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If your extended family gathers to exchange Christmas presents...

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... how do you do it?

For about twenty years, the adults in my family (parents, siblings, spouses) have drawn names and purchased gifts, each of us for one person.  We established a price limit and requested wish lists to be sent out to the entire family via email so the giver/receiver combinations can remain secret.  (No one is required to purchase something from the list, but it can be helpful to have a starting point.)  Young children are exempt from the drawing -- they receive a gift from each family.  We also exchange little $5 stocking stuffers, usually something consumable, such as candy, fast food gift cards, toothbrushes, etc.  We choose a day or evening and gather at one of our houses to eat and socialize.  Then we go through our stockings and exchange gifts.

A few of us are becoming a little weary of our tradition and would like to try something new, but figuring out how to make a change seems to require too much effort.  No one has time(!).  I was hoping to suggest something different in an email this week and I would love to hear ideas any of you are willing to share.

How does your extended family celebrate?

 

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Everyone buys everything and my sister-in-law explains how she couldn't afford to. Every single year. It's just too much. 

I am dreading Christmas Eve more than I ever have in my life. Even though Oldest and DIL are coming (or because they are? So I cant bow out?) 

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We do draw names with my cousins & siblings.  And I've started using Elfster this year & it seems to help.
You could make them $5 gifts, or food treat, or a theme--just something different than you've done before.

Another option is a White Elephant Exchange (or Stealing Santa, etc.)  We did that for a few years, but everyone's junk wasn't as interesting as we'd thought.
Oh . . . and yeah . . . my brother gave our son the huge wooden stilts he no longer wanted his kids to play with?!?🙂

Honestly, we loved Thanksgiving = when there's no pressure to organize gift-giving.  Maybe you just drop the adult gift-giving & have the kids draw names!

ETA = On the other side of the fam, we choose a $30 board game to give each other.  This creates an automatic wonderful activity for the cousins to do together whenever they're together.

Edited by Beth S
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In the past we've played Dirty Santa with gifts and with gift cards. This year SIL wanted everyone to draw names. Each of us wrote our names on a piece of paper, along with three things we'd like to have. I'm pretty sure almost all of us wrote either a gift card (naming a specific merchant, restaurant, etc.) or cash. It was done on too short notice for any of us to really have time to think about actual gifts we might want. So we're all essentially going to be exchanging the same thing. It's stupid and DH and I hate it. At least Dirty Santa added a somewhat fun element to it.

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I have a big extended family who used to do it as you just outlined, but we stopped. For the past few years, we have only done a gift game with tree ornaments. This way, everyone from oldest to youngest, including great nieces/nephews can participate (or not). Each participant brings a wrapped ornament of any type. We draw numbers and play the game; “stealing” is allowed for three times per ornament. It is very fun. Fishing and crabbing themes seem to be the perenial favorites and most stolen. 😊

In my own family, which is also biggish, we have done “family” gifts instead of individual gifts. So, like a basket of “movie night” gfts to share or such. This year, we aren’t doing gifts at all, which is a relief to me, TBH. 

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Each family unit gives a gift to each person participating. 

My fam opted out; the weaponizing was ridiculous and we felt we were being taken advantage of having to give gifts to professionally employed adult nephews/neices who didn't give gifts to anyone, even the two children. 

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For extended family, only the children draw names and exchange gifts. Other family (great-aunts) also give gifts to all the cousins/children. But I still exchange gifts with my parents/brother/SIL/nieces, separate from the above and at another location. 

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We do a gift exchange just among my adult siblings--so, no one is responsible for more than one gift. If the sibling has a spouse and/or children the gift is generally for the family not just the individual--so, I got my brother's name and will probably buy a board game that his whole family can enjoy.

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In my family, the get together is my parents, my siblings, their spouses and nieces and nephews.  My youngest sister lives across the country and face times in most years, though some years like last year, she and her DH and now their new little one fly out.   My parents give gifts to everyone and generally each of our families gives a gift to my parents.  Those are the only adult exchanges.  Then, us siblings give gifts to all he nieces and nephews  who are under 18. All gifts within the family (ie all the gifts that we give our kids, including my DD22 are all given separately.  For us that is Christmas day, I dunno what the other siblings do with there kids.  For my family, Christmas is about the kids. 

