The Annual De-Gift and Re-Gift Party

Some of you might remember the Seinfeld episode where Tim Whattley re-gifts a label maker that Elaine Benes has given him. That dang thing ends up getting passed all over town. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick refresher:

Don’t remember that?

Well then surely you remember when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer accidentally lands on “The Island of Misfit Toys,” where unwanted playthings with cosmetic or physical flaws live until the island’s ruler, King Moonracer, can find homes for them?

Why am I babbling about old label makers and effed up toys?

For several years now, the members of my neighborhood book club have gathered after the winter holidays and, in lieu of discussing a book, each of us brings one gift that is so freaking craptastic we just have to get it out of the house.

And give it to someone else.

You know, because one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

Last night was our Annual De-Gift & Re-Gift Party.

After everyone ate their fill of yummy nom-noms and slurped down some wine, our host told us it was time to get to it. We circled her coffee table where all the bags of horror sat sagging in their repurposed wrapping paper. The rules for this year’s swap were quickly established.

Same as last year.

  • We would go in numeric order.
  • When it was someone’s turn to pick, that person could either select a new gift or steal a gift that had already been opened.
  • Once an item had been swapped three times, that item could no longer be stolen.
  • Don’t leave unwanted gifts at the host’s house. Or else.

Our host handed us numbers that she had scribbled on slips of yellow paper. I must have been born under a star or something because I got the highest number, which meant that I was going to see most, if not all, of the goods that came before it would be my turn to pick, thus ensuring my victory would be sweet.

Here’s how it went down.

Kate went first. Reaching into her bag, she revealed two pairs of holiday socks and the windshield scraper Santa might use on his car. You know, if he didn’t have a garage and the reindeer were tired, and Mrs. Claus needed to pick up a few items from Bed, Bath & Beyond up there at the North Pole.

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After she showed everyone her goods, Kate burst into laughter and confessed that she’d picked the gift she’d tried to dump on us brought to the table last year. Like the mythical holiday fruitcake, Kate’s bag o’crap had returned to her.

Bonnie wound up with some fabulous sunglasses and other sundry items. Every single item in her bag was solid gold. Unfortunately, they cannot be shown here. (Look, I am not a fool. And I know not to look one particular gift horse in the mouth.)

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Liz unwrapped a frog ring, which broke the instant she put it on her finger. But she also got the Wine Bottle Sock Monkey, which she assured us would make a great puppet for her sons to play with.

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Cindy #1 took home the enormous cranberry scented candle that thought it was a lamp. Seriously, check out that shade. The thing weighed eleventy-six tons. Look how excited Cindy is!

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Cindy #2 scored a pair of faux-gold earrings circa 1986. And look! She’s set for Valentine’s Day with the Spin-The-Bottle-Button.

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Lori got the Garden Gnome Salt & Pepper Shakers. I know that someone out there would love these. But probably not Lori.

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You cannot really appreciate the bedazzled, super glittery handles on the faboo 4-piece cheese spreader set that Mary Jo landed. At first, we thought the handles were filled with Goldschlager. But no. Everyone agreed the spreaders were very functional and stabby.

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Theresa selected a well-endowed snowman whose nether region consisted of three different color candles. When this fact was called to everyone’s attention, the embarrassed snowman promptly lost a leg. (Look at the poor snowman’s face!)

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I peed in my pants a little when I won the box of Whitman’s chocolates. I told you my ending was sweet! That’s called punny foreshadowing, people.

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No matter what we tossed in the donations pile brought home last night, we were all winners because caring is sharing. No. Because each time the members of book club get together, we learn more about each other. Once, I Tricked My Book Club Into Writing. (They forgave me.) So whether we yadda yadda yadda about books, share life lessons, or trade playthings from “The Island of Misfit Toys,” it is always a delight. I am blessed to have these women as neighbors and plan to enjoy our ever-evolving reindeer games for a long time.

Anyone else have non-book-related book-club traditions? What else do you do in your book club besides drink wine talk books?

tweet me @rasjacobson

72 responses to “The Annual De-Gift and Re-Gift Party

  1. I’ve yet to find a book club in our new neighborhood! Thomas and I read Curious George and take monkey breaks to eee eee and ooo ooo around. I’m guessing this does not count.

  2. I’m not in a book club but that sock monkey wine bottle cover is pretty sweet. You can never have enough sock monkeys!

  3. I’m not in a book club but that sock monkey wine bottle cover is pretty sweet. You can never have enough sock monkeys!

  4. That is not just a box of Whitman chocolates, it is the famed and coveted (not) Whitman Sampler.😉 I did not get a single klinker this year because my kids know me so well, but I would take that giant cranberry candle!

  5. You MUST have been born under a lucky star, because, a) a good book club group is hard to find, and b) you ended up with the chocolates! Unless the chocolates have been sitting around for a long time, in which case I wouldn’t eat them, if I were you.

