The process in the chain letter describes sending one present, valued at $10, and then receiving 36 gifts in return. You would send your $10 gift to the first "sister" on the list, move the second on the list to the first spot and then put your name in the second spot.
Sounds fun and cheerful, right?
According to Snopes, very few people report actually receiving all 36 gifts.
Also, the website points out that according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, gift chains are illegal under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.
"Recently, high-tech chain letters have begun surfacing. They may be disseminated over the Internet, or may require the copying and mailing of computer disks rather than paper. Regardless of what technology is used to advance the scheme, if the mail is used at any step along the way, it is still illegal."
The inspection service does point out that chain letters asking for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed because "such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law."
So, good-spirited holiday cheer or gift exchange dud? You decide.