Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rabbit ears - the re-gift that keeps on giving

For the past four or five years we have gotten together with a group of friends for a few hours of foods, festivities and re-gifting. That’s right, we exchange gifts that we received and will never use, don’t know how to use, or possibly can’t quite identify.

Here is how it works. Everyone brings a wrapped item, which is placed among the collection of assorted, brightly wrapped packages and gift bags. Each participant picks a number (we used a deck of cards with different numbers written on them). Whoever has Number One is first to choose something from the gifts. When the second person has their turn they might decide they don’t really want their re-gift, so they can trade it for what the first person has. Here is where the trading and the fun begin.

The higher your number, the better chance you have of collecting something that you might really like… at least until someone with a higher number eyes it. Once everyone has had a turn and several trades have taken place, Number One has the chance to choose from everyone else’s booty.

As of last weekend, Spouse and I are the proud owners of an adorable holiday candleholder and the world’s smallest cast iron skillet that accompanied a cornbread mix.  I like them both, thanks to luck of the draw and decent numbers.

We watched through laughter (and fear of having our precious prizes traded) as decorative paper was ripped off time and time again to reveal, among other treasures, a cheese slicer, a set of wine glasses, a toy motorcycle, something that resembled an urn… and a donkey. Much to his wife’s bewilderment, the guy who unwrapped the donkey decided not to trade it. Come to think of it, this might be the same guy who kept the football helmet ice bucket.

Some re-gifters choose to keep what they started with and hope nobody else will decide they want it. Some re-gifters keep what they have just to antagonize the person they came with. See donkey reference above.

The one re-gift that keeps returning to haunt us all made its debut during the very first re-gifting party. At that time a certain bachelor who apparently didn’t quite grasp the concept of a re-gift, entered the depths of his cellar (or maybe it was his attic) to unearth a forgotten, grimy device that hardly anyone under the age of 30 would recognize – a television antenna, better known as rabbit ears. It had been wrapped up with the original, inch-thick dust, rusty antennae protruding from the base and wires hanging off the back. Needless to say, that sucker was traded more times in an hour than Wall Street trades stocks in a day.

Over the years this prize has made its way in and out of various homes where it resides for a year before returning to the scene of the Christmas crime. Ironically, the ancient relic has become a staple of the event.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that everyone more-or-less dreads picking the wrong package and spending the next year with this contraption. Still, it has become part of the hilarity and weirdness that we can always count on at these gatherings.

This event could be a test of your sense of humor if you open something more along the lines of a booby prize. In the long run, though, it’s just a fun night with people you probably don’t get to spend a lot of time with, especially during the rush of the holidays.

If you didn’t have a funny bone before, you will after you’ve been to a re-gifting party, where your luck can run out with the flick of a pretty red bow. There may be presents and pranks, but the connections and conversations we finally take time to nurture truly make it worthwhile.

Rabbit ears and all.

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