I began the planning for this much earlier this year to allow the staff time to prepare for the secret friend gift exchange. At the end of November everyone drew names to see who they would be buying a gift for. As the bowl went round the table, I heard comments of "no pants this time". If you remember from last year, we had set a price limit and so most people ended up buying 2-3 pairs of underwear as their gift. I challenged them to put more time and effort into their gift by spending time thinking about the person and what they personally might like.
I even gave them some ideas for homemade gifts, but tried to be a bit vague as well. I didn't want them all to end up with the same gifts. They all voted on a price limit of K15,000 (@$3).
On the day of the party Jasmine, Troy and I moved the furniture around in the dining room and set up for the party.
Under each chair we tucked a couple presents. One was a foil envelope, purchased at the grocery store, filled with bits and bobs for the children of our staff members' households. The next was a little gift bag that had candy, toiletry items, a devotional book, and a special little something. We had received some Avon items from a lady in Texas, and I saved them just for this day. We also got a package from some ladies in Dallas and they had packed a few stockings for our nannies. Since we had 19 staff members to prepare gifts for, I deconstructed the stockings and divided the little gifts, candles, note pads, pretty pens, nail polish, etc. between the gift bags so everyone got something.
I had plans for a fun game with these.
We served a fruit juice punch and cookies. I learned my lesson from last year when some ladies picked the largest cups and filled them to the brim and others didn't get any at all and this time I pre-filled the cups.
For cookies we had four types: peanut butter, chocolate chunk*, almond shortbread, and spiced oatmeal raisin.
*chunk not chip, because we chop our own chocolate bars
Another lesson from last year was that most people didn't eat their snack at the party. They nibbled a bit on the cookies and drank the juice, but they like to save the cookies for later. I provided sandwich bags so they could take their snack home.
Once everyone was settled with their snacks, we did the gift exchange. This year the theme seemed to be housewares, clothes and shoes. No homemade gifts--we'll get there one year--but there seemed to be more thought put into it.
One funny thing that happened was one lady received her gift of coffee mugs AND the change from the K15,000. Everyone seemed to like that. She counted out the bills proudly and tucked them in her pocket.
After that we played a game with the gift bags. It is a gift passing game which I learned about on Mom's Toolbox. You use a specially written Christmas story that employs the words LEFT and RIGHT over and over again. Every time the participants hear those words they have to pass their gift to the left or right. No none knows which gift they'll end up with at the end.
This eliminated the possibility that anyone would think anyone else had been singled out for the best (or worst) gift. --Another lesson learned from past years.
The game was really funny as people struggled at first to know their lefts and rights. A few times we had to pause the game when somehow one person would end up with two or three presents in their laps.It was fun.
Then, we played a final game: Musical Chairs! No one had ever heard of this game before and they loved it!
I played fast-paced Christmas songs and everyone laughed and laughed as they danced around and ended up in each others' laps. A few of them said this was their favorite part.
It was a very nice, and rewarding Christmas party. How will we top it next year?
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