 

For my DH's sister....they are pretty much the only two left.  DH's parents have both passed, and SIL has no kids.  There are no grandparents or cousins or anything either.  So, we give a gift from our family to SIL and her DH, and they get each of the kids gifts and generally one for DH and I also.   

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I'm very happy that we've done away with almost all adult-to-adult gifting in our families. It's glorious. If that's not an option, I highly recommend doing a White Elephant / Dirty Santa type exchange. It's much cheaper, it's low-stress, and it's FUN. 

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We have many places to be for Christmas and at each place we do it differently.  When we celebrate with fil, mil, dh's sisters', their spouses and their children we only get their children, mil, and fil gifts. When we visit with my family we only get gifts as we see fit.  Sometimes that means we don't get anyone anything, other times it means all the cousins get something, and other times it means I just get one sibling something. With mil's side of the family we do a yankee swap where you get a gift and put it in the middle of everyone, then people take turns either picking from the gift pile or stealing from someone else.  It is fun.

The tricky one used to be dh's grandmother's house where all his aunts, uncles, and cousins were.  When we married everyone bought everyone else a gift, which was over 20 people. A few years ago they changed it to everyone gets the kids gifts and then the adults do a pollyanna and pick one person to shop for.  We participated one year and just decided it wasn't worth it.  They still do the pollyanna but we just get things for the kids.  

Sometimes I wish we could be done with all adult gift exchanging but at the same time it is a lot of fun too.

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We're visiting extended family for Christmas and they'll all be coming to our air bnb for the exchange. This year, for the first time tradition, when we all gather together for Christmas, we'll do a white elephant exchange. When we're not all together, which is most years, we'll do a secret santa. Our drama, though, has already started in that one member of the extended family doesn't like white elephant exchanges, so we adjusted the rules somewhat to accommodate this person's dislike and added a secret santa. However, the family member is still choosing not to participate at all and it looks like the spouse won't, either. Their opinion is that gift giving should be a solemn time without games, it's not fun, and the family member never gets what they  want; someone else always gets it. But it gets really expensive (and boring) when we have to purchase gifts for parents, siblings and spouses, and teens and kids and watch everyone open 20 gifts. The white elephant will allow people to come last minute if they're able to and, really, that was the deciding factor for me. I would like all family to feel welcome.

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1 hour ago, wilrunner said:

We're visiting extended family for Christmas and they'll all be coming to our air bnb for the exchange. This year, for the first time tradition, when we all gather together for Christmas, we'll do a white elephant exchange. When we're not all together, which is most years, we'll do a secret santa. Our drama, though, has already started in that one member of the extended family doesn't like white elephant exchanges, so we adjusted the rules somewhat to accommodate this person's dislike and added a secret santa. However, the family member is still choosing not to participate at all and it looks like the spouse won't, either. Their opinion is that gift giving should be a solemn time without games, it's not fun, and the family member never gets what they  want; someone else always gets it. But it gets really expensive (and boring) when we have to purchase gifts for parents, siblings and spouses, and teens and kids and watch everyone open 20 gifts. The white elephant will allow people to come last minute if they're able to and, really, that was the deciding factor for me. I would like all family to feel welcome.

You know what I do for the person in my family who would hate the stealing game or simply not exchanging with adults... I get him a gift every year. This is one of my 6 siblings. He's the only one without kids and he is very much into Christmas being about getting gifts you want. So I buy him something on his wishlist no matter what I'm doing with my other siblings, which is usually just getting their kids gifts. I know it means a lot to him to celebrate in a way that is important to him. And I'm glad it is only him who feels this way because I couldn't accommodate everyone this way. BTW, he almost never getse anything, but his job situation is always such that i want him to keep all his money because he could desperately need it at any moment.

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Our family doesn't really have a rule - we each do our own thing.

Generally everyone buys for the kids (up to what age is not standard).  Most families will come up with something for each of the other families, be it a little home-made cocoa mix or (usually small) store-bought item.  Some people buy for each other family member individually.

