12+ When I was a boy, I thought the spirit of Xmas was receiving: from my overflowing Santa Sack and presents under the Xmas tree. I grew up, and for me, especially after I became a dad, it's giving. I like choosing gifts for family and friends, which is why I say bah humbug to the modern Kris Kringle.
Now, I don't want to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge. After all, I like Xmas. And I have partaken in family and office Kris Kringles and Secret Santas. But these were versions where I drew a name from a hat. I knew who was receiving my gift and put thought and effort into choosing it for them. And I had the joy of watching the recipient open it, even if they didn't know I was the gift-giver.
Okay, some Kringle gifts I've received over the years have been silly. I once got a hairbrush in an office Kringle, and if you check my profile photo you'll see why I dropped it in a charity shop bin on the way home—even if the rest of the office found it "hil-hairious"! But in general, I have received and, I like to think, given thoughtful gifts.
Stealing Secret Santa
This Xmas, my family introduced me to the modern thieving Kringle, also known as Stealing Secret Santa. In this version, as with traditional Kringles, we bought gifts to a set value and wrapped them to keep the gift and gift-giver secret.
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We put our names into a Santa hat and the order in which they were drawn out determined the order in which we'd receive a gift from the pile. To ensure impartiality, gifts were selected and handed to us by Santa's little helper, my two-and-half-year-old niece.
And this is where the modern thieving aspect begins. Rather than accept the gift chosen by Santa's helper, recipients can steal a previously opened present. The person who loses their gift gets another from the pile. But that, too, can be thieved by the next recipient in line! By being the first name drawn from the hat, you'll likely end up with the gift nobody wants. In my case, I feared another hairbrush or, my nightmare, a fondue set.
The Modern Spirit of Xmas
I wasn't impressed with this modern Kringle. "The spirit of Xmas is giving and receiving," I argued, "not stealing!" But the majority of the family, including my teenage son, overruled my objections—though he was less enthusiastic when his name was drawn second.
As it transpired, everyone had fun with the Kringle, particularly Santa's happy little helper. I got Jimmy Barnes's Working Class memoirs—despite a thwarted attempt to steal them—and my son received the promise of a cash exchange from me for his unwanted pair of size-XL cycling shorts.
Later I checked with other family and friends, and it seems thieving Kris Kringle is not a modern phenomenon. My cousins, who have many kids between them, have been doing it for over twenty years to cap the cost of Xmas presents. One of my cousins admitted to being a keen stealer and swapper of gifts. And my dear old aunt said she was delighted with her Kringle gift this Xmas, a fondue set!
Call me Ebenezer, but I still say bah humbug! However, respecting the majority, I grudgingly accept nowadays the spirit of Xmas is giving, receiving and stealing—at least when it comes to Kris Kringles.
And when all's said and done, after opening the gifts, the real spirit of Xmas begins. It's the time spent with family and friends, as it was when I was a boy (and didn't know it), and especially now that I'm a middle-aged dad.
© 2019 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You might like to read this memoir piece I wrote and published on Tall And True in 2018, Sixteen Xmas Memories.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.