IHAO on ... Christmas Shopping and Dirty Santa Parties!

I love Christmas shopping.  It is a point of pride for me to go looking for gifts for people and giving it to them.  I love filling stockings, surprising people with thoughtful gifts, and finding great hidden gems in flea markets or obscure antique stores.  I also like hosting.  Or, more accurately, I like being in control of social gatherings.  That probably sounds a lot more awful that it really is, now that I look at that sentence.  What I mean is that I personally get social anxiety pretty easily, but if I'm the one who puts together the party or social gathering I have something I can focus on which allows me to channel my stress into something productive.  It's what I love being a DM for Dungeons and Dragons and other table-top roleplaying gmaes, why I love owning as many movies as I do so that I can have folks over to share movie experiences, why I love getting the WWE Network so I can have people come over for NXT and such.  Of course, I have been sick since that party, so maybe all the stress, even channeled, isn't great.  But that doesn't really matter, because we had a great party and a great time shopping for it.

So what is a Dirty Santa party?  Or more specifically, how did I change the rules just a smidge to make it my own version?  The goal of this party was to have all of our friends, all strapped for cash and wanting to buy gifts for everyone, to instead by one good gift and then we Dirty Santa it.  It is like a mix of Secret Santa and good old fashioned game show antics.  Did it work?  For the most part, absolutely.  Here were the rules:
1) Buy a present and bring it wrapped.  Present must be between $10 and $50, no less and no more.
2) Once everyone has arrived, I give point values to presents for a bit of meta-knowledge ((I will explain this a little further down))
3) Everyone draws a number to create a turn order
4) In turn order, you may either open a present or steal one that has already been opened.
5) No Take-Backsies Rules: If a gift has been taken from you, you cannot steal it back until it has shifted to another player.  No stealing from the person who stole from you, basically.
6) Once everyone has had their turn, Number 1 has the option to put the gift they currently have back into the pile and steal one last time.

And that's it!  Was the party successful?  For the most part, yeah!  Lots of great gifts, only a few duds, and everyone had a great time!

Now, to get to this point, I had to create a stupid point system to help make the shopping of presents fun.  See, some of my guests HATED shopping.  But I helped out and now can share a pretty fun and simple shopping game.  Here's how it goes:

There are seven categories for all presents: NERDY, BOUGIE, RANDOM, $$$, COMFORT, FOOD, and then a specialized one for your group that hits most of their interests.  That could be SPORTS, MOVIES, RELIGION, or the one we used, THEATRE.  Once you have done that, try to give every guest three of four categories that you believe they would fight for a present of that type.  Try to make each guest have a different set of likes, just for variance.  Once you have done that, it is time to give a point value to every present:

 - 2 points per category the gift falls in.  Don't be generous here.
 - 1 point per person who you determined might steal this gift based on category.
 - BONUS: if the gift hits every single guest for a point, the gift gets a 15 point bonus
 - 1 point per $10 spent on the gift, rounded down.
 - 1 point if the gift is unique and not just "got it at a store"
 - 1 point per size difference based on the standard: a shoebox
 - 1 point per weird shape based on the standard: a shoebox

And there you go!  With 15 guests (and one wild card) we had a maximum point total of 94 and a minimum score of 7.  At our party, our lowest point value gift was a set of foam dice and our highest was two months of LootCrate!  Though, the present that actually won the game, i.e. the one that was stolen the most often, was a ridiculous framed painting of a bougie woman with a leopard all decked out in furs and diamonds.  You never know what is gonna do well and what isn't!

Now, evaluating how this holds up, I have a few points I could have improved upon.  One was to really hit home that this wasn't a joke gift, white elephant party, but supposed to be a gift replacement, like with Secret Santa.  Also, I really want to next time hit home the "buy a NEW gift" to avoid regifts.  And I came up with the point scoring system very late in the process, so I should make that public earlier, because as silly and arbitrary as it was, everyone enjoyed having the gifts be valued and it made for an interesting meta-game as some people went for the nicest wrapping, some went for the biggest, and some went for things based on their scores.

I look forward to doing this party next year.  And every year after.  And am thankful that I had 15 friends that I wanted to invite, even if it did stress me out to no end up to the party itself.

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