The way our gift exchange works is fairly simple and probably quite common:
Everyone coming for Christmas Eve dinner brings 2 wrapped gifts for the exchange (spending cap is $20 for both gifts combined, but you can even keep it under $10 and still make it work really well). One gift should be practical and useful (even a box of crayons or a toothbrush or picture frame would do just fine) and the other should be as random and goofy and impractical as possible. I'm pretty good at random/goofy/impractical, so here is a short suggestion list for gag gifts:
• a rubber chicken (this may double as a practical gift (for someone's dog), if you get the kind that has the squeaker in the pet food section of the store)
• an amature framed painting of Napoleon Bonaparte. (trust me, every thrift store has one, I think it's a federal law that one be required in store for a business license for the thrift shop)
• a small jar of prune juice (again, may double as a practical gift for... well, you get the idea)
• the ugliest shower (or swim) cap you can find. Large plastic flowers attached to the swim cap are a premium and will earn you points for certain.
• mustouche wax (especially touching and meaningful when a woman selects this gift)
So you get the idea. Some really goofy and very inexpensive things to really liven up the party.
Each guest places their wrapped gifts under the tree and draws a number. When it's time to start the opening of gifts, the person with #1 goes first. The person with #2 can either take #1's gift (and #1 has to pick a new gift from under the tree) or pick a gift under the tree. This continues with each person who's drawn a number. You really want to have a high number in the exchange so you can steal someone's gift that has already been opened! A rule we have is that the person selecting the gift to be opened must open the first one they touch. They cannot pick up a gift and shake it, or see how heavy it is or anything like that and then put it back and select another one. If they pick it up, that's the one they get to open. :-)
When each person is done opening gifts, the host or hostess determines the number of gifts left over (not everyone will bring 2, but most will) and choose the fortunate recipients for the BONUS gift! Often, the host or hostess already knows what is in the packages under the tree and (if nice) will give the goofy ones to the ones who received something useful, and the useful ones to the folks that received a genuine gag gift.
All gifts are eligible for donation back into the gift exchange for next year (regifting is most definitely encouraged), and each person attending is free to trade their awesome Napoleon painting for a box of crayons if they chose.
So that's how the gag gift exchange works. It's ridiculously funny, and the more people present the funnier it becomes. If you're doing a gift exchange, do have your camera ready for some really great Christmas memories. Nothing says "I love you" more than your son or daughter cherishing their hand made dill pickle candle, sitting in front of the Christmas tree.
Does your family have a gag gift exchange? What was the WEIRDEST thing you've ever received at one of these, or the weirdest thing you've ever given at one?
I'd love to hear from you!
(and Caryn, if you donate prune juice and I get it, I'm breaking your candy canes. Just a warning. Love always, Mom.)