We all participate in Christmas exchanges. We got white elephants, secret Santas, gift exchanges: you name it, we wanna reason to gift people we barely know stuff.
The reality of these holiday happenings is that they rarely actually bear good fruit. You inevitably will end up with some vaguely edible thing you don’t like or a literal throwaway object or book or “toy” that you have no use for. This shit has gotta stop. We all have enough stuff! Why aren’t we gifting smarter then?
I’ve been thinking about this and I have some (Six!) ideas for enabling a change in the gifting department. You can call me Scrooge all you want but I’m trying to save the world and I don’t need to get or gift anymore dang candy cane junk that we all agree mean nothing. Take or leave these ideas but I would love if at least one “caught on.”
Give Me _______
One way to mitigate giving waste is to have people in an exchange literally write out what they want. For example: if we’re putting names into a Santa hat to draw, have each name be accompanied by a few options of things that the person “wants” or “needs,” written by said person. This way, the picker will have an idea that, yes, Kyle wants/needs wine or that, yes, Kyle wants/needs a new set of reindeer shaped pens. This way, the giver can interpret the want as they wish and the getter isn’t going to be blindsided by something that they will be throwing away (or regifting).
Imagine if instead of just giving blind items you daisy chained a giving so, in a random order at a venue like Eataly or Bloomingdale’s or a mall, you got to take your surprise, secret gift getter on a co-shopping trip where the person can pick out whatever they want from wherever they want at whatever price range dictated all on the dime of their Santa. This way, the gift is a shared effort and promotes two people bonding instead of the two events – the giving and the getting – happening in a weird alien void of fake feelings.
The IOU Swap
Remember those silly “coupon” books kids give parents or lovers give lovers that include donations of time and energy like a “massage” or “dinner for two”? Why don’t we give those to family and friends and co-workers? Sure, if you hate the people in your pool you are out of luck but for all others this could be a very fun way to have some sort of one-on-one special something that promotes two people getting to know each other versus throwing an object at them and calling it Christmas. People can give whatever IOU they want – Cook a meal for each other! Go to a movie! Enjoy a hike! Volunteer! Paint! Hug! – and the person who gets the surprise gift will be able to cash it in whenever. Scheduling aside, this could be a really sweet, unique, and creative swapping of goods for good times.
Win A Date With ______
Similar to The IOU Swap, what if dates with people were swapped? No, not real dates but lunch or dinner dates, where you’re actually gifted time to have a one-on-one conversation with another person who you probably wouldn’t otherwise have said interaction with. Doesn’t that sound stressfully lovely? I’d love it if someone gave me a card for a coffee date with them instead of – Umm. – a set of colorful socks. Even if you have nothing in common with this person or the person drives you insane, this is an opportunity to break through differences, to try to make a more meaningful relationship.
This idea I actually really, really love although it’s maybe really, really anti-Christmas: what if we gave people a card with cash along with a picture or description or link to what we wanted to purchase but didn’t actually purchase? This way, if the person does indeed want a purple leather wallet, they can use the money you gave them to buy the purple leather wallet you saw at whatever store and wanted to get versus spending the money on said wallet and giving it to a person who may not want it. Thus, the person can do whatever they want with the money or they can buy that purple wallet that you correctly sensed someone wanted as you sit with them and talk them through buying it online. See? Nothing wasted and a physical gift does get gotten.
ツ The Money Lottery ツ
This is the least “seasonal” as I know people will be bored by just getting money but hear me out: what if, for every person participating, there was a financial value? A la, if twenty people are in an exchange, the amount of $1 through $20 would be the “gift options.” Everyone would draw a name from one hat and a dollar amount from the other. The exchange would then be said money – In single dollar bills, ideally! – being handed over from $1 upward so everyone can see who gets the most cash in this reality show-esque giving riff. See? That could be fun. And who doesn’t love money??