Gift Exchanges: How Early is Too Early?

Two hands holding up a sign reading Save The Date with Christmas lights in the backgroundIt’s called “Christmas Creep.” Every year, the holiday season seems to start a little bit earlier. If you’ve noticed rows of artificial Christmas trees butting up against racks of Halloween costumes, you know exactly what I mean.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re really into Christmas (guilty). But it can lead to some premature anxiety about the upcoming holidays. This is especially true if you’re involved in organizing a gift exchange or other event.

The truth is that getting started early – at least in terms of planning your gift exchange – offers plenty of advantages. That said, if you’re worrying about a Christmas party that’s still months away, stop. The whole point of getting a head start is to avoid the stress that comes from putting things together at the last minute.

Here are my thoughts on the timing of a holiday gift exchange, in terms of both planning and scheduling.

Planning Early

At the risk of stating the obvious, organizing a gift exchange is a lot of work. You could probably jot down a lengthy to-do list off the top of your head – but guess what? No matter how thorough you are, there are always hidden details and complications that pop up as you go.

Beginning the planning process early – even if it’s just to spitball ideas – can give you a better perspective on the whole project. That can pay off big time when laying out a schedule. You’ll want to have ample time to come up with theme ideas, order party supplies, and send invites, while also allowing for a decent-sized window for participants to shop for presents.

Of course, getting your planning done early also gives you flexibility in scheduling the gift exchange itself. Whether you should take advantage of that flexibility is another question.

Scheduling Early

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, not just those of us who have gift exchanges to organize. Having your gift exchange sooner rather than later can be helpful for people who have trouble fitting everything in. That could mean a better turnout, and better turnout usually means a better time had by all.

An earlier gift exchange may also catch people before “Christmas fatigue” sets in. In other words, your invitees may be in a more festive mood at the start of the Christmas season, before they get overwhelmed with parties, decorating, shopping, dealing with kids on break, and everything else that the holidays entail. If nothing else, guests might put more thought into the gifts they bring if they’re not hurrying to buy them at the peak of the shopping season.

On the flip side, some might roll their eyes at the notion of having a gift exchange closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas. I’m not talking about all-around Scrooges (we all know one), who won’t be happy no matter when you have your Christmas-related event. No, I’m talking about people who just take a little more time to get into the Christmas Spirit – in other words, folks who aren’t very fond of Christmas Creep.

When it doubt, it’s always a good idea to take a quick poll of your invitees. Every group is different, and what meets with approval in one case could produce a very Grinch-y reaction in another. Good luck!

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Roberta Jeeves is author of the book White Elephant Gift Exchange: Rules, Themes, and Ideas for Hosting a Perfect Holiday Gift Swap. You can buy or borrow it at Amazon.com.

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