Gift giving is an important part of the Christmas season. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts began. But even on that first Christmas, wise men from the east brought the Newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (see Matthew 2). And we certainly can’t think of Christmas without the legend of Saint Nicholas, whose generosity inspired the idea of our modern-day Santa Claus.
Yes, gift giving is a longstanding and enjoyable Christmas tradition. There is an excitement about giving gifts that we carefully select for the loved ones on our list. We anticipate their surprise, and we are overjoyed in their delight.
But what about those random gift exchanges we are invited to participate in? The generic exchange with coworkers at the office or the silly white elephant game with our book club, for example? These exchanges can be challenging because they take the personable thoughtfulness out of gift giving. And they leave us with things that we really don’t need or want.
Even still, we stay active in these exchanges, because we care about the people with whom we share this tradition. We laugh at the silliness of some of the gifts, and our competitive spirit comes alive when the “stealing” portion of the game begins. But more often than not, when the exchange is over, there is a sense of being let down.
Why is that?
I think the answer is twofold:
- The very nature of gift giving is thoughtful.
- It is always about being together.
Gift Giving is Thoughtful
Normally, we think of the person for whom we are giving a gift, and we carefully consider what he or she would like to receive.
But when we partake in certain gift exchanges it is much harder to be thoughtful. Gifts for generic exchanges—within an office setting, for example—are supposed to be one size fits all. White elephant gifts are meant to be silly (the crazier, the better, right?).
Gift Giving is About Being Together
The reason for any gift exchange is simply to be together. And so, while we may not enjoy the white elephant concept, we want to continue some type of tradition with family and friends.
How can we modify the holiday gift exchange to restore meaning and thoughtfulness? How can it become more about simply being together?
Introducing the Favorite Things Gift Exchange
When I heard a friend describe her book club’s Favorite Things Gift Exchange, I realized I found the answer. As she shared the gist of it with me, I was quickly sold on the idea. And this Christmas, I hope my loved ones will want to give it a try with me.
We All Have Favorite Things
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown paper packages, tied up with string.
These are a few of my favorite things.
This infamous song from the beloved musical, Sound of Music, reminds us that we, indeed, have favorite things. Whether it is a favorite lip gloss, candle, or kitchen gadget, each of us is surrounded by various items that bring us joy, simplify life, or help us to look our best.
Likewise, when we hear about someone else’s favorite things—a book recommendation or a treasured recipe—we are more likely to try them out ourselves, trusting the source of the suggestion. Yes, so often our favorite things, when shared, become others’ favorite things, too.
As we approach the Christmas season, a time of giving and receiving, why not consider sharing our favorite things with those we love through a Favorite Things Gift Exchange?
What is a Favorite Things Gift Exchange?
The purpose of a Favorite Things Gift Exchange is to give your favorite things and to receive others’ favorite things in return.
This brings a level of meaning and thoughtfulness to gift exchanges that have, in the past, focused too much on one-size-fits-all giving. In addition, with a Favorite Things Gift Exchange, we can avoid the tacky silliness of white elephant games, where most people leave with items they unfortunately do not want. Lastly, it becomes more about being together, because it gives us an opportunity to get to know one another better through the sharing of our favorite things.
How to Host a Favorite Things Gift Exchange
Below are simple steps for hosting a Favorite Things Gift Exchange.
Before the Exchange:
- Each guest agrees to purchase three of her same favorite thing.
- Stay within the agreed upon budget. For example, $10 for each favorite thing, for a total of $30.
- Bring the gifts wrapped.
At the Exchange:
- At the exchange, each guest writes her name on three slips of paper, and puts them into a bowl or basket.
- Then, everyone draws three names. These are the recipients of your favorite things.
- Be sure not to draw your own name or the same name twice.
- Then, each guest takes a turn sharing her favorite thing and why she loves it.
- After she shares, she gives her favorite thing to those whose names were drawn.
How It’s Flexible
What is lovely about a Favorite Things Gift Exchange is its flexibility.
- The number of gifts can be adjusted. For example, each person could just bring one item. Or if it’s a larger group, each person could bring five smaller favorite things.
- The budget can vary, too. Perhaps, each person brings one item for $10 or two items for under $30.
- A favorite things gift exchange works well in a variety of settings, too:
- Book clubs
- Bible study or small groups
How to Incorporate Faith Into the Exchange
Since the Christmas season is all about the birth of Christ, including an element of faith to a Favorite Things Gift Exchange is simple. Here are a few ideas:
- Who is your favorite Saint and why? Include a holy card of that favorite Saint with your gift.
Give the gift of Catholic prayer by sharing your favorite prayer book or journal.
- What are your must-have Catholic products?
This Christmas season, our favorite things will restore thoughtfulness to our gift exchanges. In addition, we will discover a few new favorite things through our loved ones’ suggestions. We will also focus on spending time together, getting to know one another better. Lastly, we can incorporate the true meaning of the season into our gift giving by sharing our faith-based favorite things with others.
Have you hosted or attended a Favorite Things Gift Exchange? If so, please share your experience in the comments below.