I have always bought for everyone since I was a kid, so it would be hard to change it now, though I think I should figure out a way.  Actually I have scaled back a little by buying for couples vs. each sibling and their spouse/SO separately.  I have moved to giving most gifts in the form of gift cards, and I try to find a fun way to give the gift cards.  This year I bought a bunch of hard-case credit card holders into which I will place one or more gift cards.  I still buy fun stuff for the kids under 18 and somewhat generic items for the grown-ups.

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This will be the first time in 22 years that my siblings and I and our families all celebrate together with my Dad and stepmom.  My mom passed away in 1986 already.  We'll be flying internationally to all get to my one sister's house. 

My sister has had a Christmas eve tradition for many years now where friends gather to sing carols and drink mulled wine with fruit mince pies, so we'll join in with that.  The youngest cousin still believes in Santa, so we'll all play along while the kids receive their Santa gifts (adults to kids - although the oldest 'kid' is 22) on Christmas morning.  We have a Secret Santa amongst the adults with a £10 price limit.  We've agreed that uni students and high schoolers will get money/ gift cards.

We only every exchange gifts when we see each other, so for many years only had my mother-in-law and some years friends over for Christmas.

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We do a similar exchange, and I did growing up as well.

I do have a couple of suggestions for changing things up, one of which I've done and one that I think could work in some families...

  • Have a favorite things exchange in place of the stocking stuffers...each person brings five of one "favorite" (well-liked) item. It can be anything from free to $5, and it can be a favorite for any reason--it makes you happy, you use it daily, etc. It can be a mini-collection of related things instead of one item. Whatever makes the person happy. Everyone puts their name on five slips of paper, and they go into a pot. Person 1 tells everyone about the favorite item, and then draws five names. Each person who is drawn gets one of the items. Next person, same process. Make adjustments for repeats or allergies or whatever--obviously people can trade things themselves afterwards if they want to. Everyone brings five items and goes home with five different items.
  • Instead of stocking stuffers (or maybe main gifts), each family has something they bring x number of (1 per family unit or per person, depending on how you are doing it), and the items are combined into one gift per person or family unit. The grouping each year has a theme. Some people always do consumable items, but you could do lots of variations. 

HTH spark your own ideas if these are not relevant.

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Before we opted out entirely last year we had adults draw names at Thanksgiving so they had time to shop and then we started doing White Elephant Exchanges with a spending limit.  (My mom & step-dad, the 5 adult siblings, 5 spouses, 8 grandkids, a close non-related family with 2 adults and 2 kids.)

Past White Elephant Exchange Themes
1. Gourmet food items. It's consumable and practical.  This worked until 75%of the adults were put on restricted diets by their doctors.
2. Ugly Ornament.  Fun, but a lot of time was sucked into finding one and it's not a useful gift, so not repeated.
3. Pretty Christmas Decoration. Meh. Tastes differed waaaay too much for anyone to really enjoy it.  It was just going through the motions, so no one stole anything from anyone else because no one cared and we all had too much Christmas stuff anyway.
4. Gift certificates.  They were to movie theaters, restaurants, and local and online stores.  This allowed some flexibility for personal tastes because there's a whole menu, list of movies, and stocked items to choose from while still being to a specific place which creates some motivation for stealing. People enjoyed wrapping them creatively because we all knew they were gift certificates. Creative wrapping created some motivation to pick one over the others.

Kids (17 and under): Each family unit brings a gift for each kid. Teens almost always get cash from each family because they almost always want an expensive item their parents can't afford. Parents are asked for a list of suggestions/interest/hobbies/favorite themes and if the kid is saving up money for a particular item.  The parents ask the kids if they prefer cash, an item on the list, or a surprise gift.  Givers defer to the kids' preferences that go through the parent should the parent need to veto an item. The problem with this is that many parents have extended family members asking for lists of suggestions and some kids can't come up with more than a few ideas. For example, we were asked for 9 lists of suggestions each year: my 4 siblings, the close family friend, mom, dad, in-laws, SIL. Done.  I'm just done with that.

