Yesterday we were invited to a lunch-time party for the organisation we used to be seconded to. Many of them have gone to the UK or elsewhere for Christmas, but there were about 15 adults there, plus two children.
There was a buffet-style cold meal, where we all brought a contribution, which worked well. Then we played an approximation to the 'White Elephant Gift Exchange' game which has been popular in the USA for many years, and is gradually becoming known in Europe. The idea in a nutshell is that each person playing brings a low-value gift - either something they've bought, or something unwanted from their home. It's wrapped with no labels, disguised (eg in a huge box) if wanted. Rather than drawing numbers, we just went around the room - each person either unwraps a gift from the pile, or 'steals' an already opened gift they like the look of. If someone has a gift stolen from them, they can choose another gift from the pile to open, or can themselves choose to 'steal' anything already opened, other than whatever they have just lost.
The gifts were an interesting mixture, some naturally more popular than others. The first person opened a large package which contained merely a small plastic water-pistol. Nobody expected that to be stolen, but the two-year-old child playing decided to take that when it was her turn. One of the gifts was a three-pack of long spaghetti, another was a small jar of baby food, both of which looked and felt as if they could have been a candle. Neither of those was stolen at all!
A pack of juggling balls was stolen at least twice, as were two small Starbucks mugs, rather to my surprise. The most popular gifts, stolen the most, were - unsurprisingly - a large scented candle, and two boxes of chocolates. More surprising is that Tim ended up with the candle (he got to play last) and Richard with one of the boxes of chocolates. I had the other chocolates stolen from me in the very final round... and since there seemed no point stealing from either Richard or Tim, I opted to open the last remaining gift which turned out to be exactly what it looked like: a shop-made Christmas pudding. So now we have three...
After the gift exchange, we played a Christmas version of Pictionary in teams, and after that a game I had never seen before. Three teams were each given a packet of marshmallows and a packet of (uncooked) spaghetti, and told to build a tower as tall as possible.
Our team discussed strategy for a bit, then started building a pyramid using the spaghetti pieces in pairs, which worked well until we realised it wasn't strong enough for the second layer. As there was a time limit of ten minutes, we then worked harder (and more randomly):
We did eventually get to three storeys and it was fairly sturdy.
The second team didn't seem to discuss strategy at all, and forgot about making it all. In the end they produced a tower which looked like something created by Dr Seuss:
However the third team decided to take the challenge seriously. The person organising the game said that the tallest tower he had ever seen built in this way had four levels, so they determined to make theirs five levels high. And despite it looking distinctly precarious, it worked... standing alone for a minute when time was up: