Bottom of the Barrel

Kai Teigen

It’s almost winter break! For two weeks straight we get to have the distinct pleasure of having absolutely nothing to do, and I for one am looking forward to it. The one thing I’m not so thrilled about is present shopping. Of course I want to get presents for my family and close friends, but I also need to buy a Secret Santa gift for somebody on my debate team and find something for my family’s annual white elephant party, all of which needs to be accomplished while still leaving me money to spare for off-campus lunch. Things were so much easier when I was ten and could take having no obligations for granted and just settle down to watch Christmas specials on TV (shoutout to Prep and Landing by the way, it’s a short film about secret agent elves and if you haven’t already seen it please do it will change your life) but those days are sadly past. So in order to get away with being super cheap and spending three to five dollars on each present, I’ve developed a little trick: I try to establish as many inside jokes and objects with hidden meanings as possible. 

That way, instead of spending a week’s worth of lunch money on something a friend may or may not use — like jewelry or a book — I can just buy them something from the assorted trinket shops near my house and not feel absurdly guilty about it. A flawless system! Here’s the problem with the idea: it really doesn’t work for something like Secret Santa, or — if we want to be true Bay Area residents — Secret Snowflake. Because unless you’re already friends with the person you’re getting a gift for, you don’t have time to learn all their little quirks and personality traits and then buy them something that speaks to your relationship. 

You have to give them something with absolutely no personal context, and that means either candy, if you’re cheap (which I am), or something actually nice if you don’t care about money (which I do). White Elephant, on the other hand, is pretty easy to find presents for, but the event itself is a bit of a nightmare. For those of you who have never been to a White Elephant party before, allow me to elaborate. The idea is that each person participating brings a present to the party, and by the end of the party everybody will receive one present randomly. But there’s a catch; you get to steal other people’s presents. It may seem like a fun game, but believe me — things get really hostile really fast if even one person brought a gift that people would actually care about. 

But that’s all beside the point. What really matters about the holidays is that they’re a time to bring joy to people you love and to take pleasure in the life you live. Even though this time of year gets more and more stressful as we all get older, it’s a wonderful time to be alive. So with that wonderfully sappy ending, I wish you all a very happy winter break!

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