Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secret Santa Nightmares

Now that I have co-workers again, I'm starting to remember some of the less pleasant rituals and customs associated with working "the day job." Like the tradition of "Secret Santa." You know, the quaint little custom by which people unload ghastly knick-knacks and re-gift awful items onto their office-mates in the name of Christmas cheer. Or take the opportunity to buy strange or overly explicit gag gifts (emphasis on the "gag" part) for people they believe are too prudish or aggressive or clueless. Or use the occasion as an excuse to lavish unsought and embarrassing largess on people they've harbored a secret crush on for months. . . years. . . decades.

There are pitfalls aplenty in the Secret Santa tradition. The whole "secret" thing, for starters. I mean who wouldn't like the opportunity to give a coworker what we think they deserve? Especially the jerk who keeps emptying the candy jar and the coffee pot without once replenishing the Hershey Kisses or bothering to make a new batch of coffee. Unfortunately, the secret only lasts until the Christmas party. . . then you're outed and have to own up to the six-pack of Speed Stick deodorant you left with a big red bow on "Stinky's" desk. sigh. I say, if it's a Secret Santa exchange, then keep in a secret. . . FOREVER.

But even on those occasions where you draw a friend or respected colleague's name, you still have problems. There's that pesky $1, or $10, or $20 limit that everyone swears they'll abide by. And of course, they lie. You hear what other people are buying and it seems like everyone is ignoring the limit. . . you don't want to seem chintzy, so you overspend. And then you feel like an idiot when the person who drew your name gets you an angel ornament made out of doilies from some church bazaar or a puke green nose warmer crochetted by a little old neighbor lady. There is no such thing as equity in the world of Secret Santa. Karma seems to have totally disappeared in that warped social Black Hole. What goes around does not necessarily come around.

I confess, I did it again this year. I overspent. We had a $20 limit and I ended up with a cocoa set (with 2 cute mugs) and a cozy blue microfiber throw for cuddling up under while sipping the cocoa. Then I saw these really cute ornaments that you put your kids' photos in. . . and of course I had to get some additional gourmet cocoa. I'm thinking about making the receiver of my fabulous "Secret Santa" gift sign a joint custody agreement. . . so I can use the throw on alternate weekends.

What about you? What was the best or the worst Secret Santa gift you've ever gotten? given? Are you a big spender or a penny pincher? Do you shop at a "dollar" store or try to score a bit of luxury for your giftee?

Such gifts -- done in secret-- may say as much about us as they do about the one we buy them for. MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Cindy Gerard said...

OMG, Betina. I'm laughing into my coffee cup! What memories you bring forward - and so vividly,

I've given and received too many Secret Santa gifts over the years to count but one of the best ones I ever got was a book. "The Art of Pole Dancing 101." I mean - what girl could live without THAT educational little tome?? ;o)

Candace said...

I've never had the, uh, pleasure of exchanging Secret Santa gifts. For which, it seems, I should be eternally grateful:)

Terry Odell said...

Worse than Secret Santas are those gift-exchange parties where everyone brings something and you can steal from one another if you don't like what you got.

No matter what, I'd get some tacky Christmas themed something, and be stuck with it. Since I don't celebrate Christmas, it was always a drag. The worst was a couple of pipe-cleaner/bead candy canes that someone's 4 year-old made.

Michele Hauf said...

Haven't had the secret Santa pleasure either. Though now it would be kinda fun to try it and mess with someone. :-)

Kathleen Eagle said...

I want to be your Secret Kid, Betina. You gave a neat gift.

think I had the SS experience once--must have been a club or something. High school teachers don't do this. At least they didn't in my world.

My closest experience: elfing. When I was in college, freshmen were assigned an elf (juniors), who left little treats, mostly in the napkin boxes. (Everybody had a napkin box in the dorm dining room--fresh cloth napkins once or twice a week? can't remember. Wonder if they still do that). Hints were planted, and eventually you figured out who your elf was.

Keri Ford said...

not a fan of secret santa and I'm not even sure if I played. I do like dirty santa--the one Terry mentioned hating *g*. So much easier on the gift buying. Just pick up a girl gift under $20.00 of something you wouldn't mind having. We did it in our family one year and we had lots of fun with it.

Keri Ford said...

and Cindy--I want you to be my secret santa should you ever decide to regift that one! THAT is a fun gift.

KylieBrant said...

Betina, I'm laughing out loud here. I detest Secret Santas because I already have to buy a zillion gifts at that time. The worst Secret Santa gift I ever got was a baggie of marshmallows...snowman poop. What am I supposed to do with that?