    Incidentally, I do know someone who WOULD probably love the gnome salt & pepper shakers. She collects kitschy stuff like that. Your book club group is pretty priceless!

    • I kept thinking of my friend Sara, who used to collect salt and pepper shakers. And Abby from Abby Has Issues. She loves garden gnomes. I’m guessing Lori could sell those at the next neighborhood garage sale. Or on eBay.😉

  6. I like chocolate. AND wine. Why can’t I live in your neighborhood? Drats!

    We do a white elephant exchange at my job that has devolved into pretty much everyone just getting booze. Fun times.

    I really wish I knew people who did this, cuz my hubs gets me the best joke gifts (crazy Cds, monkey socks, you touched your genitals hand sanitizer). I’m sure my re-gifter would be epic! 🙂

  7. I am not in a book club, but usually end up reading my Mom’s book-club books when she’s done. Not bad since she (usually) can tell if I’d like the book. What book is your book club reading now?

    We do the same type of gift exchange at work. ( It’s not supposed to be re-gifting, but the rest of the process is the same. I gave up after the first 2 years. I never get the good stuff.

    If the gifts are all old, you might want to check the expiration date on your chocolates. Just to be sure. 😉

    • Our next book is called True Colors by Kristin Hannah.

      Or something like that. I keep singing Cyndi Lauper’s song to remind myself to buy it. You know, for February. I will. Eventually. Maybe.

      I know the chocolates are fresh. The neighbor who passed them along received them over the holidays and didn’t want them around for the obvious reasons. I was happy to help her out. You know how I like to help.😉

      • Too bad you don’t live down here. You could have helped Stu. He “donated” all the candy he got from his 2nd graders for Christmas. Evidently, 2nd graders like chubby teachers. He couldn’t keep it in the house, so he gave it to our parents. They have more self-control than both of us!

  8. I don’t have a book club, but I do have a wine drinking club. And that wine bottle sock monkey would be such a HIT there!

    • Leeeeeeesha! I’ll tell Liz to sew a fleur-de-lis on him and put him on eBay. He came in the original packing, but the personalization might cost a little extra.😉 knowing Liz, she would seriously send him to you if you really wanted him. That’s the way she rolls.

    • Oooh. Wine drinking club! I like it! Just throw in some chocolate & I’m sold! 🙂

  9. I don’t do Christmas and I totally have that wine Sock Monkey!!!🙂

    I love this. I love that you have this gift exchange.🙂

  10. For the past few years at our December meeting we brought new or gently used children’s books we donate to an urban school in nearby, crime-ridden Camden, NJ. This year we added new PJs to the books and we donated them to a local social service organization that has a food pantry that families come to. Everyone loves sharing our love of books and helping others.

    • That’s super nice. We are just selfish bitties. No, we all give to our respective charitable organizations, but it is kind of nice to do something that is just light and a little frivolous. I don’t know. During the year, many people are active in various charity events. Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll do something more charitable. Something to chew on. Besides chocolate.😉

  11. So Book Club. Yes, I am in a “book club” (believe it or not!). We don’t actually read books, but it is our book club nonetheless and we call it book club. We are a group of around 12 guys who meet most weekends to ski hard. We usually break for a nice lunch with nice wine (or other drinks) and then go out for some more skiing, though usually not quite as hard or fast.

  12. That sounds like so much fun!! What a great group to be a part of. And how lucky to get chocolates!

    • The chocolate was a great treat, but the women are so wonderful — honestly, the sweetest part is being with them! That sounds dorky, but it’s true. Having the book club has been great for the neighborhood. Sadly, a few women had to miss last night. They were with us in spirit.

  13. I love this idea! It sounds like a great time. I’m not up to a book club just yet, but I *did* just join a community band (like band nerd band, not rock-star band). We will see what traditions will come from that. Band nerds can be crazy fun!!

    • Rivki! I’m so proud of you for following your heart back to music. I hope you will write about that in the future! I know playing with others will bring you so much joy. I’m so excited for you. How do you juggle all this with soooooo many kids? You astound me!

      This little non-denominational celebration is a whole lot of fun. And it fills us up with so much joy!

      • Aw, thanks! It’s amazing, really. I will definitely try to write about it, though I’m so busy that finding time to blog is becoming a real challenge! I’m trying to stay faithful to my once-a-week schedule, which still seems manageable right now.

        How do I juggle it? I don’t know, really. Sometimes everything really works, and sometimes it REALLY doesn’t! My oldest is in playgroup M-F 9-1, and my two-year-old goes T-T 9-1, so I have a chunk of time in the morning to do stuff. But then, I have to actually DO stuff, and not just sit on the internet (cough cough….)

