First Person - with Gordon Holmes

Gordon Holmes, Fife Free Press
Gordon Holmes, Fife Free Press
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THE e-mail dropped into my inbox earlier this week.

I know it’s less than six weeks to the ‘special day’ but it still came as a shock to the system when I saw those two words flash up on the screen in front of me - ‘Secret Santa’.

There are many traditions associated with the festive season - some have endured for over a century and Christmas would not seem the same without them, even if you maybe wish it would.

Others are a much more recent addition to the show, such as the current obsession with covering the outside of your house with as much seasonal tat as you can and adding enough lighting to make the Las Vegas Strip looks demure in comparison.

But that’s a rant for another time...

Secret Santa is another relatively recent phenomenon which will be taking place in thousands of offices and workplaces up and down the country.

This year, with the regular organiser having left the company, I thought it might be forgotten about in FFP Towers but no, one of my editorial colleagues has taken it upon herself to keep the tradition going - she’s a sensible girl most of the time as well...

Anticipation

And so, I await the drawing of names with eager anticipation (translation: resigned indifference) to see which of my unlucky workmates has the prospect of receiving a gift from the worst present shopper on the planet (self-proclaimed).

I mean, I have enough trouble trying to buy gifts for my loved ones, who I’m supposed to know pretty well, never mind someone who I work with but don’t really have a clue about their likes and dislikes.

Of course, it’s only meant to be a bit of fun so the best approach is not to take it too seriously and to keep it simple, and with a limit of £10 to spend, it’s not exactly going to be a gift they are likely to cherish for years to come...

But I still don’t like the idea of buying something for someone which they clearly don’t like, or worse, don’t get the joke behind it (which has happened more than once!)

Of course, you can hide behind the ‘Secret’ part of the process and never have to admit you were the giver, a concept which escaped one young female colleague a couple of years ago when she gave me a bottle of some strange alcoholic beverage (I don’t drink anything but beer)... and signed her name at the bottom of the card.

Generally my boring, fun-free persona means I get sensible, straightforward Secret Santa gifts, which is absolutely fine, but occasionally there is a pleasant surprise - the year I got the ‘Hollyoaks Babes’ calendar immediately springs to mind...

Inflatable

Saying that, this year’s event will need to go some to beat the bizarreness of 12 months ago when the gifts included a skimpy pair of lacy panties, an ‘adult’ colouring book, and what could best be described as an inflatable sheep, mainly because it was an inflatable sheep...

Said sheep was the cause of much hilarity but was never seen again after it went missing towards the end of the evening - reports that it was last seen escaping down the prom wearing aforementioned panties have never been confirmed.

And you thought us newspaper types were sensible grown-ups...

Before we descend into complete nonsense (‘too late’ - sensible Gordon), did you know the origins of Secret Santa can be traced back to a real person. Larry Dean Stewart (1948-2007) was an American philanthropist who from poor beginnings made his fortune, but never forgot acts of kindness shown to him when he had no money to eat.

From 1979 through 2006, Stewart made a practice of anonymously handing out small amounts of cash, typically in the form of hundred-dollar bills, to needy people. The total amount he gave away is estimated to be $1.3 million.

He kept his identity secret until just before his death, but the spirit of his legacy continues to this day.

Even if it is just in the form of an inflatable sheep...