The Family Kris Kindle is a money-saver but Sophie White reckons the mental-distress incurred far outweighs any potential economic benefits
The arguments on the email thread start before the names have even been drawn.
"We're doing another Family Kris Kindle," my cousin's email begins.
To which my other cousin replies:
"I think you'll find it's actually Kris Kringle, there luv."
The inclusion of 'there, luv' really beautifully underscored the condescension and, in terms of the factional conflicts of siblings, was a truly impressive power play. However, it did mean that the thread was then completely derailed, diverted into the kind of rousing, two-hander of an argument families specialise in, particularly around Christmas. Argument A centred around 'Kringle' versus 'Kindle' while Argument B existed in the slightly more abstract realm of: "Why do you always have to be such a b*tch about everything?"
After a few years spent navigating an increasingly volatile web of email threads such as this one, I've seriously begun to reconsider the supposed advantages of the annual Family Kris Kindle (I'm firmly in the Kindle camp as you can see).
Are the the pros really outweighing the cons?
One gift to buy.
That's a lot of pressure to get that one, single gift spot on.
Less mental energy expended on who wants what.
Untold mental energy sapped by petty back and forths on the email thread or WhatsApp group.
Money-saving, yes. But at what cost to your sanity?
Our family Kris Kindle has been marred with controversy over the years. There is always mistrust around the allocation of names, for example. And I can confirm that the others are correct to be suspicious. My husband takes care of this aspect of proceedings with the considered and highly scientific approach of first asking me who I want to get in Kris Kindle, then deciding who he wants to get in Kris Kindle and then divvying up the rest, paying careful heed to any grudges he's been harbouring throughout the past year – who owes him money or who's been pissing him off – and ensuring they get the raw deal in terms of who to buy for.
The budget is pretty much ALWAYS ignored which, personally, drives me insane.
"Let's do twenty-is-plenty?" I open the bidding low, because, ya know, mouths to feed and what not.
"You can't get ANYTHING for less than €50!" exclaims my homeowner, bought-in-2012 cousin with no dependents. "I say fifty-is-nifty," she adds.
"Of course you do," I think, my eyes narrowed, she's got her eye on a Jo Malone candle natch.
"Let just round it off to an even €100?" ventures my aunt. "A hundred is splendid?" She tries for the rhyme and fails.
Even with an amount decided upon, all of them invariably wander off completely ignoring the figure, in favour of doing whatever the hell they want. Every year, this leads to an awkward disparity in terms of the quality of gifts exchanged. I try to explain but it's futile. My father-in-law, I'm fairly convinced, is only aware of the existence of one shop (Brown Thomas) and doesn't really examine price tags, so whomsoever should be on the receiving end of his generosity is guaranteed to score big. Meanwhile my cousin is a blogger and usually repurposes the less glam swag she acquires throughout the year into a box of randomness for her target – think sample bottles of perfumes released (unleashed) on the market by popular English YouTubers and sachets of diet tea of the kind one might receive free with a magazine or in the swag bag at a fancy event.
I would try to manipulate the system (aka my husband) to ensure that my father-in-law, frequenter-of-BTs, gets my name in the 'draw' but we've discussed this at length and decided it may arouse even further questions about the allocation methods. (This article could be pretty damning evidence, too...)
Another method we've attempted to make the FKK a bit easier was started by my very practical brother-in-law, who suggested we all say what we'd like for Christmas, so that everyone gets something they "actually like."
Was that shade for the cookbook and pestle and mortar I got him last year? My paranoid, driven-mad-by-so-much-contact-with-my-family mind immediately sprang into action.
On Christmas Day, the Kris Kindle in-fighting and back-stabbing invariably reaches a crescendo that even a carb-coma cannot assuage. Gift comparisons abound and often proceedings descend into a bartering session.
"How about you give me your Jo Malone candle and in exchange you can have my bathrobe and slippers set, and I'll do the dishes AND, wait for it I'll throw in this bottle of Zoella Eau De Bullsh*t."
That kind of thing.
I have a sneaking suspicion that we are all slightly missing the point of Christmas, though at least all the mind games and sabotage is bringing us together, physically at least if not emotionally, and really that's probably all that we can hope to achieve with our families at this time of year.