Every family has a different way of handling the exchanging of gifts at the holidays. Some families don't lay down any ground rules and some families do. I think it has a lot to do with the size of your family and its composition (kids vs adults). Sometimes it has to do with the family's economic composition as well. Whatever the reason, the underlying politics of the holiday gift exchange has always befuddled and flustered me.
I was always an advocate for having absolutely no rules governing the holiday gift exchange. (But then again, I am usually an advocate of less legislation & meddling from Big Brother - infer what you want). Each of us should be able to buy whatever we want for whomever we want. The problem with this has been the disparity in the value of the gifts exchanged (which I think is a dumb reason because I don't really want anyone to buy me anything) and the inevitable issue of buying presents for people for no other reason but guilt (Been there. Done that). For me though, the ultimate idea is to just forgo a gift exchange amongst the adults altogether - didn't think I'd ever see my family agree to that though.
My side of the family has been employing the Kris Kringle/Secret Santa method for the last decade or so. They each draw a name at Thanksgiving and have to buy that one person a present of a value no greater than $X to be opened on Christmas Eve. I say “they” because I have been exempted from the Kris Kringle for this whole time - well almost this whole time. I did it once and I don't want to ever do that again. (My husband & I have been on the free-for-all plan on the side ever since then.)
Regardless of whether Kris Kringle rules are being employed or whether there has been serious protesting on my part, my mother, sister and aunt & uncle will not be able to restrain themselves from buying my husband & me presents. They just can't. It's like a sickness. Even worse, there are only 9 adults on this side of my family. If you take the Kris Kringle cheaters I just mentioned, add my brother-in-law, my husband and me, that's 7 out of 9 people involved in this cheating. In all seriousness, regardless of the Kris Kringle assignment, my mother ends up buying presents for everyone. As I know they are going to cheat and buy my husband and me presents, I buy presents for them as well. What is the point of having a Kris Kringle again?
This year, the family has agreed to completely forego presents for adults and only buy presents for the kids. This was the agreement made on Thanksgiving Day. When I heard this, I was ecstatic. That's serious progress! After some time though, it became apparent to me that certain people (the usual suspects) were going to cheat again and buy presents for certain adults (including me). Ugh!
I love my family, but this is ridiculous. I've repeatedly told them that we don't want any presents. Nobody listens. My family has always been ridiculously generous with each other. We seriously fight for the bills when we all go out for meals together. Seriously. We're always picking up thoughtful things for one another for no reason at all. We're always going out of our way for each other and are always generous with our time when we can be. Since we do these things for each other all year long, remind me again why we need to exchange Christmas presents? This year we've agreed not to do that - but I've already personally witnessed a present being purchased outside of this agreement.
I still haven't figured out what my husband and I are going to do for the family this year. We've agreed not to buy anything for any of the adults, but they all agreed to the same thing and are obviously going to cheat. Why does holiday gift-giving have to be so darned convoluted in my family? If the “no gift” method fails this year, I'm suggesting the free-for-all for everyone next year. If the worst thing that happens is that you buy an extra present for someone you're not exactly close to or you feel bad that someone spent way too much on you, it'll be better than all of the crap that goes on while designing some gift-exchange scheme that nobody adheres to anyway. We'll see how this holiday goes and if the family restrains their gift giving gene. My hopes aren't high.