A box of chocolates and a bucket of popcorn -- That's what I finally went home with after this year's Yankee Swap at the office. I did everything I could to leave with a giant nutcracker, but people kept stealing it -- again and again. And I was NOT happy.

I know the "rules" for a Yankee Swap. And here's one cardinal rule. Once a gift has been swapped (stolen) three times, it's "frozen" and can't be swapped (STOLEN) again. But here's the problem: Nobody else seems to know the "official" rules. They also don't like having a referee.

It seems like every year I get into an argument with someone about the rules for our Yankee Swap. So this year, I decided I'd solve the question once and for all and Google it.

Lo and behold, guess what I learned? There are as many different rules for Yankee Swap as there are different names for the game: White Elephant, Dirty Santa, Secret Santa, Chinese Auction and Yankee Doodle are just a few of them. What you call it generally depends upon what part of the country you come from. Of course, here in New England, it's a "Yankee Swap"

I also learned that the history of the game takes us back to the Civil War when there was a holiday tradition of trading prisoners of war with the enemy. Apparently the Yankees and the Confederates swapped prisoners as a sort of game to lighten the atmosphere during the holiday season.

Wow! That doesn't sound fun. At least, not if you're the prisoner. But it certainly puts into proper perspective my petty battle over candy and nutcrackers!

There are some modern day rules, however, that I would like to share, whatever you call the game:

1. Your gift must be something you don't want

2. Something you already own

3. Inexpensive

4. Wrapped

5. Only swapped three times

6. And the most important rule: YOU MUST HAVE FUN!

As I sit at my desk snacking on yummy chocolate and salty popcorn, I'm thankful that ugly nutcracker went home with someone else ... just wait until next year.

Gail Huff is a reporter at WGBH-TV (Channel 2). Send comments to ghuffbrown@gmail.com.