Christmas is right around the corner, and you’re double-checking your list. You have that beautiful checkered blanket for your grandmother, perhaps that new video game for your niece, the latest book from your brother’s favorite author already wrapped for him…
And then you see the last couple of items not checked off your list: the Yankee swaps.
Traditionally, Yankee swaps are white elephant gifts, items that are funny or rehomed from your own place, to be swapped around with family and friends until everyone got a new-to-them gift. I’m not sure about everyone else, but we have two Yankee swaps during the holidays, one for each of my parents’ side of the family. Sometime after dinner during the family party, we’d all pick numbers out of a hat to determine the turn order, and the swapping would begin.
This year, I’m opting out.
Don’t get me wrong, Yankee swaps can be fun. Both sides of my family are wonderful, and we have a great time as the gifts are switched between rounds of people.
Yet, as the years go on, the magic has dissipated from what should be a fun time.
For one thing, the majority of the Yankee swap gifts with my family are never regifted from our homes. Rather, we go out and spend time trying to pick out something that both fit the spending limit and could appeal to most of the family members. Considering the mixture of ages and genders on both sides of the family, it can be difficult. To counter this challenge, some family members simply get a gift that they themselves would enjoy. If all else fails, they could go for the gift that they put in and know they’ll walk away happy.
On that note, there are always those favored gifts that were constantly being swapped — lottery tickets, gift cards to favorite stores, just straight-up cash, to name a couple — while other gifts are overlooked. A festive cookie jar could continually be passed around while people try to take back that certain gift card they refuse to look away from.
While Yankee swaps are all in good fun, it can sting seeing what you thought was a nice gift continuously get passed around because no one else is satisfied with it. (Unless, of course, you went down the route of bringing a gift you would like in case it ended up back in your own hands, but I digress.)
I’m not the only one.
Like most years, 2019 has included ups and downs, but this year included some hard hits, emotionally and mentally, to my family and me. We’re doing okay, all things considered, but around this time of year, some prioritizing needed to be done.
The Yankee swaps on both sides of my family were cut off.
It’s not just to save a bit of money — although, that’s certainly a nice bonus — around the holidays, but also to focus on why I really enjoy the holidays. I love spoiling my friends and family with gifts, but I want them to be gifts from the heart. For the past few years, my choice of Yankee swap gifts were gift cards picked up at the last minute from the convenience store. Instead of tossing in a gift card that, while I’m sure would be of use to someone, took no effort to get, I’m watching from the sidelines this year.
My sister is not participating in the Yankee swaps either. Like she mentioned, we would prefer to relax and enjoy the family’s company, taking our time to eat dinner and dessert instead of always anticipating the part of the evening where we open gifts. It made me realize that the part of the Yankee swaps that I really enjoy are watching the rest of my family engage and laugh together.
That’s really what the holidays are about.