So it’s that time of year again – Christmas party season. The past few years, the office has done a Secret Santa gift exchange. I participated for the first two years. The first year was when I discovered how straightlaced most of the folks in my office are, or at least serious about presents. At my old job, we did the “pick a gift from the table then maybe exchange with someone else” deal, which was always a blast. It was a nice mix of serious and fun presents and the “stealing” part always made things interesting. For the first year we exchanged at my new job, I didn’t think anything of buying a silly gift. The money limit was ten bucks so I picked up one of those mini book/kits from the bookstore. It was the Boss Voodoo one – the guy I was buying for has a good sense of humour. Anyway, people looked shocked when he opened it, although he did find it funny, as did his boss. From the looks on other people’s faces, you’d think he’d opened a bag of poo an inch away from a lit match. Needless to say, other than one funny-as-an-inside-joke gift for one person, the gifts were all tasteful and proper. And worth well over ten bucks.
The next year, I played along, and the present was well-received, although I was annoyed that my identity was revealed to the recipient by LBA. SECRET Santa, folks. That’s part of the fun.
For my part, one year I got some vanilla-scented stuff and the following year I got a cat calendar, so it was obvious people had asked what I might like. That’s fine, most givers end up doing that anyway. Well, of course that can only go so far. Last year, someone actually posted a list of everyone’s name who was participating and wanted them to write in what they wanted from their Secret Santa – needless to say, this piece of tackiness didn’t last long once a higher up saw it.
After the second year, I asked our HR lady, who I think helped set this stuff up, if it would be possible the next year to add a blurb about how we could ask for charity to be involved in some way since we are a very donation-friendly office when various things come up, and we participate in a pay-deduction plan for the United Way. She agreed that it would be fine if the recipient let it be known that they would like the money spent on them be donated to charity instead – after all, you’re asking others what you should buy this person because you want to get something they will like, right? Anyway, she suggested I bring it up with the employee who actually organizes the Secret Santa part of the festivities, so I did. I was shut down, no questions asked. We apparently do enough good things throughout the year, both through work and in our personal lives, that this was not an option for the gifts. Now, I wasn’t suggesting this be mandatory or anything, simply an option should the recipient want it. Nope, no way, no how.
Come the next Christmas, I chose to not participate in the gift exchange. We had our meal and then I left to go back to the office (the party was in a conference room on a different floor of our office complex). As well last year, they added what I considered to be some extremely silly games, and they also used money from our lunches throughout the year (we buy a ticket to a homemade lunch to fund the party) to buy enough random gifts (worth $6 each) so everyone would get one. This was on top of everyone getting the exchanged gift – double waste, as far as I’m concerned. There is no one hurting in that office that needs that $6 block of cheese or coffee card, sorry (you heard me, block of cheese). I think we can all agree that for the most part, gift exchanges do not work out in anyone’s favour, and the gift is most likely regifted anyway. Don’t try to change my mind on that – I’ve seen it happen more than enough times throughout the years. There are always exceptions, and there are here as well, but overall you will never get me to think otherwise.
Come early in the year, I got shit all over by a couple of people for not participating. Apparently the fact that I had contributed via the lunches all year long for something I didn’t even end up doing didn’t matter either. I should have sucked it up, gone against my own heart and mind, and participated. I felt hurt and betrayed by the way this was brought up to me by one particular person. I agree that, in hindsight, I probably did crap on the whole idea a little too much, but at the time, those people agreed with me. The same people who then heartily took part and practically denied they ever thought the same way as I do. I honestly have never noticed if there are some who don’t take part, but I assume there are at least a couple, even if it’s because they knew they wouldn’t be there that particular day.
The invitation for this year’s event came around last week and we have to let the organizer know by this coming Friday whether or not we are participating. I don’t want to. Hell, I’ll skip the whole thing and not think a thing of it if it bothers folks that I’ll go for the meal and leave before the stupid games (musical chairs, anyone?) and gift exchange like last year. Do I “suck it up” and participate and let a few folks who would be the ones asked about my gift that I want a donation made instead (the gift is up to $20 this year)? Do I smile and play along with whatever happens? That is so not me and I hate that I’m basically forced to take part in this ridiculous event. I should add that it doesn’t have to be ridiculous, but the folks who are the ones who always plan it make it that way. The first year wasn’t actually too bad – we all chipped in to order pizza and a bunch of us brought various desserts to share, then we opened the gifts, all on our own boardroom and reception area.
Ugh, I know I’m rambling, but this has been going through my head from even before the notice came around. Am I being silly and stubborn? Should I stick to my guns even if no one agrees with me (willingly and out loud, anyway) and I’m made to feel like the biggest grinch there is? Did I forget to add about how the food and animal shelter drives I held last Christmas (2nd year in a row) were even held against me because, although they are “generous things to do”, I do them on my own, not with other folks? I never connected one with the other EVER, and was astonished when this was thrown at me. One of the organizers has glommed onto the food bank thing and we have donated cash to them before from lunches, and will be tying them into something this year with the party, and I plan on approaching her to add my support to it instead of doing a food drive again this year (I received a request for another Christmas food drive from the food bank last week) since cash goes further for them than actual food donations.
This whole thing upsets me far more than it should.