Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yankee Trade, Jungle Style

I'm up far too early on Christmas morning, just like the old days. So instead of playing Upwords with my mom to kill time (a 4am Christmas tradition for a few years, because Upwords is so much cooler than Scrabble), I'm going to catch up on blogging. I've been a bit MIA recently, due to the new job (where I was promoted to Santa and pushed around a shopping cart full of UPS and FedEx packages wearing a Santa hat, instead of just logging and organizing the boxes like a lowly elf) and generally being lazy pants.

The other, less jolly reason is that my grandfather just passed away a few days ago. The only upside to lung cancer is that you get time to say goodbye. So my (sometimes) lovable curmudgeon of a grandpa got to go to Disneyland one last time (and gleefully rode the carousel over and over), eat pralines and cream ice cream, and make sure all of his guns were safely out of the house (retired cop, not a psychopath). Everyone has just been exhausted and emotionally drained, but Christmas comes despite heavy life events, so our family will celebrate the only way we know how: viciously and without mercy.

The grand Christmas Eve shindig takes place at our house with all my bazillion aunts and cousins, and various other family members. We have many traditions, like reading the nativity story from the Bible (even though most of us are agnostic/atheist), reciting the "Night Before Christmas," eating Aunt Carole's world-rocking bean dip, and torturing the grandkids by making them sing Christmas carols. My mom will seriously look over from the piano at anyone not singing and give them the elementary school teacher glare until they submit to a third verse of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." It's awesome. And it's all worth it because the main event of the evening is... YANKEE TRADE!!!!

Yankee trade is known by many names (according to Wikipedia), White Elephant, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa (sounds like a porn...), or Thieving Secret Santa. Basically, everyone brings a present, and then you take turns opening them. But if you don't like what you got, you get to steal someone else's. And it. gets. ugly. Every year we argue over what the rules are going to be, should there be a limit to how many times a gift can be stolen, do you open the gift before deciding to trade, if the gift bag is pretty who gets to keep it. And every year we decide on the most ruthless rules. Basically that there are none. Except eye-gouging. No eye-gouging. Gifts range from the silly (I once put in a romance novel called "Desiring the Highlander," tee hee, and last night my cousin submitted Tater Mitts, which also sounds dirty but are those gloves that can peel potatoes in 6 seconds), to the actually awesome (See's candy, the Ellen Degeneres Bluetooth that I won, and more).

My family is hilarious when they play Yankee Trade, because there are always tons of people, everyone's shouting and laughing and arguing but in a pleasant way. My grandpa was exceptionally funny when we played in years past. He did not like having people steal his crap, and to try it meant certain death or at least a good berating. (Imagine trying to take anything from a guy who strongly resembles Marlon Brando circa the Godfather). I used to get just as upset and cry if someone took my gift, so I don't blame him. When I was about 6 or 7, I threw a fit when a cousin tried to steal my minature lantern key chain and gumballs. I still have that key chain to this day, so you can tell who won that battle. This year I ended up with an adorable penguin mug and a beautiful glass pitcher.

After the madness, the jungle mentality wears off and people are nice (sort of) to each other again. Deals are made, candy is shared, and everyone eats my mom's homemade cheesecake. People gradually clear out, since according to Carole, Santa won't come if you're not in bed by midnight. We take that pretty seriously around these parts. When it's just the immediate family, we get to open one gift, usually our Secret Santa present to each other. Then it's off to bed to sleep off the Bailey's and boxed White Zin (classy folk).


Should be interesting with five kids under the age of five tearing around the house high on sugar and consumerism...


  1. We had a White Elephant at work and I ended up with pickled pig's feet. Naaaaaasty. I'm really glad that my family never has done anything like that because I KNOW I would have lost my shit as a child and teen (and probably still today) if someone took something I really wanted. :-)
    Sorry to hear about your Grandfather, but it made me smile to hear that he went to Disney Land. I can totally see my dad doing something like that when he gets older.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Pickled pig's feet would be the best Yankee Trade gift EVER!! I'm totally going to do that next year! And it was hilarious that all he wanted was to go to Disneyland. This was not a lighthearted, happy-go-lucky Pop Pop. But to see his face on that carousel was pure magic :D

  3. We always do white elephant gifts at my hubby's work party. Last time, I ended up with a pair of Pillsbury Dough Boy boxer shorts...which I brought myself. It's always a bummer when your crappy gift backfires and you end up going home with it!

    The hubby got some good stuff this year, and we're going in with caffeinated candy and light saber chopsticks from Can't wait to see what everyone else brings!