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Old 12-03-2013, 01:49 PM   #31
marius97
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Originally Posted by kollerbear View Post
I think there are some awesome ideas here, but I'm surprised that no one is suggesting asking the family themselves what they'd like to do? Have they said that they're too strapped to do the gift exchange this year, or is this something that you guys are trying to help them avoid?
Though I'm close to my SIL (the one with the financial difficulties) I'm not close enough to be comfortable bringing this up. DMIL is the one that broached the idea of no gifts and this was based on her knowing SIL's situation (she helps her out financially at times.)

I love a lot of these ideas. A cookie decorating station (better not pack the fat pants away yet,) craft table, treasure map leading to a box of small presents, a gift for each kid from Santa. I'll pose it to the family and probably do some combination of those.
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:07 PM   #32
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I love the "Minute to Win it" idea. That should make for some great memories! You could have prizes for that. I also love the gingerbread house idea. The boys could do the "construction" and the girls the decorating.
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Old 12-03-2013, 08:37 PM   #33
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The kids would all enjoy making cookies. You can have sugar cookie dough already rolled out (or have the adults do it as needed) and have a table(s) set up with cookie cutters and also icing & sprinkles once they're baked. Or, prebake them and just have a decorating party. Maybe have them make the cookies for Santa?

Decorating an ornament for them to keep would also be neat...though it would definitely depend on the personalities of the older kids. The cookies would go over well with everyone. And, of course, gingerbread houses would be great also!

You can also turn Christmas Eve into a board game night. Start a new tradition!
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Old 12-04-2013, 07:55 AM   #34
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Why not take this opportunity to turn the focus away from gifts? The crafts idea sounds fun but a game night sounds even better. At holiday get togethers, we play games as a big group which involves both the kids and the adults. On Thanksgiving, we played Catchphrase and it was hilarious. It brought way more connectedness than the two minutes it takes for kids to open gifts.
We do this, too! So much fun and the kids actually enjoy it way more than gifts (yes, they really do!). We get together and make some kind of snack or each family brings a snack to share. We then spend the afternoon or evening eating and playing games. No stress at all and even the teenagers love it. Occasionally they will even ask a friend along to share in the fun.

I hope you are able to work this out without having any hurt feelings. We have been in the situation you are talking about and had to "opt out" of the exchange one year. It was the next year we decided to do family game night instead and I don't think any one of the families would ever consider going back to the exchange. We have too much fun with the games and junk foods!

We also have a back-up movie for when the teenagers get tired of the games. Doesn't have to even be something current. One year we found Gremlins in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. The teens were amazed at the lack of technology in the movie and laughed about the clothes and hair styles. I wasn't sure they would go for it, but it turned out it was a lot of fun.
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Old 12-04-2013, 08:19 AM   #35
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....what's a "family gist exchange"?

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Old 12-04-2013, 08:21 AM   #36
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....what's a "family gist exchange"?

Seriously? Gift exchange. It was a typo.
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Old 12-04-2013, 09:44 AM   #37
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Board Games

What about each family purchasing one board game? That would cut out individual gift giving but encourage family fun!
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Old 12-04-2013, 11:31 AM   #38
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Seriously? Gift exchange. It was a typo.
.....uhhhhh.....j/k. [ ]
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Old 12-04-2013, 12:02 PM   #39
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How would you handle a family gift exchange when one family out of four is not on sound footing financially? This family works hard, but has three kids (one severely autistic,) and two step kids. The last several years we've had just the kids exchange gifts (like a secret Santa so each kid only buys one gift) because the adults don't really need anything. This year it was floated (not in their presence) to not exchange gifts at all. I really want to be supportive, but I also don't want to dampen my kids' Christmas experience either. They'll still get gifts from Santa and the grandparents, but part of the fun is seeing all the kids open presents together on Christmas eve. Is there a way to keep that feeling alive without alienating the family or hurting their feelings? I though about just doing gifts with the two other families that can afford it, but then that isn't fair to this one family. I thought about having someone in the family offer to pay for the gifts that this family would have to buy, but they are too proud to accept it (just as I would have been when my family didn't have money years ago.) We've always done a limit of $10-20 on gifts, but I think this year even that will be too much for them. Thinking as I write...what if we created a big arts and crafts table at our get together and have each kid create a gift for one of the others? I know Christmas isn't about the gifts, but it is about the memories that are made and one of the ones that I cherish is that of opening presents with my extended family. But that memory isn't worth making a family member feel bad about their situation. And I've used the gift buying experience to teach the kids about what Christmas means as well as how to handle and budget money. Does anyone have ideas on how to make sure that the kids still have that memorable Christmas experience?

ETA: To clarify, the kids are split fairly evenly between 8-13 and 1-4. I think that older kids would like a crafts or cookie decorating table and some of the younger ones would like it too. The ones that are too little wouldn't appreciate gifts anyway. Santa gifts come Christmas morning and each family opens them on their own. Christmas Eve has always been the gift exchange and grandparent gift opening time. Even when I was thinking about just doing gifts with the families that are able, it would never have been in front of the other family. It probably would have been through the mail, but that would eliminate the joy of gift opening with their cousins.

You should be discussing all this with all families in question, including the one that you say can't afford the gifts. Making plans without one of the families involved in such plans giving their input and discussion is never a good idea.
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Old 12-04-2013, 06:54 PM   #40
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marius97, I just want to give a great big hug for taking your family's situation into consideration.

My family was in a similar situation about 8 years ago and my extended family could have cared less. We had no income and were living off our credit cards. On Christmas Day my ADULT cousin spent the whole day bragging about their upcoming trip to Disney World. By the time we left my aunt's house I was so upset and depressed that I was crying. My aunt asked me, "What's wrong? Didn't you get what you wanted for Christmas?" I was in my 20s at the time and she was treating me like I was 5. My extended family would never, ever give up their gifts to spare my feelings. They would rather pretend the problem doesn't exist and hope it goes away.

So whatever you decide to do, know that you are doing a kind and wonderful thing.

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