On my dad's side it's my bio-brother and me with our 5 kids total.  Last year we opted out of that too.  It was great! Now Christmas is like Thanksgiving with a meal and family time.  Very enjoyable.

How I broke it to people we were opting out: a chart.  I made our family tree on all sides and highlighted in one color everyone we buy gifts for.  Then I underlined the names of each person who asked me for lists of suggestions.  Then I wrote out the list of all the gift getters (including the adult exchange) clearly numbered to drive home how many people that is for us.  I wrote out another list clearly numbered of all the askers of suggestions to put a very fine point on that too. 

I took it to mom's house and showed her and my step-dad.  I took it to my bio-brother's house and showed it to him and his wife.  I showed it to brother in-law when he picked his daughter up from our house after a visit.  I called my dad and explained the numbered lists.  I showed it to SIL by one step-brother and then later to the other step-brother.  I messaged step-sister a pic of the chart.  I started with, "We're opting out of gift giving with you guys, but that doesn't mean we don't still love you.  Please don't get any of us anything either, we just want to spend time with you. We're not asking you to stop exchanging gifts with each other.   We can arrive later after the exchanges if you prefer that so you don't feel awkward."  Then I whipped out the chart and started explaining it.  No one argued with me and they all said they understood.  Did they really?  Honestly, I don't care, so I don't worry about it.   I'm done with all that.

Last year was the first year we didn't participate and it was perfectly fine.  People still got our kids stuff and insisted we come the whole time so we didn't fight that.  It was soooooo much less stress. 

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On one side of the family, we only do exchanges for the kids (many cousins!) This year, we decided to exchange picture books (most are 5 or younger), as they all have an absurd number of toys. It's kind of white elephant, in that the kids will each pick a random wrapped book. But no stealing, so hopefully nobody will get upset. Hope it goes well!

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On my in-laws side, we have 2 great-grandmothers, my MIL and FIL, then the 3 siblings and their spouses, plus the 11 kids. 

Our family and DH’s two siblings’ family units buy for the great grandmothers and MIL and FIL. We don’t buy for each other or the kids. Instead, we have a ‘cousin day’. We go the day before or after the gift exchange to do something fun with the kids. All they want is time with their cousins and they LOVE it. One year it was a combo arcade/bowling/movie/laser tag place. This year it will be an indoor jump park thing and chick fil a. (My ILs buy for the kids and each of their DC and spouses)

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Maybe similar to "Dirty Santa" but ours is not "dirty."

SIL's family had this tradition and we switched over to it after drawing names. Everyone brings a gift for under ?$ (insert your limit here, ours is around $20). They are wrapped and get stickers with numbers. A second set of stickers with same numbers are being mixed in a container and every family draws a number. This is the gift you get. No stealing.

Gifts are supposed to be "general purpose items" that can be useful to anyone, IOW chocolate, fuzzy socks in various sizes, candy, tool set, etc.

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On 11/27/2018 at 6:35 AM, heartlikealion said:

Everyone shops for everyone and we all go broke lol 

Sorry not helpful 

 

Yep this.  Except there is always a couple family members who don't buy for anyone. 

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We don’t do any adult to adult gifting. We adopted my husband’s family tradition - you get presents from whoever wants to give them until you graduate from high school. After that, you’re off the list. Adult children often give a gift to their parents, but not always. 

My family was everybody gives gifts to everyone. However, we should have put a stop to that decades ago. There are people who always give and people who always receive. The people who receive always moan about how they can’t afford to give gifts and the people who give always moan about how no one ever thanks them, which is true. So, yeah, they should have put a stop to it long ago. 

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We used to give to everyone (extended family really isn't too big), but then it evolved into grandchildren 18 or younger receiving a small ($5) gift from each family, and all other adults would draw names (so would give and get one present).  My parents -- who have always hosted Christmas in the past -- for the first time are suffering major health events and will probably not be hosting this year.  (They're 90.)  I'd just as soon stop extended family gift-giving altogether, but now great-grandchildren have entered the picture and I know that some of the parents of those great-grandchildren are wanting the gift tradition to continue....

 

 

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