Holiday gifting can be tough, especially with larger families or gatherings. When we were kids, our parents bought gifts for the aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, & nieces. Now that we’re older the question becomes: do we as adults still purchase gifts just for only our siblings and parents, or do we extend our gifting to cousins, aunts, & uncles? (Lets face it, we all know we purchase our nieces and nephews their own toys!) Even if your family is very clear in how gifting is done, you can still have fun with everyone gathering together and receiving a gift from someone. Enter the Yankee Swap.
Every year my parents invite our extended family up to our house in Maine the weekend before Christmas. It is a festive affair with cousins, aunts, uncles and close family friends all enjoying some downtime before the hectic days leading up to Christmas. We eat as much as possible, share embarrassing stories, play a game of RISK, and finally end with a Yankee Swap — the highlight of the weekend. We always play with gag gifts that cost just a few dollars and try to have fun with it, as we did this time.
This year my mother purchased all of the gifts, and they definitely had a bit of a feminine twist to them! We do this so that traveling family doesn’t have to worry about bringing Yankee Swap Gifts. Also, you can avoid the inevitable “But I purchased that specifically for [Person X]!”
Each player picks from a hat a number from one up to the total number of participants – this year we had 13 participants. Each person gets a crack at picking a gift according to his or her number. The person who picks the first gift opens it to show it to the rest of the company. Then the number two participant picks a gift and chooses to either unwrap it or swap it for an unwrapped gift. If the gift is swapped, the person who had their gift taken from them gets to unwrap a new gift. The game goes on until everyone has had their chance and then, typically number one has the choice to either keep their gift or swap it with anyone elses gift. (Check out the full rules for Yankee Swap here: http://www.yankeeswap.com/)
In my family, we usually have the Yankee Swap after the wine has started to really flow – so gifts that were merely funny before, are hilarious, and so forth. After all the gifts had been opened, it was quickly realized that the highlight gift was a cute blue golf ball wine stopper, and the worst gift was a toss-up. In my family, the worst gift is really decided by two factors: how bad the gift is and how inappropriate it is for the person who got it. The award for worst gift was narrowed down to the sports bra my cousin’s husband picked or the emergency underwear that my nephew got! Unfortunately for my cousin-in-law, no one was particularly impressed with the bra, so he was stuck with it, making it easily the worst gift this year!
A few other fun gifts included a can of beer flavored jellybeans (that my nephew tried to “swap” with my sister’s fiancée and was instantly shot down) and my personal favorite – a magnetic paintbrush holder that I picked as the 12th person selecting a gift. (I just spent 4 days re-painting my entire apartment…so the magnetic paintbrush holder is just a few days late!)
Yankee swap is a fun way to give gifts to everyone and get an entire group involved. It works especially well with large families or mandatory work parties… So this holiday season, grab a gift and have some fun with it at those long work parties as you sip on wine and laugh up a storm!