Tag Archives: gifts

Secret Santa, Texas Hold’em, Gift Exchange, aka, North Pole Give’em

by Shinazy

This year I celebrated Christmas in California where the majority of my family lives.  All members of this branch are now adults.  I love Christmas, I love everything about it.  But, this year the idea of all that shopping and spending just felt uncomfortable.  To counter that feeling I considered various gift exchange ideas and, similar to many families, the Secret Santa gift exchange seemed best.  Even after making that decision I still felt less like a Secret Santa.  You see, as a boomer, I really have everything I need; I have no need for more stuff.  Did any of us really need more stuff?  My answer, “I think not.”  But if not, then what?

More days of weighing possibilites.  Then the ah-ha moment – you know the one: You’re in the shower with a head full of suds and wham . . .  the perfect thought forms and you just know it’s The Answer.  The answer to my problem was a spin on the traditional Secret Santa gift exchange.  Instead, we would have a Charity Exchange.  No shopping.  No stuff.  Just giving.
The only rule was that the charity had to be legitimate, a 501 (c)(3) organization.  www.irs.gov/charities/charitable
The process was easy: each person would bring a gift-wrapped note stating his or her charity and each of us would put $25 into the pot.
Now, there were many ways to decide which charity to contribute the collected $250.  But, since my family is a card-playing fun group, I decided we would play winner-takes-all Texas Hold’em.

After Christmas dinner, instead of Secret Santa, each person opened a lovingly wrapped package declaring the charity they would represent in our Texas Hold’em Gift Exchange game.  We followed Hoyle’s rules.  I followed my son’s strategy.  He followed his betting system.  My daughter followed her instincts.  Our card-shark followed his Vegas ways.  His wife followed his tutoring.  Our jolly, white-haired patriarch followed . . . his giving ways.  We all followed fun.  We posted the blinds, and bet, and raised, and called, and checked.  Several of us “went all in” and won, others lost.  (Y’all gotta know the lingo.)  At the end of this festive evening, the winnings were donated to Oakland Children’s Hospital.  One of our family members works at a company who will match our $250, so our total Secret Santa, Texas Hold’em, Gift Exchange gave $500.  Now, that feels good.

Everyone enjoyed the concept and we had just as much fun opening our one gift and playing to win for a charity.  This is now my family’s Christmas tradition and we named it North Pole Give’em.  
Next year, try North Pole Give’em at your home . . . I guarantee a fun and rewarding experience.
I think Santa is happy.
 Here are the organizations in our ‘gift’ exchange
  • Camp Grace-South Austin, providing programs for children with special needs
  • Friends of the Urban Forest, making San Francisco greener
  • Muzart World Foundation, restoring music and art programs to public schools
  • Oakland Children’s Hospital, full-service hospital just for children
  • Save the Children, creating change in the lives of children
  • SPCA – East Bay, welfare of cats and dogs
  • The Human Society, animal protection