The Wacky Gift Competition started when I was in 7th grade. My mom had back surgery shortly before Christmas. She did all the holiday shopping and wrapping for my sister and me in November, but she put my dad in charge of stocking stuffers and the final little details. My dad did the majority of the final Christmas shopping at the hardware store. He got us, among other utilitarian items, suction cups. They were the little kind with hooks that you might use to hang a suncatcher, but we didn't have any suncatchers? So... what, exactly, were we supposed to do with them? I can't really explain why it was so funny, but we all just cracked up on Christmas Day.
For the next few holidays, including birthdays and Fathers Day, we started getting each other funny but utilitarian things. A Pickle-Picker-Upper. An egg timer shaped like an egg that changed colors when the egg was hardboiled. Eventually, we had bought out the local Lechters wall of kitchen goods, and my mom and sister took turns deciding whose gift was the funniest and most creative. That's when the fun really began. This was circa 1993.
Every Christmas for the past 15 years or so, my dad and I compete to get each other "The Gift." Our extended family found this hilarious and always wanted to know whose gift my sister and mom chose as the winner. So we started a family-wide vote after Christmas dinner, with Amanda presenting the gifts and distributing the ballots. In recent years, my sister has been on an alternating holiday plan with her husband's family. We hold the contest on Thanksgiving whenever she spends Christmas with his family.
The criteria are as follows:
"The Gift" has to cost less than $20. It should be "wacky." It has to be useful in some way. It has to work during the demonstration. You can't tell anyone else what you've gotten ahead of time. If anyone finds out, they can't vote. I've won in the past with a mooing ice cream scoop shaped like a cow, a smoke alarm that looks like a Christmas ornament, a hot dog shaped condiment keeper with a door that closed on its own to keep flies away from the ketchup at picnics, a talking soap dispenser shaped like a toilet that uses a motion detector to remind you to wash your hands if you walk past the sink without stopping.
Last year's losing contribution (mine): a toothpick holder/voodoo doll.
My dad and I search all year long for "the Gift." You technically have from the day after one year's contest to the day before the next year to find it. We've gotten in the habit of crowning the king or queen, but the crown was a cheap AC Moore tiara, (yes, my dad wears it with pride when he wins) and it's broken at the moment.
A few other traditions in the video for the as-yet-unintiated.
1.) My dad has asked my sister and me if we'd like to contribute to the family prayer since I was about four years old. We always say "no" in unison. On the one year we decided we'd outgrown this cutesy tradition, circa 1997, we got a lot of flack for it, and so... The "no" continues even though we're 28 and 30. Anything for our public. heh.
2.) We go to the beach every year with our friends. My dad, a.k.a "Daddy the Do-er of the Impossible" has always carried towels, sand chairs etc down to the boardwalk using a little yellow cart. My sister and I found this HUMILIATING as pre-teens. My friend Kelly was the only one who was never ashamed of walking with my dad and his cart. Over the years, my parents have started getting us- the young adults in our extended family/friend circle- beach carts of our own once we get married. This is their way, more or less, of gently hinting for grandkids. ;) We probably have Kristen and Adam to thank for reinforcing that association, as they announced they were expecting Aiden immediately after opening their own little blue cart, which is ideal for schlepping baby gear from the house to the beach. You can see my dad with his little yellow cart in this video.
We didn't know there were baby bibs for all of us in the next gift-wrapped box.
Amanda and Tom's turn!
3.) Greg just got a special award for working day and night on a big project at his job. My mom made him a hat to wear. (He works for the company who labels are on the hat.) This is kind of a theme. Spend a holiday with us, it seems normal. Sort of.
4.) My high school friends have always come over for pie on Thanksgiving night. Even the year I was studying abroad in London, they all showed up anyway.
5.) For those of you who love Larry, (a friend of my grandmother's who has a heart of gold and a unique way with words and catchphrases) he has a special cameo. Without further ado, the Thanksgiving video. It lasts about three-and-a-half minutes and takes less time to watch than it took you to read this description. Gawd. Shutting up now!