So I'm in a Secret Santa thing here in the office, and like so many things about Christmas, it's making me reach for my wine bottle well before my usual 10 a.m. start time, because I have now received no gift from my Secret Santa for the SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY. This keeps up, I'm gonna start throwing elves.

Editor's note: This is a Vrabel Christmas classic we're rerunning this week. Enjoy!

 

So I'm in a Secret Santa thing here in the office, and like so many things about Christmas, it's making me reach for my wine bottle well before my usual 10 a.m. start time, because I have now received no gift from my Secret Santa for the SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY. This keeps up, I'm gonna start throwing elves.

Let me back up a bit: No, I don't hate Christmas, except the shopping and parking and most of the music and the way it makes me engage in the near-impossible task of actually absorbing more debt into my increasingly hilarious floral arrangement of credit cards (somewhere in Visa Fortress, I'm fairly well convinced that a group of doughy shareholders does the "Beat It" dance every time I ring something up). Yes, I know it's better to give that receive, thanks you very much, hippie Democrats, Charlie Brown and the nagging voice in my head that keeps me awake every single night. And I know that people tend to be busy this time of year, especially people whose jobs, hypothetically, don't involve getting paid to write whimpery, self-absorbed columns about the absence of a daily tchotchke.

But there's something elementally disconcerting about signing up for a task in which the only required task is the giving of a daily present, and then realizing that at least one of your colleagues didn't quite understand the assignment, which by extension turns you into the kid at camp who sits forlornly at the side table while everyone else opens mail and fresh-baked cookies from their folks. Not purchasing your Secret Santa a present is like shoving a wagon full of newborn koala bears off of a cliff, only much, much worse. What else is expected in a weeklong activity with the word "Santa" in the title? It's not like there's a lot of confusion there, or that the activity is named "Secret Pete" or "Project Y" or "Farquaard Diddlypuffs." It's Secret Santa! And I am a simple man! Steal a few sugar packets and a stirrer from the breakroom, and I'd seriously probably send a handwritten thank you.

Note there that I did say "weeklong." I must confess that I'm new to the Secret Santa thing; in fact, this year is my first one ever, thanks in large part to my extreme unpopularity, so I agreed to participate because 1. I thought it would lend me a little sprightly sprig of holiday spirit and 2. I thought I might get some coffee out of the deal. This isn't a real lucrative undertaking; the idea is basically a little piece of candy or tiny gift per day. But I signed up partly because I figured it wouldn't eat up too much of my day, so imagine my considerable befuddlement when I learned that I was responsible for identifying and purchasing an item every day for like a week! A week! You think I can really snag seven days' worth of gifts out of the breakroom vending machine? Listen, I'm not the world's most thoughtful or creative guy, but there is only so much holiday cheer you can spread via Juicy Fruit and Sun Chips (incidentally, do NOT consume those two things at the same time - quite the blubbery mess).

Oh, it's not just me. This year's Secret Santa has gotten off to quite a rocky start in the newsroom; gifts have been missed, questionnaires not filled out, guys forced to give presents to other guys they don't really know, which makes us sweat a lot, backroom dealmaking. It's true: There are few things in this world that ring up the same kind of dark, troubled emotion as a Secret Santa week gone wrong. And it is a little startling how quickly the process devolves from a good-natured bit of festivity to a stark, serious game of sleight of hand, misdirection and outright lying - I imagine this is what it's like working for the federal government or major league baseball. In the meantime, I suppose I'll just have to steal my own sugars this week. Oh, and I also need to buy something for my person, which I've totally forgotten about.

Jeff Vrabel can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.