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Christmas as an adult

I was a part of several different Christmas gatherings this year. After spending time with family and friends and having given away or received many gifts, I came to the realization that the gift opening was not a very fun or exciting experience. I am unlikely to remember anything about the opening of presents. Looking back to when I was a kid, I feel like I remember a lot more excitement around Christmas. I would open up gifts to real surprise and delight, but now as an adult I have the means to buy everything I need and much of what I want, which makes it very difficult for a gift to be truly surprising in the way it would have been when I was younger. I remember  having a greater sense of anticipation as a kid. I looked forward to finding out what was under the tree. As I have grown older that anticipation has disappeared. Occasionally I still get nice surprises or have found a gift for someone else that I am more excited to give than anything I would receive.

It seems to me that when it comes time to open gifts, it tends to be focused around the kids while the adults wait. Then the adults open their gifts as a group and no one pays attention. It has become a flurry of wrapping paper with little to no interaction between the people in the group until everyone is finished, at which point everyone says a general "Thanks" and moves on with the day. The main event of the day is over in a relatively quick amount of time and just as quickly forgotten. Getting together for Christmas each year should be more memorable. Giving and receiving gifts is a part of the season, but the gifts themselves are not the memorable part. Spending time with the people you love is. I think what needs to change is that the opening of gifts needs to become more about the event, the people, and their interaction with each other, and less about the gifts.

This is my proposal for making gift giving more fun and memorable:

First, I would keep everything the same for the children. They still experience the joy and surprise of Christmas, and witnessing that joy is a great experience for everyone.

I would then take a break before the adults' gift exchange. Have something that clearly separates the childrens' gift giving from the adults'. Perhaps this is when you eat dinner or have snacks. Maybe you sing Christmas carols or watch a Christmas movie.

Every adult that is to be part of the gift exchange brings 1 non-specific present with them. This present should be limited to a price agreed upon by the group, such as $25 to $30. This way, everyone brings and leaves with roughly the same value gift.

If you want to give out more than just the 1 gift, give everyone a greeting card with a gift card or some money inside. Make it something that is quick and doesn't need to be part of the gift exchange, and let everyone focus on the fun they have while opening the gifts together.

The gifts should be placed in a central location with the group around the presents. Everyone draws a number from 1 to however many people are participating. Starting with 1, each person opens a gift in turn. Each person would have the option to choose from the unopened gifts or take from someone that has already opened a gift. If a gift is "stolen," the person that lost their gift choses a new unopened present. You continue until all of the gifts have been opened, with the only rule being that you should leave with something different than what you brought.

You will have memorable experiences like someone opening a truly surprising present, or the anticipation of wether someone will choose a new gift or "steal" yours. Rather than the focus being on what you get or what you give, it is placed on having a good time with those that you are with. It forces the gifts to be opened one by one with everyone highly involved. It will lead to longer lasting and more meaningful memories.

Everyone will leave with a gift, but more importantly, they will leave with the memory of the exchange.

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