  14. That sounds and looks like so much fun! Those gnome salt and pepper shakers are AWESOME!

  15. Your book club sounds a lot like The Bridge Club! Regifting with your girlfriends is a great excuse to drink (ginger ale or whatever), eat, laugh and laugh some more. We use those same rules for a gift exchange we have at our family (7 kids + partners) Christmas party. It’s never dull! Good score on the chocolates!

    • My book club mates prefer wine to my ginger ale, but ladies in the know usually keep a can handy for me. 😉 I’m so glad to know you have a great group, too! I’m blessed because these women are my neighbors, which makes everything extra sweet.

  16. Descriptive words and phrases I love from this post: craptastic, bags of horror, eleventy-six tons, faboo, nether region. I would give up my re-gifted plastic flag-holding eagle paper weight to be a part of your book club’s annual de-gift and re-gift party. Another home run renée a. schuls-jacobson. You make me laugh. I like that. Thanks.

  17. And what happens after the re-gifting party? I’d have to have another one if I ended up with the gnomey salt and pepper pots. Any excuse to have more fun in January😉

  18. Ok, look, I’ll pay shipping for the gnome shakers. No, really.

  19. What a totally great tradition! Looks like everyone had fun. I’ve always wanted to be in a book club. Yours looks particularly awesome!

  20. I got those garden gnome pepper shakers for Christmas this year! But they were actually a great gift, because I love garden gnomes. And they weren’t the only gnomes that were gifted to me this year!😀

  21. We play that game too. The little 2″ tall wind-up penis has been re-gifted at least four times. So far it hasn’t hurt his feelings. He still hops across the table like a Mexican jumping bean on his way to a BBQ.

  22. No lie… I’d not only love those gnome shakers, but I would make them part of my family. Literally. They would be perfect playmates for my mannequin dog!!

    Hugs!

    Valerie

  23. I love this idea! I’m bringing this up to my book club! LOL. And I am that person that wants those gnome salt and pepper shakers!!!

    If I had attended, I would be bringing 6 pairs of gloves (which I collected this holiday season from various gift givers) OR (and I wish it was Tingo Tuesday because I would win with this)…Eh hem, let me set the scene: Christmas night with my honey, gift exchange. I unwrap a light blue t-shirt, whilst unfolding it, he tells me “It doesn’t mean anything!” ??? After opening the shirt up, it says “Bride”. *blank stare* “Well what does it mean?” I ask. “Look at it.” He says. “I am. It says ‘bride.'” I reply. *long awkward pause* “It’s Princess Bride! Like the movie!”

    Yah, the shirt said bride, and there was a tiara printed above it.

    That’s it. No ring. No proposal. Just a shirt that I will never, EVER wear.

  24. I love your book club and your re-gifting! I don’t have anything like this in my neighborhood, in fact with one exception don’t know my neighbors, we aren’t a neighborly bunch.

    Your game though is one we played in my family every year on Christmas Eve (there are enough of us to make it interesting). We had a $25 limit on the gifts in the pile. There were often up to 30 of us playing. Many of us would look for terrible things. It was fun, I miss those holidays when my parents were still with us.

    • I think our book club created a sense of neighborhood. It is my understanding that before our book club began the street had turned over a few times, so original owners didn’t know the “new people” anymore.

      When I showed up, I really wanted to know people. I’d lived on a street where we kept a list of each ither’s names and email addresses, do I wanted that again and I realized I’d have to be the one to go it. I came to find out there HAD been a street association at one time. It had just kind of tuckered out. I was happy to help revive it. Once we had email addresses, the rest happened organically.

      I guess I’m saying that if you want to be neighborly, I’ll bet there are other people who would like it, too.

      Your craptastic Christmas party with your psrents sounds like it was loads of fun.

  25. This is so happy! (Don’t know how I missed this post the other day?) I love silly friend outings and this one looks so fun. I’d have gone for the candy, too, but that huge scented lamp/candle caught my eye immediately! Looks like a great group! We do the same giveaway at an annual holiday brunch with old work friends. Unfortunately, they don’t take the “white elephant” term seriously any more and everyone gives pretty nice gifts these days. It’s lovely, but not as much fun as the bad gift exchange we used to do!

  26. I have got to find me a book club!

  27. Hi Renee,

    What a fun tradition. It’s re-gifting without the guilt.

    I hope that everyone adhered to rule #4.

    Those chocolates seem wildly out of place amid the other misfit toys. Score! My other favorites are the lamp (no way that that’s a candle) and the Spin-The-Bottle-Button (look at the size of that thing!)

  28. Omg, I love your book club. This is such a fun and funny idea.

  29. My book club does a book swap at our holiday meeting. But the idea has always been to share books we think the group will love, whether over looked oldies but goodies, or something new that hasn’t yet become ubiquitous.
    We also started a tradition four or five years ago: we go out to high tea in a schmancy hotel once a year. It’s a decadent treat on a cold february weekend afternoon.

  30. Pingback: Getting to Gnome You: Valentine’s Day Stories | renée a. schuls-jacobson's blog

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