“Dirty Santa” Game

by admin on December 1, 2011

I am continually stunned that some people who are usually so normal can lack manners and plain common sense.

I am from a fairly large extended family. During the holidays my mother, her siblings, and their immediate families all get together. One of our Christmas activities is to play a game called “Dirty Santa”. Everyone brings a wrapped gift — not a “white elephant” gift, but a nice, new gift — under $25. The idea is that you don’t know what the other gifts are. All of the packages are put into the center of the room and everyone who brought one gets to draw a number. The players then take turns in their drawn order. The first person chooses a gift to unwrap. The second person can either “steal” that gift or go for an unknown box. This continues with each person getting a choice of any of the unwrapped gifts or a new package. Then the first person gets to trade their gift with anyone they wish, if they want.

Last Christmas I brought a very attractive set of glasses. I was recently engaged, and my fiance and I were secretly hoping to end up with them at the end of the game. One of my cousins was recently married and he and his wife also brought a dirty santa gift (which turned out to be a nice multi-purpose pan). The players were *supposed to be* myself (and my fiance as a team), my uncle, 4 aunts, my mother, and my cousin’s wife (and my cousin as a team, though he was busy with something else). In other words, the people who had brought items. There was a total of 8 gifts.

One of my aunts volunteered to be in charge. Please let me say, she is usually gracious, intelligent and thoughtful. Anyway, she wrote the numbers 1-8 on scraps of paper and tossed them in a bowl. She then started walking around and allowing people to choose numbers. Imagine my surprise when she purposely passed over both myself and my cousin’s wife (the wife of her nephew) and allowed two other cousins — her own daughters — to choose numbers. Now, I must state some points of clarification:

My aunts and mother are mostly retired now and “homemaker types”. Even my uncle is a fantastic and exuberant cook and loves to keep a nice home. For this reason, the gifts are generally home goods like glasses, pans, towels, etc. Absolutely nothing that would interest a 20-year-old and 21-year-old living in their college dorms.

My aunt’s children are said 20- and 21-year-olds, not children who would be upset and have a tantrum at being left out of the game, and would perfectly understand the “bring a gift to participate” rule.

My cousin’s wife and I looked at each other with obvious shock and surprise. I knew this was especially upsetting for her, as their finances had been tight and she had scrimped to purchase a gift because she wanted to participate so much (our family had showered them with wedding presents, and in no way made her feel obligated; she had said the year before that it looked like so much fun she “just had” to play next time.) Needless to say, the rest of the family was quite miffed that my aunt allowed her children to select items that they had no use for (the 20-year-old ended up with our stemless wine glasses and the 21-year-old with a deep-fat fryer…fire in the dorm, anyone?) and left people out of the game who had a right to play. People began leaving the festivities soon after, much earlier than usual. To this day, my aunt is clueless, as my family are the type to let things roll off of our shoulders and move on.

I did joke with my fiance that perhaps we should write a thank-you note to one of her daughters (from whom we did not receive anything, nor did we expect to) for the engagement gift my aunt bought us to get the point across. But neither I nor my wonderful fiance could or would ever bring ourselves to that level of tackiness. We sent her a personal, hand-written thank-you (fiance even wrote in his own expression of gratitude himself…yes, I am exceedingly fortunate) within a week of receiving her gift (a lovely vase). 0511-11

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