For as long as I can remember, my father’s side of the family has conducted a secret Santa gift exchange. In years past, a majority of us would gather for thanksgiving, and then the day after, sometime between eating leftover turkey sandwiches and fighting the crowds for deals and getting out totes of Christmas decorations, my grandfather would assign everyone a number in a spiral notebook. Everyone would take turns selecting a number between 1 and however many people were in the gift exchange that year- it fluctuated with the addition and subtractions of significant others and new children born into the family- and then he’d jot down who the number corresponded with and slide the name over to you on a scrap of paper. Of course, he’d also note it down on his own end, just in case anyone forgot in the coming weeks. Although it was not safe to gather this year, we kept the gift exchange going. My aunt took charge of organizing it the year, taking the lead on managing multiple group chats plus communicating individually to give the gift assignments. It was a much-needed relief of duty for my aging grandfather.
The goal was to keep things low pressure this year; money is tight for most, plus shipping had to be factored in this year given the lack of a big family Christmas gathering too. I appreciated this sentiment, but after 25 years of participating, it was hard to not aim to give the most lavish gift possible. Growing up most of my favorite Christmas gifts came from this gift exchange; gift giving is very much a major love language in my family. I aimed to strike a balance between spending and curating goodies that my name pick would really enjoy and use.
This year was my boyfriend’s second time in the gift exchange. He drew my grandma’s name. “What am I supposed to get her?” he asked me.
My boyfriend and I live quite far away from my grandparents, so the two have only met a couple times. I reassured him we would find something perfect for her- something unique that would make her feel special- and we ultimately did.
Even though gathering and exchanging our name gifts in person was not a viable option in 2020, I am grateful we could all still connect and spread Christmas cheer from afar. This gives me hope that as we grow up and grow older, sometimes going very separate ways, our family will remain connected by the continuation of this decades long Christmas tradition.