Iím not sure when I first played The Game, or even what year it was. Perhaps it was as early as the 1980ís. I know it was at a church Christmas party. We called The Game ĎAinít That A Shame.í Everyone brought a wrapped gift, preferably a white elephant gift, although some brought new things. Numbers were drawn, and everyone wanted a high number. A high number insured a person got a better selection of gifts.
Whoever got number one opened a gift first. From there, each following number could open a new gift or steal an opened gift from someone. The original rules were that when you stole a gift, you had to say, ďAinít that a shame?Ē If you failed to say it, you had to give back the gift.
Iím not sure who thought up the idea for this game, but it has hung around for decades now. The rules change with the setting, usually the host of the party determines the rules. I donít think anyone even says, ďAinít that a shame,Ē anymore. There is usually a limit on how many times a gift can be stolen before itís considered owned by someone.
About fifteen years ago we started playing The Game at our familyís Christmas Eve gathering. Because our family is so large, I buy gifts all year long. I am the queen of clearance sales. I have plastic tubs that I fill up for Christmas and birthday gifts.
Have you ever been shopping and some rude, aggressive shopper practically knocks you over in their haste to get somewhere? Alas, it was probably me rushing towards the sale items. I am normally a sweet, considerate person, except when it comes to sales. I become possessed by someone I donít recognize, and have even been known to snarl. Iím not confessing to snarling at anyone, but I have been told I do that sometimes. Unless someone produces a video to prove it, Iíll deny it.
One Christmas I discovered I had an abundance of gifts left after I wrapped something for everyone. I was giddy with excitement as I checked off each name on my list. What to do with all the other awesome things in my big blue tubs? I could save for the next year, but Iím such a compulsive gift-giver, I decided if I added some white elephant gifts, Iíd have enough for The Game. Thus, a family tradition was born.
That first year at our house, it was just the adults that played. Since it was only family, everyoneís inner beast came out. There was pushing, grabbing, threats, and conspiracies going onóall in good fun, of course. We laughed so hard our sides hurt.
We were so loud and rowdy that wherever the teens and children were in the house or outside, they were drawn to the excitement. They egged everyone on, even giving suggestions to their parents about what they should steal. The following year, we included the teenagers, but the younger kids got so involved in the game, we included them the next year until it has now become a whole family event.
The Game has brought out the competitiveness in all of us, and showed us sides of some that we never knew existed. Itís hard to take a grown man seriously after youíve seen him during The Game standing on a chair with a pair of dangling red earrings in one hand and a book titled Ď100 Ways To Win a Maní in his other hand, begging someone to please steal his gift. Itís equally as hard to visualize a dainty Mommy with a power tool in her hand declaring if someone doesnít steal it, she wonít be responsible for the damage done to her house by this power tool.
Since our family keeps growing every year, I now ask that every family bring at least one gift for The Game. I began hitting up yard sales and thrift stores during the year for the kinds of items that will be hilarious, or fought over during The Game. Every year, starting around Thanksgiving, the grandkids start asking, ďAre we playing The Game at Christmas? Oh, I canít wait, itís my favorite.Ē
Iím not saying every family should start a Christmas tradition like this. Itís something we enjoy, and look forward to. But ĎAinít That A Shameí if you donít have some kind of family tradition. If you donít, then let this be the year you do.
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