Chinese Gift Exchange
There's probably nothing really Chinese about it. But I don't know. There's also nothing gender-specific about it, but since at the parties where we do this the women usually outnumber the men, I'll use the words "she" and "her".
It's what we do at one of our annual Christmas parties around here, and it's a lot of fun.
The rules go something like this:
- Everybody brings one gift, wrapped. It should not be bought new for the occasion. It should not be fancy or expensive, but it should not be just plain junk either.
- It's not a bad idea for a few people to bring an extra item in case somebody else hasn't gotten clued in,
- Pile all the gifts in one place (and make sure they don't get mixed up with other gifts in the host's house).
- Everyone who participates is expected to stay all the way to the end; splitting the scene with your gift can be seen as poor sportsmanship, and probably the best etiquette for earlier departers would be to put the gift back in the pile, even though it's open.
- Check that the number of gifts at least equals the number of participants; it's a bummer if there's nothing for the last person. Prepare a set of numbered slips, folded and put in a bowl or hat; when you are ready to start everyone takes a number.
- The person who drew number 1 takes a gift from the pile, opens the gift and sits down with the gift in plain sight, generally on her lap.
- Then "2" then takes a gift, either from the pile or from 1. Then 2 sits down with the gift displayed. If 1's gift was taken, then 1 gets to take another from the pile. She cannot directly take back the gift that was just taken from her. She may be able to get it later, however.
- Then "3" gets up and can take a gift, either from the pile, or from 1 or 2, in which case that person can take either a new gift, or one from another person, but not the gift that was just taken from her.
- Etc. etc. and the very last person has the choice of all of the previous gifts, or the one (or more) still in the pile. Toward the end of the game it's not at all unusual for a lot of gifts to move around in a single turn before finally somebody takes a gift from the pile.
- If there are still gifts left in the pile when all the numbers are accounted for, whatever people agree to do with them is fine.
- Attempts to limit the number of times an item can change hands usually bring less than satisfactory results. The only rule here is that you can't directly take back something that was just taken from you, though the next time something else is taken from you, then you can get back the earlier item from whoever has it then, even the person who got it from you. No guarantee you'll keep it for long, however.
- If someone brings a relatively expensive and very nice gift and the hostess gets it, which I've seen happen more than once, it's somewhat likely that nobody will mess with it, and that is probably karmically OK. Aside from that everything is fair game from start to finish, and expensive stuff brings out greed, ruins the game, etc., so make sure everybody knows not to bring any. There's a difference between wanting and coveting.
- One more thing that I thought I had added to this page years ago but I see it's not there. Sometimes people try to make a rule like a gift can only change hands three times. This is a VERY BAD IDEA. I've seen it accentuate the coveting and dampen the game.
... Later somebody takes the lock from 1, and then 1, who had the cup in the first place, takes it from 6. No telling where it will end up.
- 1 takes a gift from the pile and unwraps it. It's a coffee cup with "Been There -- Done That -- Forgot Already" on it.
- 2 thinks about taking the cup but then takes a gift from the pile. It's a paper towel holder.
- 3 likes the paper towel holder and takes it from 2.
Then 2 says what the heck and takes the cup from 1.
1 then takes another gift from the pile. It's a can of olives.
- 4 takes a gift from the pile. It's a combination lock.
- 5 takes the can of olives from 1
1 takes the lock from 4
4 takes the cup from 2
2 takes the can of olives from 5
5 shrugs and takes a gift from the pile. It's a microwave bacon tray.
- 6 takes a gift from the pile. It's a teapot.
- 7 takes the teapot from 6
6 takes the cup from 4
4 takes a gift from the pile
- and so on. It generally gets going a little slower than this, but it does get lively soon enough.
You can blame all this silliness on me, Eric Bear Albrecht, and find even more on or near my home page.