Monday, December 20, 2004

To Secret Santa or not to Secret Santa

Since growing old and bitter, Christmas hasn't been as big a deal for me as it used to be. As a child, wow, it was probably the second greatest day of the year (after Halloween, which CONTINUES to be the greatest day of the year), and later on, during my religious phase, it was pretty sweet to me then.

Even now that the storm clouds have come, I'm still pretty Christmas-centric. My favourite book is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I love It's A Wonderful Life. I still pick up gifts for my family and come home every December (even though it can sometimes be torturous to visit the Outfield clan), and I haven't stolen presents from the Whos in ages.

Here at the office, they do a Secret Santa extravaganza every year. To those of you who worship Shabiba, the jackal-headed goddess of apathy and Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, the Secret Santa ritual is where you draw a name at random and then must give an anonymous gift to that person. Here in the office, it's five gifts over five days, starting on Monday, then a major gift on Friday (wherein you get to reveal yourself to your victim--er, giftee). And that sounds like fun, right?

Well, just like asking a girl to the prom in my high school escalated to a Sisyphusian ordeal to outdo the competition (I could write a treatise on that sometime soon), here at work, everyone struggles to be the most creative, the most outlandish, the most complicated, the most sneaky. And more so than last year.

Two years ago, I participated, trying to be cute and clever. Last year, I participated again, trying hard to trump myself. But this year . . . ? I just wasn't sure.

And I wasn't alone. A lot of folks at the office were hesitant to participate in Secret Santa this time around. Some of them plead poverty, some of them claim they don't have the time, some of them have a funny notion that Jews shouldn't participate in Christmas activities. But mostly, it's just too hard.

One complaint I heard time and time again this year was that people weren't going to do Secret Santa because, in the past, they had given much better than they got. Yeah, I guess I can see the disappointment with that, but mine was an upbringing with the crazy notion that Christmas was about giving, not getting.

Hell of a lot of balm for those who received a half bag of Doritos, bloodstained coathangers, or a Cutthroat Island lunchbox, though, isn't it?

Well, I thought a lot about it in the days leading up to the sign-up deadline, and as much toil, expense, and mental anguish as it requires, I felt that the regret I'd feel if I DIDN'T do it would outweigh the inconvenience of doing it. And since I have neither girlfriend nor drug habit to keep me occupied this year, I chose to rise to the Secret Santa ritual challenge. I drew a name and concocted a scheme to pretend my giftee was a secret agent and his special mission was to rescue Santa Claus, who had been kidnaped by terrorists. Each day another mission briefing would come and each day was more difficult. When all the dust settled, I was glad I had elected to participate.

And yes, I am the world's greatest Secret Santa.

After Hanukkah Harry, that is.

Rish Outfield

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