My family gets together a lot and especially around the holidays we find ourselves together frequently. I love my family. I’ve always suspected and known that it is special – we have a lot of personalities, but also just so much love.
On Christmas Eve we used to gather at my Gramma Grinko’s house (my mom’s mom) but now we gather at my aunt and uncle’s house — also The Grinkos — to continue on our family traditions. Three-years ago my brother Conor decided to introduce a new tradition of the white elephant gift exchange – since it was starting out he decided to supply the gifts. There are approximately 25 people who are together in the house celebrating and that first year he brought a whole lot of candy bars – and about 7 of them were Zagnuts. We had never had Zagnuts before but by the end of the exchange we were all chanting for people to join the Zagnut club. We chanted “Zagnuts! Zagnuts!” louder and louder and cheered and applauded wildly when someone chose a Zagnut. An indelible mark was made – and so year-round you will now catch us chanting for Zagnuts.
Fast forward a few years to this most recent Christmas Eve. We now have better rules around the gift exchange (like not letting my mom Ruth steal Kit-Kats to no end) and exchange ~$15 gifts. It’s often a mixed bag of various treats – of things and fancy bags of candy.
My family is so nice that we don’t really like to steal gifts from each other — other families would probably be ruthless. But my family? You will catch everyone making sure it is okay with the person to steal the gift before they take it. And this had me feeling so proud of my family.
There were several instances which brought joy to my heart during the exchange…
- My brother Conor, sis-in-law Colleen, and niece Finley arrived just after the rest of us finished the exchange. Everyone offered up their gifts to pick from since they brought 3 and obviously we didn’t want them to have to get their own. People made sure they got to pick what they wanted.
- It was Colleen’s turn and my brother Rory had a hammock – which he had stolen from Nora and was excited to have, but he offered it up – making it clear that he was good either way so if Colleen wanted it it was hers. She took it. And Rory is the type of person where if he said he is fine with it he really is fine with it.
- My bro-in-law Dan sacrificed his pick so Bridgette could get what she wanted — which was something she coordinated about 3 trades/steals to make it work out. He gave up a present with a sweat wrist-band in it – which is actually something he really wanted and needed for tennis – and then my brother Charlie and his girlfriend Renee promptly shared their gift right back with him – letting him pick out which items he wanted to keep.
- My cousin Angela arrived late and was picking out gifts, spied my Aunt Liz’s wine and contemplated it for a moment until her sister Teresa informed her that the gift was “mom’s” and so she moved on from considering it.
- My brother Devin was being so adamant that we only open the gifts after everyone had picked theirs out. And then only then would you get to know what you got. That’s not how we have ever played – we always open them as we go. I found it curious until I realized why — he had contributed a very generous $50 Aldi’s gift card! Which my brother Dillon, current college student, deftly picked and kept – no one really tried to take it from him though I like to think I warded off potential stealers a few times.
- I brought 3 small bluetooth speakers which I was excited about giving out. Though my sister Emily got one and that day I had learned she had about 3 Echo Dots in her house so she didn’t really need one… But Teresa needed one and so she was willing to exchange her chocolate candy gift with her for it. I think Em was on the fence about giving it up, but since Nora had picked one of our own gifts out (she’s still learning the rules) I gave Teresa the speaker in exchange for a few of her Ghirardelli chocolate squares.
- And Nora picked out coffee on one turn – so I stole that. On another turn Ryan also stole her gift. By the end of the exchange Nora had picked out gifts about 4 times – which I think made her happy just to open the presents for everyone else.
I’m sure there were other sweet moments just like this – everyone taking care of everyone else above and before themselves.
I come from a special family. Everyone is kind. Everyone is generous. Everyone loves everyone so fully. God gave me a very special family and I am ever so grateful.
What a great reminder of what Christmas is all about!