If Kris Kringle is the meaning of Christmas, count me out
I'M not sure who Kris Kringle is but every year he gatecrashes my inbox and lays down a bunch of rules for a convoluted gifting game no one signed up for in the first place.
Rule number one: spend $20 on something "super thoughtful" for a colleague that sits two floors below you.
Buying a present for the person you share a bed with is hard enough, let alone someone you think you've interacted with once but you're not sure because it was last year's Christmas party and things got really foggy after someone cracked open the Chivas at 11am.
And so you spend a few hours gathering facts about this mysterious Mark person from the only source you trust: Instagram. According to his profile Mark seems like every other Mark you've encountered. He's a generic Aussie bloke that loves a bit of cycling and isn't too self-aware to 'gram his breakfast or post "just awful" on a pic of his pasty hotdog legs looking out over a beautiful Bali sunset.
You feel like you know Mark intimately now but this novelty gift shop doesn't really have anything that screams "middle-aged cyclist that loves photographing breakfast". So you panic-buy a pair of nose hair trimmers and spend the remaining $8.45 on a coffee voucher from a local cafe. Does Mark even drink coffee? At the end of the day who even cares?
There's not a single person who treasures the pizza-shaped stress ball they received for an office Kris Kringle in 2005, and herein lies the problem with this employee-funded HR team-building exercise masquerading as festive cheer.
Each year we're forced to spend what amounts to an average hourly wage on a gift that will most likely end up as landfill, making Kris Kringle no different to the Coles Little Shop promotion currently sending armchair environmentalists into a tailspin.
My own personal history with Kris Kringle is littered, quite literally, with gifts I never wanted given out of obligation by people who know less about me than the five-star Uber driver I had the other week.
This is probably why Kris Kringle is anonymous, because it spares everyone the ignominy of watching someone open up a gift from a virtual stranger that is completely out of step with your personal brand. Last year I received a record by Pitbull, which prompted some neurotic internal questioning that I really didn't need after a long and exhausting year.
Why did they think this gift was particular to me? Am I going bald? Am I tacky and basic? Did I remind them of crunk music and starchy shirts? Should I move to Miami? Who knew a $20 gift could lead to 200 dollars worth of therapy.
Another year I received a single stick of bamboo in a single-use plastic cup filled with water and wrapped with a bow. It was on the day of the office Christmas party so I had to babysit the bamboo all evening.
Around midnight, after a days' worth of vodka sodas, I abandoned the bamboo in a grimy McDonald's sink. It was a sliding doors moment that I live with each day.
At some stage Kris Kringle morphed into Dirty Santa, which comes with its own set of convoluted rules and regulations. Dirty Santa involves everyone hastily wrapping gifts, plopping them in a pile, and then picking gifts sequentially until there are none left. Along the way you can steal gifts from your colleagues, which contravenes most of the rules in your employee handbook and is essentially HR-sanctioned theft.
But at least with Dirty Santa you can nab a gift you like and there's no pressure to buy something personalised.
So this year some lucky person is getting a fresh $20 in an envelope, with love, from me.