The Karma of Kringle

Christmas is a time of giving, and this is keenly illustrated by the tradition of the Kris Kringle. A group of people committing to give presents to each other, often anonymously, and generally randomly, up to a fixed dollar value. It’s fair, fun and festive. However, what if people don’t play by the rules?

The other week I went out to dinner with my Toastmasters club for our Christmas break-up, and everyone who came had to participate in a Kris Kringle, up to a value of $5. The other rule was that everyone had to give a short talk on the present they got – well, it was Toastmasters after all.

It took me a long time to find something for no more than $5 that I would like to receive as a gift, and was interesting enough to be able to talk about. Ironically, once I left the shop, I immediately found something better, but I felt I had to stick with the original present. What’s worse: spending $5 on a $4 present, or $10 on a $5 present? I thought that the latter bent the spirit of Kris Kringle a little.

Unfortunately, on the night it became clear that almost everyone had cheated. Most presents would have been between $8 to $10.  One person appeared to have spent $15 on a $15 present – the RRP was printed on it! I get it that people may have valued their own time highly, and traded off searching time against present cost. But it was not a level playing field any more – not everyone was giving a talk about a $5 present, and some people were probably disappointed at what they received versus what they gave. Personally, I benefited, since what I received would have cost more than $5, but I felt a bit let down on behalf of the person who received my gift. If I’d known that the Kris Kringle was a minimum, not a maximum, then I would have shopped differently.

Should you keep to the Kris Kringle limit? Can you conscientiously break the implicit agreement between the group? Is it just about the giving, not the shopping? All I’ve been told is that Santa knows who’s been naughty or nice …