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Give a gift, receive a gift with the Box of Many Things, an online low-cost/no-cost gift exchange
The Box of Many Things is an online Secret Santa gift exchange that anyone can sign up for and participate in. It is run by members of the Dungeons & Dragons and RPG Twitter community, @owlbear and @ilivedinacake, and the unstinting “Thingers” are encouraged to create a care package for fellow like-minded people, spending no more than $25 in the process.
A friendly online community
Some people, parents especially, might be cautious of joining online gaming communities, perhaps seeing them as potentially dangerous places with little policing. Sadly, in some cases this is true. But–happily–there are also safe communities that exist to solely support and encourage one another, and even to give gifts to complete strangers. One such community is found primarily on Twitter and made up of friendly like-minded people who enjoy all things geeky and fun. They call themselves “Thingers” and use the hashtag #BoxOfManyThings to celebrate their giving and receiving of gifts.
I first became aware of the Box of Many Things after seeing photos posted on Twitter from happy recipients showing off their generous care packages. These included all manner of geeky, fun, and often home-made gifts. I was jealous. I instantly wanted in, and so began investigating how to get involved.
How to take part
Once a month the call goes out via social media for those who would like to sign up, with both local and international options available, and each month around 100 people sign up and commit to sending out a Box of Many Things care package to a randomly assigned person. A few days later, after everyone has signed up, “Thingers” eagerly await the details of their beneficiary and begin collecting/constructing their gifts. A participant has the chance to make suggestions of things they are interested in receiving; these can be anything from a standard set of dice, Dungeons & Dragons minis, Doctor Who stickers, or comics to the more unusual and esoteric such as Swedish fish, Bollywood films, the works of Gustav Proust, and Aztec sporting iconography. (I’m sure these have all been suggested at some point!) Then it’s simply a case of collecting whatever you can find that you think might fit the bill and carefully packaging and posting it with a note letting your recipient know who you are so they can thank you. It’s really that simple.
A great crafting opportunity
As well as fantastic chance to give and receive some well thought out presents, the Box Of Many Things presents a great crafting opportunity for anyone who loves making things. After all, what better way to share your homemade felt-lined dice tray, hand painted clay models of Terry Pratchett characters, or amazing Critical Role-inspired artwork with someone who may just think it’s the best thing ever!
So far, my Box Of Many Things recipients have each received one of the aforementioned homemade felt-lined dice trays and have seemed quite happy with them–thankfully, the gifts boxes aren’t given a score and I haven’t had any requests for people trying to send them back. I’ve also had great fun making them. I use antique photo frames that I recently inherited (discarding the old faded photos of people I don’t know), replacing the glass with felt, and then applying some luscious wood wax to make it shiny and nice.
I have also received some pretty awesome handmade gifts: in particular, a beautifully pyrographed dice box featuring an image of a LEGO D&D character from a photo I uploaded to Twitter. That’s the amount of thought and love that goes into it all!
How it all began
It all started early in 2017 when, inspired by gifts he had recently received, Joff (@owlbear) began thinking about Secret Santa gift exchanges and how this would be a fun thing to do on Twitter–a great way of making new friends and growing the community.
He sent out the call to arms and, with fellow “Thinger” Corey (@guthreee) at the helm, the Box Of Many Things rapidly became a thing of its own. But, as these things often do, it fell to the wayside after a couple of months. Thankfully, with the aid of Lesley (@ilivedinacake), it was revived a couple of months later in its current reworked form. Now, amazingly, each month there are around 100 participants that share in the delight and wonder of sending and receiving cool stuff in the post.
I contacted Joff and Lesley to ask what the most impressive gifts they’d seen were:
Joff: That’s incredibly difficult to answer and it’s challenging calling out one participant. So many Thingers send homemade arts and crafts. We have one participant who has made props from Overwatch and Doctor Who and they are absolutely stunning. I have been a little envious. We have others that make gaming accessories, paint miniatures, create artwork, write D&D one-shots, and decorate their boxes inside and out… The list goes on. You can view my Moments to see the kinds of amazing gifts exchanged. Every Thinger is a star; they continue to impress and amaze us.
Lesley: Seeing people be creative–writing, art, making things, exploring new ways in which to create too–makes me really happy, there is nothing quite like watching people rediscover their creative self.
All About having Fun
Ultimately, the Box of Many Things is all about having fun. Thingers are reminded of this when they sign up each month:
“Please keep in mind this is all about having fun, sending and receiving gifts, meeting like-minded folks, and making new friends. There is no pressure to spend outside your means. We promise: Your recipient will love your gift no matter what you send.”
My experience absolutely rings true with this. For a start, I just love getting mail that isn’t a bill, a summons, or a parking fine. But I have absolutely loved every item I received, and looking forward to receiving my Box Of Many Things parcel each month helps get me through some of the more difficult days in between rescuing Princess Zelda, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and occasionally looking after my 11-month-old son.
If you take part in the Box of Many Things or a similar online Secret Santa gift exchange, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.