Worst than the Secret Santa gifts though are what I receive from 'helpers' at school. When my kids were at home, I'd bring my stash home and arrange it on the dining room table. My kids' friends would shop for moms or grandmas or siblings, LOL. It was a good way to get rid of things I otherwise would have taken to Good Will.

GunDiva said...

Kylie, that is a brilliant idea! Wish I'd've thought of that. Have to confess, I got stuck with buying BOTH a White Elephant gift and a Secret Santa gift...for the same party. What brilliant party planner came up with that sh*t? A week before Christmas, no less.

The party's tomorrow, payday's tomorrow (thank God), so I guess that means shopping's tomorrow too. Wonder what I'll buy?

Helen Brenna said...

I want Cindy's present, too. What a fun gift. Someone knew you well, Cindy!! LOL

Betina, a part of me is jealous because I don't have that office stuff any longer. But the other part of me would hate the added shopping. I think even when I was in an office, I didn't get into this kind of thing. Always too busy and stressed out to stop and smell the mistletoe.

Now, I listen to my daughter talk about her and her 6 roommates doing the SS thing and it sounds sweet.

Kylie what a great idea!

lois greiman said...

buying gifts for people you love is hard enough without having to come up with something for people you hardly know.

i talked to one of my sisters the other day. she said, "don't you dare get me a gift. we have a good thing going here. let's not screw it up." which meant, we haven't gotten each other gifts for years and it's working well. i think she has a valid point.

lois greiman said...
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catslady said...

Our bowling league does that. A ten dollar limit - yeah right. What the majority of us do is find a twenty or thirty dollar gift on sale. Unfortunately there are always a few who probably don't even spend the ten. But most of the women have started saying that it is their gift so it's only for the not so great gifts that people keep their mouths shut lol.

I like the game when everyone picks a number and you pick a wrapped gift, open it and then the next person can take that gift or a new one. After a gift has been taken 3 times someone gets to keep it. There's always some gifts that get passed around and others you get stuck with lol. And of course it depends on what number you draw and how many people are playing. I've done this with the presents staying wrapped the whole time so then everyone is surprised.

Indigo said...

I'm too generous by nature to stick with a limit. My conscience won't let me give some weird disfigured Santa out as a gift (Some of those plaster Santa's scare the crap out of me). I've given candles or gift cards. You can't go wrong there.

Strangest gift would be, a photo. It was given to me by the SIL of my boss and he gave me an 8 x 10 photo of himself. His wife worked with us too. Talk about awkward...

In answer to the question what genre was my book - paranormal. First time writing in that style, but find its strangely fitting. I enjoy it immensely.(Hugs)Indigo

Helen Brenna said...

Indigo, that is a VERY strange gift. Icky, even.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I got to see a matinee today! If you're looking for a true feel-good movie, two thumbs up from the Eagles for "Invictus." Eastwood does it again. Terrific!

Betina Krahn said...

Hey everybody! I love the idea of a pole dancing book, Cindy-- where was that when I was shopping? Clearly, I wasn't thinking enough outside the box!

And Snowman Poop! It's not too late for me to use that one-- heh, heh. I'll blame it on you guys.

Indigo, a photo of himself? Can you say narcissist? More like "secret perv."

Our Tampa area RWA group (TARA)plays that gift grab game at the Christmas party and everyone has a ball. But I've never played it anywhere else. Oh, wait-- a bridal shower, once.

Kylie, I love the idea of "shopping in Mom's stash" for the kids. It brings back memories. My mom was a 1st grade teacher for 30 years and every Christmas got all kinds of gifts-- always at least five boxes of chocolate covered cherries. To this day, I ADORE those awful things.

Helen, it's a lot of fun working out the the world again. . . from a grown up perspective. I just wish I had more time for writing too.

And Lois-- I wish I could get my sister to swear off gift exchange. Every year in October she presents me with my Christmas present. And again in November. Then at least two more in December. We agree to not buy and she caves instantly. . . overspends and I feel guilty. Ahhh, family at Christmas. Is there anything more fun or more exasperating?

MJFredrick said...

The past two years I've not done Secret Santa, but I used to play. The last time, I picked my best friend at work, so it was REALLY hard to keep it a secret. What I did was got her some AWFUL presents, knowing she'd hate them and wonder who on earth had picked her. Then the last day I gave her nice little presents along with her big gift. I spent a ton that year, but it was fun because she'd complain to me about her gifts, never even suspecting it was me!

We played the gift swap game at our school party last Friday night and most of the gifts were wine bottles! The bad thing about that was that 2 pregnant teachers were playing :P

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