Ultimate Yankee Swap Fighting – Extreme Championship Home Edition


This weekend, Andi and I hold our seventh annual Christmas party. We began this tradition the year we were married (in part to celebrate our swanky new digs but mostly to find a time in the hectic holiday season to tip a glass of good cheer alongside our close friends) and we haven’t missed a year yet.

Over time, we have worked the schedule to try and offset the myriad of other gatherings that we all field innumerable invitations to attend. While we used to hold the event closer to Christmas, we have tried to steer clear of the big day.

Of course, this experimentation has introduced its share of lessons learned. One year, we held it the very next day – December 26th – out in the wild frontier of Dudley but quickly realized that fixing the fiesta so late in the season was a dicey proposition, as a raging Nor’Easter took root midway through the party, sending some of our guests scurrying for safe harbor. Most made it, a few broke down and ate each other, and Andi and I took note of an important calendar concern. Therefore, we have since decided to position the party just after Thanksgiving.

While the party itself is your standard holiday affair, with a vast menagerie of friends (both new and old) jockeying for space in the kitchen leaving every other room in my home spacious and accomodating – I’ve tried to spice up each event with something special to remember the occasion by. The pic above comes from one of our first parties – held in our former home in Brockton. That year, Andi and I (and a growing group of friends) tried to schedule themed dinner nights as a loose excuse to booze. When we drew our straw, we decided to marry our dinner event with the Christmas Party and gave the entire evening a Mexican theme. Oh, you haven’t experienced pure unadulterated glee until you’ve seen Mookie’s eyes light up at the arrival of Papa Navidad and his great big sack (read that anyway you like).

Last year, we co-opted Festivus and had a holiday for the rest of us. While I didn’t get a pole to decorate the homestead (the garden shop was fresh out and I wasn’t buying one of those imitation ones), we did offer up the Feats of Strength (made possible by my newly procured Wii) and the Airing of Grievances – which I took the liberty of drafting canned grievances for anyone who didn’t come bearing a grudge. (Example – “When are you people going to leave?” – signed, The Two Dogs Staring at You From the Deck).

Early this morning, inspiration hit me where it often does – the shower. (Hey, while you’re busy using the shower for more practical purposes like cleansing your cuticles, ex-folliating your phalanges or waxing your washboard, I’m dreaming up game shows. Now I know how Wink Martindale got his start… and his name.)

Anyway, we’ve run a Yankee Swap since the dawn of this party and for the most part, it’s been a success. The rules have been simple. The gifts must be of the joke/gag variety and they must not cost more than $20. The point is less about procuring that must have item (let’s be honest people - your taste sucks!!!) and more about having a little spirited fun. As los ninos have joined the herd en masse over the years, the rules have been augmented a bit to remind people to try and keep these gifts clean. (Leave the Edible Panties at home but by all means, bring on the Edible Manatee.)

For this year’s party, I decided that while the Feats of Strength will return – with a Wii Tennis Tourney in the offering (and YES – BIG BIG PRIZES!!! – I just hope the entrants don’t already own Wasabi-Flavored Yoshi Panties) – we needed to mix up the Yankee Swap a bit. So here’s what I propose.

Ultimate Yankee Swap Fighting – Extreme Championship Home Edition

I know what you’re thinking. It looks like I just pulled a ton of random words out of the dictionary and mashed ’em together. Not so. There is a method to this madness. First off, is there anything more EXTREME than calling something EXTREME? So right there, I’ve driven the hipness quotient of my party to EXTREME levels.

The bottom line is Yankee Swap is old hat. Everybody does it. It’s like those tired old Christmas letters everyone sends out informing their friends and loved ones how much better they have it then you. (For those watching their box, ours should be hitting any week now – read it and weep.)

The other thing about Yankee Swap is it is much too polite. The whole point of the event is to reach deep down into your bitter Yankee heart and ruin someone else’s day by taking what was once rightfully there’s. Yet, how many Yankee Swaps have you been part of where someone unwraps a faux-pony fur oven mitt and proclaims it as their ‘precious’? I tell you what – I could open a 102″ Plasma and I’d gladly drop that on you for the pure unbridled pleasure of taking those Sea Monkeys away from their new family. Sucka!!!

So I decided that this year, I would jury rig the Yankee Swap to encourage a battle royale. As with every other Yankee Swap, we’ll draw numbers from 1 to 61 (or however many gifts we have). The person with #1 will choose first. #2 will pick a gift and will then have the option of liberating from #1. And down the line we go. When all is said and done, #1 will get the opportunity to look out over the great bounty of gifts and take from the selection.

But here’s the rub.

I have drawn up a series of Pop Culture Holiday Themed Trivia Questions. Each person – before they select a gift – will be presented with a question. If they can answer the question correctly, they move on to the next round. Those that get their question wrong are exempt from this side battle. After everyone has had the chance to answer a question, select a gift and then choose to keep or take (including #1) we will continue firing questions at those people who successfully got a question correct until we are down to one person. That person will then win a prize guaranteed to suck (I know because I’ll provide it). They will then be charged with regifting this new ‘gift’ upon someone else among the crowd and taking their ‘precious’ away from them – meaning the true winner will walk away with two gifts and someone else will walk away with the worst gift at the party. Nobody is safe. Not even #1 (unless #1 is the winner of the Trivia Contest).

The gift has been bought. The trivia questions written.

I’ll post the results next week.


Comments now closed (15)

  • For a guy with a wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs, a job, a house, a blog, and a billion friends….you have way too much time on your hands…

  • @Aunt Sharon – The mystery of my time is an easy one to unravel.

