Monday, November 08, 2010

A One-of-a-Kind Christmas!

This morning's newspaper has an article that mentions a new term...'surgical shopping.'  The Mall of America reports that their customers are coming to the stores and buying only items that are on their list...the things they need.  According to the article, the days of leisure shopping, buying this or that on a whim, are over. 

Our morning newspaper also tells about the free dental clinics that are being set up in various places.  The lines of people seeking dental advice and care are so long, many have to be turned away.  A sad state of affairs when we Americans are standing in line for our health care, when our money is being filtered to the wealthiest part of the world, the Mideast. 

With Christmas right around the corner, shopping most likely will present financial problems for many households.  This just doesn't have to be.  Simply find fun ways to redesign the gift-giving.  I can give this advice, because I've done this on both sides of our family with fantastic results.

We, first of all, have a pot-luck finger-food buffet.  Each family brings its signature foods that we all wait for.  Everybody is happy with this, rather than putting the burden of preparing a big meal on one household.  Sometimes I hear the girls talking in July about what they're going to bring to eat for Christmas!

Secondly, we have a $1 gift exchange.  The item cannot cost one penny more than $1.  I set the rules for this exchange.  Last year the gift had to be something blue, one year it had to be something starting with the letter "y."  You get the picture.  Of any of the exchanges, this one is by far the most fun.

Thirdly, our main $5 gift exchange is something different each year.  One year it had to be something to do with birds, and, let me say, that the creativity in our family blew the windows out!  One year we exchanged "something we already owned."  One of the gals got a tie, and my hubby got the cutest purse.  We literally fall on the floor laughing at what we get.  Last year we exchanged "hats" and, boy, did the fun start there!  Imagine a big strappin' guy sitting on my couch wearing an old-lady's hat with flowers and a veil.  Omigod, it was to die for. 

I'm the leader of these shenanigans, so I make each person open their present, one at a time.  Last year when they opened their hat, they had to wear it until all presents were opened.  It was an absolute gas seeing us all wearing the goofiest things on our heads.

I also come up with silly ways to exchange the presents.  The wildest was the year I read a story with the words "left" and "right" mentioned in it many times.  Everybody starts out holding a present, and each time I'd say "left" they'd pass their gift to the left.  Each time I'd say "right," they'd pass it to the right.  The presents go in all directions until the story is over and everybody keeps the present they're holding.

Now that it's November, I'll be putting on my thinking cap to come up with the silly gift-giving ideas for this year's celebrations.  When I decide, then I'll type out a memo setting out all the details and email it to family members.  That way they all know what the plan is and have plenty of time to start their scheming.  When the day arrives, the atmosphere starts out relaxed and stays that way, nobody has to out-do the other, nobody goes home hungry, and the best part is nobody has to fiddle around returning gifts that they don't want, they don't like, or they don't need. 

Also, I buy a "guess what" gift.  I find something in a thrift store that's kinda weird and cute.  Last year I found a little elf.  I wrap the "guess what" and then it is passed around to each person to lift, shake, and guess what it is.  The one who comes closest, gets it. 

The fun we have is so incredible, yet it costs practically nothing.  The basic reason we gather is to enjoy each other's company.  We serve champagne, mixed drinks, beer, soda, coffee, what anybody wants.  The funniest exchange we ever had was the year my mother received a pair of edible underwear from my husband's brother.  To watch an 80+ lady open up a pair of banana-flavored underwear was priceless.  She was, naturally, a good sport and perhaps partly the reason I'm so geared toward all this craziness in the first place. 

It's so simple to turn Christmas around, spend very little, and yet actually bring family members closer.  Sharing good-natured humor, pigging out on each other's kitchen creations, and putting our creative juices to work.......well, as far as we're concerned, it just doesn't get any better!  I buy Christmas paper plates, napkins, and plastic forks.  The only clean-up is getting out the garbage bag. 

Well, I've nicely succeeded to get myself all stirred up here.  I'd better start plotting this year's plan of attack!

Today's Trivia:  Why does the Christmas shopping season start so early?  During World War II, it was necessary for Americans to mail Christmas gifts early for the troops in Europe to receive them in time.  Merchants joined in the effort to remind the public to shop and mail early.  Thus, the drawn-out shopping season was born.