Holiday imperfections/ and the Gift Game
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 21:28:06 -0600
RoseWind almost blew our holiday party. We still have a number of members 
who live "on the other side"-- in Seattle--- and have quite a trek to get 
here and back home. So we decided to not have our annual holiday party in 
the evening after our monthly business meeting, but rather to compress 
the meeting into a half day. 

Mistake! We had a lot of fairly loaded issues to examine, and all felt 
pretty stressed about pushing through things that seemed to want more 
time. We were however managing. Till the last minute, when blood sugar 
was low, the clock was ticking, and two members with strong opinions 
erupted in an emotional clash that set off a very intense discussion that 
just felt wrong to cut off, but we HAD to eat, and we didn't want to 
continue the meeting after lunch when we had been counting on partying 
from lunch onward. Yuck, and Oh Dear. 

The conflicting parties and some others continued the debate well into 
the lunch hour, in a side room. Ultimately, I tore myself away and got a 
much-needed plate of food and, to tell the truth, went outside and sat 
alone in my car to eat it and calm down!

When lunch was over, we gathered to decide how to proceed. Some felt they 
just couldn't party until the process was talked about, and some 
understanding reached about where things had suddenly gone "wrong", and 
how we could avoid this happening again. Others were eager to forget and 
party. We chose to have the process discussion in another room, while 
others started to party, but waited a half an hour before the 
gift-exchange game which we all wanted to participate in. 

That worked. About half the group ( a dozen people or so) shared how they 
had felt and what seemed to be the source of the upsets and what to do in 
future. All agreed that the agenda overload relative to the time allotted 
was a critical factor. By the end of the half hour, we were ready to move 
on, and most people seemed to have a fun time at the party. 

Just because you live in cohousing doesn't guarantee that you'll always 
be one big happy family. A family, quite likely, but with some of the ups 
and downs and less-than-picture-perfect moments that born families have. 

Lynn at RoseWind, Port Townsend WA 
PS- The gift-stealing game works fine with a group of twenty or so. If a 
group seemed too big you could split into sub groups. The rules are easy. 
Each brings a gift or White Elephant (a mixture of nice and funny items 
is usual). The wrapped gifts are placed in the center of the floor. 
Numbered slips of paper are made for the total number of people (number 
of gifts) and everyone draws a number. Person number one opens a gift and 
shows it to all. Number two can either "steal" any previously-opened 
gift, or choose to open a new one. This goes on. If your gift is stolen, 
you can then either steal an opened gift or open a new one. Sometimes 
there's a rule about how many times a gift can be stolen before it is 
"retired" and safe from further stealing (we let it get stolen three 
times). We had a lot of good natured fun with this! Gifts ranged from 
wool socks to chocolate, to a home-made wreath, and a box with toy 
crickets that chirped when you opened the box!
It was interesting to see that the basic game of what-can-I-get? was 
tempered with a lot of tacit cooperation to see that people who really 
wanted something got to keep it, if it seemed to matter to them. This 
quiet conspiracy ended up with almost everyone having something they 
really enjoyed. 
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