When I was in fourth grade at Christ the King School our most exciting holiday tradition was Advent Angel in December. In late November, all of the names of the kids in the class were put into a bowl. We each pulled a name out and were sworn to secrecy as to whom we selected. Not even our teacher knew. During each weekday in December, each child would sneak into the back coat closet and leave a wrapped present for their selectee. At 2 every afternoon, our teacher would gather all the presents and carefully announce the name of each person who received a present that day from their advent angel.
For a bunch of fourth graders who spent the rest of the day studying math, geography, history and the Bible, this half-hour exchange was high drama. Some people were raking it in. Bill Kelly opened awesome presents every day: chocolate, baseball cards, plastic footballs and the like. We figured he scored big time by being selected by a girl who had a crush on him. We were right. Some of the girls would get a dime store locket or a ring. You can imagine the oohs and aahs from the girls’ side of the room. And the catcalls and accusations of being in love tossed around on the boys’ side.
We spent time during recess each day in investigative teams trying to pry information from other classmates as to the angels’ identities. The name of your angel was never revealed until the last day and then only if the angel chose to lift the veil of secrecy.
Now this was all fine and dandy, except for one thing. I wasn’t getting any presents. It wasn’t mandatory that you be graced each day, but surely a few times a week, your angel would toss you a crumb of some kind. Midway through the second week, the most-asked question on everyone’s mind was not what were they going to get, but would this be the day that I got anything.
I asked the teacher if it was possible that my name was not included in the bowl. She assured me that she had carefully checked every name before the drawing began. Soon I began to really hate the torturous half-hour of advent angels. Everyone would howl in unison when the last present was presented and I was empty-handed once again.
As the third week began the teacher suggested to the class that my angel should consider sending me a message that I was not forgotten.
Sure enough, on the playground the next day a classmate named Kathleen said my angel was saving up for a really big present on the last day. I tried to act humble in front of my classmates in the face of this great gift coming my way. “I’ll be happy with any present,” I would say. “As long as it’s not peppermint. I hate peppermint.”
Finally, the last day before Christmas vacation arrived. My present was saved for last. The tension in the room was as high as a sudden death championship basketball game. Finally, my present was pulled out of the box. A long cylindrical present wrapped beautifully and adorned with lots of ribbons. As I tore the paper off, my eyes widened in horror and I and the whole class said in unison, “Oh, no, peppermint!”
Ever since then I have declined to participate in any type of secret gift exchange programs, even as a adult. A few years ago I was pressured to join one office Secret Santa program and I inadvertently caused an office uproar that lasted for days. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life when I had to reveal that I was the Secret Santa everyone was discussing.
Now I have my own business. We have few rules but you can guess one of them – no Secret Santa programs.