as a gift while a teenager... but in our neighborhood? Where kids got cars (often fancy ones) when they turned 16 ALL THE TIME? And here I was hoping, FANTASIZING about anything with an engine that would GO, regardless of appearance or smell? Kind of a downer.

Kibler said...

Gosh, I can really relate to the pillowcases.. One year mom got really inventive and got a halloween pillowcase for my (october)birthday. My most memorable pillowcase wrapping was the one my greatgrandma needlepointed.

obsessed rainey said...

Sar give yourself some cred. Remember the time you gave us all fancy perfume in sparkly drawstring bags that you had made your-very-own-self? That was way above and beyond. Esp for Flake Christmases when the gifts are usually something like a box of your favorite cereal. I still have my perfume (obsession), I hoard it for special occasions. You're a good santa, you are you are.

amanda said...

sarah, i was just thinking the same thing as rainey. you had drawn MY name that year and everybody realized that I had gotten WAY more from my draw name person (you) than anybody else had. you set a new standard.

Anonymous said...

Kyle's family does that and that was a whole new game for me since my family's rather small. We actually draw names and I hate to say it, I'm a gift card giver. Heck, I love it when I get them and isn't the thought to get someone something you'd want yourself? I figure they can always pick out something they like and if they don't, that's their problem. The deep thought part of the gift is just WHERE to buy the gift card. And instead of regular card envelope, you could drop it into one of your homemade pretty bags or mushy letters...? Homemade and thoughtful!

Bethany said...

ok so a couple of thoughts, i say go ahead and pull out the tin foil but go back to the good old days and make us all tin foil jewlery!! great idea. oh, and ps. I had all 50 or so of the people on my list bouught for and tonight, wrapped. I WIN! kidding, it is just that i work in retail and i wouldnt be caught dead in a mall after thanksgiving. good luck.

oh, and i think the card thing would go over really well. honest, i would love it!

Catherine said...

Give John some credit! He did love letters for everyone's present in the past and I love them! I have them saved. Mary also is very good about sending love letters! I'm sure you've gotten them. As for me, I've gotten the girls "big" present off the curve where it was left by someone for trash day. I hope they like it! I'll supplement with dollar store buys.