News staffers share Christmas memories: Five-layer wrapping and other gift games

My mother is the Queen of the Christmas game.

We’ve had various crowds at my parents’ house for the annual Morrissette Christmas Eve celebration, but regardless of size, one thing is for certain: There’s going to be a game.

And the games always involve prizes for everyone. That’s just how Mom rolls. The prizes aren’t huge or anything — Aplets and Cotlets, cans of Almond Roca, packages of caramels — but the prizes really aren’t even the point. It’s just a chance to laugh and have fun.

The year Mom wrapped individual sleeves of chocolate doughnuts in different sized packages for a “can’t open until the very end” Yankee Swap stands out, as does the time she let us pick out our prizes, only to have to pass them to the right every time she read “the” in The Night Before Christmas.

Last year, Mom mixed things up. We were a relatively small crowd — just under a dozen — but when she brought out just five packages, I knew something was up.

Mom broke down the game for us: The packages were each wrapped five times. My daughter Abby would ask 25 Christmas-themed questions, and the first one to answer got to unwrap one layer of paper on a package of their choice. Once a package had been unwrapped all five times, that person got to keep its contents.

The questions began, covering everything from the lighthearted (“What color is Rudolph’s nose?”) to the serious (“What were the names of the three wise men?”). The presents were passed and unwrapped, until all five were uncovered. Mom finally gave the okay to look inside.

They were all empty.

“That’s not even the real game!” Mom laughed, bringing out a basket filled with treats. The real game, it turned out, was that we were divided up into pairs for a roll-off. Whoever got the highest number got to pick a prize, until, of course, everyone had something.

I came away with a can of Almond Roca feeling pretty good about myself. So what if I had to roll five times before winning?

The thing about these games is that I remember the details of what we played more clearly than what we ate or what we gave each other. It’s a goofy tradition that we all tend to look forward to, no matter how much we (okay, I) complain.

P.S. The Wise Men were Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, and the only one who actually knew the answer was my then 7-year-old Johanna. She definitely earned that bit of package unwrapping…

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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