December 25, 2007 5:07 PM

Winter Break (White Elephants)

Alright, merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all enjoy this season of cold weather, holiday cheer, and indulgence of food. Try to take a step back from all the busyness to count your blessings for this year.

I was able to come back in time this year to make it to the Christmas party for my church. Every year for the past nine years my church's young adult group has had a party at the pastor's home. The last few years I came back to LA too late to attend, but this past Sunday I was able to make it.

Honestly, it was a bit weird at first, because I only see these people three times a year or so, and I felt rather awkward. However, I managed to catch up with some old friends (I congratulated a couple on their upcoming wedding in April), and played with the pastor's two kids.

We also engaged in a White Elephant gift exchange. For those of you who don't know what it is, I suggest you research it on Wikipedia. Basically, it's a fun way for people to come together and give random gifts. It is not meant to be an exercise in unabashed consumerism, but rather a humorous game. I gave away a Thermos; I received (or stole, rather) a Word Origin Calendar for 2008, with each day revealing a new word.

One thing that did distress me was some people's ideas of what this gift exchange was about. They were focusing on the quality (or "crappiness") of the gifts, rather than the fun of giving and stealing gifts. The maximum price for the gifts was supposed to be $20, which struck me as rather high, and invariably resulted in people purchasing gifts at that price point. After all, no one wants a gift that is $10 when they can get a gift that is $20, right? This sort of obsession over the perceived monetary value of the gift rather than the gift itself struck me as short-sighted. One guy even decided to not participate because "last year's gifts were so terrible." After all, the point of this game is to get cool stuff, not enjoy a fun game with other people, right?

Furthermore, the idea that a white elephant gift should be something pricey is a misnomer. A white elephant gift is traditionally something for which the cost of maintenance exceeds its benefits. In other words, it is something that is more burdensome than its practicality warrants. I prefer gift exchanges in which the gifts are fun things that people have lying around their house. Sometimes they are great, sometimes they are terrible, sometimes they are weird. Almost always, they are creative. The fun then is not in getting something cool, but in having a good time with people.

But maybe I'm just a humbug.

Joel Kim | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (1)

Comments (1)

The one thing that costs someone nothing always ends up being the most desireable. People have interesting stuff laying around their house sometimes...

Posted by Tina | 2007-12-26

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