    I have never seen one episode of either a CSI or a Law & Order (and that includes their fifteen spin-off shows). When the kids are asleep, and my wife is catching up on her daytime TV or reading a book – I sit around trying desperately to chase the doldrums of my nine-to-five by exercising my creative side. Believe me – I wish I could get paid doing this stuff and some days I’d much rather just hunker down and find out what’s what with Horatio Cain but I can’t shut that part of my brain off.

    Don’t get me wrong. I still have my favorite shows – it’s just that I won’t randomly channel surf so if it’s not Lost, The Office or 24 – then more likely than not, I ain’t watching.

    And my world is either all the better… or the worst… for it. : )

  • First: “Now I know how Wink Martindale got his start… and his name.” NICE!

    Second: I, for the second year in a row, will be contributing the best gift in the swap. We should just force the first person to open mine and see how many times it gets stolen. Yes, it is that good and if you don’t think so, you don’t get it.

    Third: I don’t understand all these fancy new rules, but if it encourages more swiping, then good for all. You are right, the past years have been much too polite and civilized.

    Last: What’s with the cop out on the Papa Navidad pics? Why not just show everyone what you meant by Mook salivating over his sack… or rather, get all up and… well… you know…

  • @Sean – I have no problem with you directing the first person to your gift. Let’s have a little pool off to the side to see how many times it gets picked.

    As for the rules, they remain the same. It’s the same old Yankee Swap you are used to. The difference is that everyone is in the running for a special second gift (assuming they can answer their trivia question). Once one person is left standing and is left to open the mystery gift – they are forced to trade it with someone and take a Yankee Swap gift from them. Basically, I am guaranteeing that at least one gift will be taken from someone.

    And isn’t that what Christmas is all about.

  • @Sean – “Last: What’s with the cop out on the Papa Navidad pics? Why not just show everyone what you meant by Mook salivating over his sack… or rather, get all up and… well… you know…”

    C’mon, man. This is a family site – as if my constant references to wasabi panties and santa sacks didn’t make it abundantly clear.

  • I hear ya… now, I can’t remember if you have ever directly posted it within these pages, but I did leave a link to it within a comment. I teased the photo for Tim and followed up with the link. For anyone interested in that photo — has Kerry seen this yet? — it is linked within this comment and also appeared on a lovely pink t-shirt we had Mook wear for his bachelor party. So, if we had him display it in public, it can’t be all that bad, right? 🙂

  • Let’s put it this way – I put that pic on his wedding photo DVD so if it is ‘decent’ enough for that, then I guess it is fit for public consumption.

  • In the event of a tie, will there be a Lightening Round? Shoot-out? Extra innings? Pie toss?

    And since The Office is off due to the Writer’s Strike…Lost and 24 have been delayed due to the Writer’s Strike…The Patriots only play on Sunday or Monday night now…I guess you DO have way too much time on your hands!

    Please post immediately what Sean’s Yankee Swap gift is, the Vegas oddsmakers are hard at work to come up with the Over/Under on it being picked First. And I would appreciate a posted quiz of the questions, for the benefit of The Uninvited!

  • @Aunt Sharon – I will absolutely post the questions. In fact, I’ll post it as a contest and only those who did not attend the party can enter. The answers will be posted a few days later, after I get everyone’s submissions. I’ll even offer up a prize. Incidentally, I have 60 questions drafted (all came from my head – no Internet assistance). If I run out, I’m screwed – so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

    I do have a back-up plan. As I was digging around for a box to hold the questions in, I came across a former game I invented – containing about 100 additional trivia questions. This one was for Andi’s 30th Birthday party – and married 80’s trivia questions with some photoshopped pics of classic 80’s scenes. The name of the game – Andi Land. Every time a person got a question right, they got to remove a piece of the puzzle obscuring the full photo. Once a person removed a piece, they got a chance to guess at the picture behind it. Each pic had a twist (for example – through my mad Photoshop skills, Mork & Mindy became Mook & Mindy – and you had to guess Mook & Mindy to actually win the round).

    Other than that, the only other game I invented was a sport called Boozeball. The description of that one deserves a post of its own.

    As for The Uninvited, in order to keep the guest list somewhat manageable (I say somehwat because we currently have 58 people RSVP’d to show up) we kept the invitee list aimed at non-family members (the thought being we see the fam around the core holidays, but not so much, the friends.) That means my own parents would get the boot should they try and vault the velvet ropes. They’re not on the VIP list.

    That being said – in addition to being family, I consider you and Uncle Ron (and Jess and Jason) friends. You most of all as you are one of my faithful readers AND contributors. So, if you guys don’t have anything going on, you should totally come. I’ll send you the Evite. I believe Jason and Karen are already coming so if you can bump it over to Jess for me, that would be great. (Keep it quiet though – I don’t want an in-familial incident on my hands.)

    As for Sean’s gift, he now has quite a bit of pressure on him. I think I’ll post a photo gallery of all the hands it makes its way into that day. Sight unseen, put me down for 3 owners.

  • Ah, my Dear Ed-Man! As much as I would love to attend such an exciting event, unless your parents DO storm the gates and demand entrance, I am afraid I would put myself in the unenviable position of being the oldest human there, unless you count the Spirit of St Nick, who might have only a few years on me! That would definitely set me up as a future trivia question, and I just cannot deal with that! I think you should keep the bar at YOUNG mothers,the old one will be at her own version of the bar!

  • You’ve had time…where are the questions???

    And I am not getting any help from my future daughter-in-law….The WINNA’!!

  • In due time… I’m going to NYC tomorrow morning. I’ll be writing the post on the train and will have it up (with pics and the questions) by Wednesday.


  • Okay….have a good trip…tell Hank and Hal they are doing a FINE job with dad’s team!