The following events are typical for my family in the holiday season:
1. My father cut me a check for $1500 and asked me to buy gifts for everybody in the family ($200 for me, my siblings, and spouses; $100 for each grandchild; plus shipping to far off destinations). This he did, not to assign an onerous task, but under duress from my mother who is convinced that I enjoy spending other people’s money. She’s right.
2. My sister after a month of emails telling me that she has a list of things she wants, I presume from the U.S., finally sends an email directing me to send her all of her family’s portion of the money because she needs to get new crystal wine glasses at $100 a pop – and that she’ll spend the rest of the money at her own discretion. That’s fine. I like drinking out of fine crystal at her house.
3. My brother says he doesn’t need anything (remember, he’s still trying to keep his total number of possessions to 100) and asks if I’ll put together a care package for his office (nonprofit micro-finance org in Kyrgyzstan). My family’s gift to him, he suggested, could be the postage for mailing said package.
Well, I thought, $200 would buy a lot of chocolate and cakes.
But then, I had a better idea: How about a steal-a-gift party? I decided to send six wrapped $20-30 gifts with instructions. The first person opens a gift at random. The second person can either steal the first opened gift or open a new mystery gift. Repeat four more times, but a gift can only be stolen three times before it is frozen in ownership.
My first list was nice, but impractical because it involved shopping at 3-4 stores during now peak crazy shopping time the week before Christmas (tri-ply saucepan, tri-ply omelet pan, warm pullover, pen/pencil set, Millennium trilogy, woolen socks, chocolates, hats and mittens…)
My second list is better, and practical in the extreme because everything was picked up at my neighborhood Costco in one go:
Snap-on 5 pc tool set
Fleece pullover (gray)
Sweatshirt pullover (green)
Instant Immersion English (9 CDs)
16 GB flash drive
Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Moisture Cream
I’ll use other office goodies as packing peanuts: Am. candy bars, chapstick, and tins of peppermint Altoids.
As for my own family, Chad spend his on two deluxe camp pads from REI, Bella is applying hers to a new iPhone, Christian’s getting a fancy wooden front end loader from Nova Naturals, and I’m taking an Waldorf early childhood workshop in January.
Bella’s stocking: OPI nail polish, Ritter chocolate (dark chocolate with marzipan), Candy Cane green tea (decaf), Rescue Remedy pastilles, See’s lollipop, Mickey Mouse lollipop
Christian’s stocking: chalk, chunky paintbrush, small backpack, Gingerbread tea (herbal), Mickey Mouse lollipop, sm. wooden shovel
Christian’s gift to Bella: a boar bristle wooden hairbrush
Bella’s gift to Christian: clothes