Dear Amy: I found out that my husband's side of the family is yet again having a "gift exchange" in which we give a gift to the person whose name we've picked out of a hat.
There is one rule — no gift cards. I am not fond of this idea, but in past years I've exchanged a gift despite my objections, and kept quiet.
All relatives are adults, and I can't see the purpose of giving a gift to a person whom I do not really even know and see only once a year.
I would much rather pool our money or donate it to someone in need. I've made this suggestion, but no one wants to mess with their tradition. I understand that the grandparents get joy out of seeing all of us open our gifts and then pass them around, but we are adults. Isn't this a bit childish, or am I just being selfish? How can I get out of this silly tradition?— Bothered
Dear Bothered:Not only do I approve of your in-law family's gift exchange tradition (especially the "no gift cards" rule), I am tempted to try to marry into the family myself in order to participate in it.
Drawing names is a great way to cut down on the number of gifts exchanged; it also gives you an opportunity to get to know the person whose name you've drawn.
When you draw "Aunt Myrtle's" name before Christmas, you have an incentive to do a little research with other family members to try to figure out what she would like to receive. When Aunt Myrtle opens her gift in front of others and expresses her delight at your thoughtfulness, this forms a connection between the two of you that will last beyond Christmas Day.
Bothered's wish to donate the money to an organization or people in need is certainly in the right place. It's a worthwhile thought at a Christmas (and any time of course) where every person is buying for every person, the floor is covered wrapping paper, the bellies bloated with pie, and the excess of it all starts to get a little nauseating. But I agree with Amy that drawing names so that each person buys only for one other person is a great way to drastically decrease the madness, while keeping the "silly tradition" (that goes WAY beyond Bothered's husband's family) of placing gifts under the tree and opening them together. Indeed, often the idea of such a name draw is to ease the financial strain on each family member--leaving enough in their pockets to make a charitable contribution that season, if they choose to.