by Mike McHugh
I’m really getting to hate these Chinese gift exchanges at Christmas parties. Honestly, I’d rather be stuck under the mistletoe with a rabid attack dog that’d just chased a skunk through poison ivy than get involved in one more of them.
If you’ve never been part of a Chinese gift exchange, well, then, you’re lucky. I don’t know if the concept actually originated from China, but if it did, it comes pretty close to toxic drywall as being the most deplorable thing to ever come out of that country. Here’s how it works.
Each participant brings a wrapped gift, typically of a pre-determined price range that is mostly ignored. The gifts are all placed together under the tree or on a table. A dumpster would be more appropriate, but I have never seen one used. Each person then draws a number. The person holding number one selects a gift and opens it. This is usually accompanied by fits of laughter from the other participants, because, chances are, it’s something along the lines of a Public Toilet Survival Kit. After everybody has had a good laugh at number one’s expense, the second person goes. He has the option of opening a new gift, or, if he wants to spare himself the embarrassment that goes with it, he can take the Public Toilet Survival Kit from number one. If so, number one gets another turn. And on it goes until all the gifts are gone.
Ok, so call me a Grinch if you will, but I honestly believe that this activity should join the Osmonds Christmas Specials on the ash heap of holiday traditions. Here’s why.
For one thing, since nobody ever knows who brought what, it provides a good cover for people to pass along whatever freakish item they might have received in the past to some other victim. So, don’t be surprised if you see the same thing showing up in the mix for several years running. The record for this, although I can’t fully substantiate it, is for a commemorative back scratcher from the 1965 World’s Fair that circled the globe three times over a span of forty years.
What’s worse about the Chinese gift exchange is that, every time, you always get those few people who can’t seem to make up their minds. When it comes to their turn, they will slowly circle the room, inspecting the Osama Bin Laden toilet paper than Frank scored, then Florence’s pickle-scented candles, and so on, until finally settling on opening a new item, in hopes that there would be at least one gift that might have a semblance of practicality. I’d hate to go car shopping with this person.
There’s only gift exchange I’ve ever really enjoyed, and that’s the one that’s put on by our boat club. They keep it simple. Everybody ends up bringing the same item—a bottle of Crown Royal. That way, there’s no chance any of the gifts are recycled, not with that crowd.