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Old 12-28-2009, 03:24 PM   #1
johnsontrio
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Big Family? How do you guys do Christmas?

Disclaimer: I come from a small family and did not have nearby Aunts/Uncles/Cousins etc.. We spent vacations with them, usually during the summer months. Most of the winter holidays were celebrated with my immediate family, Dparents and 1 DSis and occasionally grandparents or family friends. Our holidays included a semiformal sit down meal.

Fastforward. I married into a large family that all live in the same geographic area. We have traditionally celebrated one day, either the Eve or Christmas Day, with DHs family and the other day is left for the in-laws. On our family day there are a minimum of 35+ people. The responsibility of hosting is rotated and is usually claimed by the first one to volunteer. Some years it is the week of Christmas before someone steps up to host. Only a couple of us have homes large enough to set up tables and chairs for 35.

Christmas has evolved into a giant potluck for the meal and usually not even enough tables for everyone to sit. The 16 grandkids range from 2 years old to 19 and they spend the day running around, playing Wii, on the computer, etc.. depending on their age. The adults are usually divided into separate rooms, clustered with those that they share an interest with, visiting. Many times we have one or two families that arrive hours later than planned (they just run late), meaning after we have eaten and everything.

The gift exchange is crazy. While we have a gift exchange for the cousins (children), there are some that buy for their favorites in addition to the name they drew. Godparents buy for their godchild even though some are left out, due to not having a godparent in the family. Some bring belated birthday gifts for some of the nieces and nephews. The kids all rip into the gifts at once and occasionally will open a gift that is not intended for them. We do not do an exchange for the adults. All the adult children buy for Mom and she buys for all the grandkids.

The result is that each year at least one of the kids will get their feelings hurt because of the gift situation. IMO they all get too much. I would rather see one gift per person, period, and any other gift exchanging be done privately, i.e. send gifts to their homes. I know that this will never happen in this family as they are very resistant to change. They also start the holidays late IMO, usually 3-4pm and eating at 6-7pm just before the small ones start falling apart. Funny how difficult it is to change what seems right to you, you would think I would have adapted after 20 years.

I am wondering what other people with large families do for Christmas/Thanksgiving. It has become a gathering like any other birthday, first communion, graduation etc.. I am sad that my DD does not have the experience of everyone dressed up for a formal holiday meal. It would be nice if we could all eat and visit together.

Do any of you have a hall holiday party? If so, then do you end up repeating this same scenario on Christmas Day anyway? Do families even have sit down holiday meals anymore? What are you guys with large families doing? How do you accommodate everyone? Any tips?
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:33 PM   #2
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We eat in shifts basically. We have never had formal sitdown meals with all of us.

The formal part is before we eat, we gather together, hold hands, say a prayer or something to that effect.

We use card tables and chairs.

Formal sit down meals are when it is just the immediate family.
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:09 PM   #3
Darcy03231
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We always do family Christmas with my side of the family the Sunday before Christmas and my mother has it (she has the largest house). We order out Chinese and everyone eats where they can find a spot. We never do a formal sit down dinner. We do presents at 11 am. If someone isn't there they get to open theirs when they get there. We don't buy for the adults, just the kids.

Christmas Day we stay home. Usually my parents come for dinner as my kids are older and my dad has had enough of kids and commotion on the previous Sunday.
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:24 PM   #4
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We didn't want to put any stress on our kids (between parents, step-parents, grandparents, boyfriend/girlfriends's family, our kids have so many places to visit) so we had our Christmas dinner/present exchange yesterday. I made an 11 lb prime rib roast, and several dips with crackers, and had all the kids bring a side dish. We did have to set up an extra table that was not in the same room as the main dining room table, just not enough room.

As for presents, everyone's name goes in a hat and we draw names. We set a monatary limit and everybody writes a list of things that they would like. Only the 2 grandchildren are not in the exchange. Everyone gets them something.

This all works very well for our family. First year to celebrate AFTER Christmas, but was very enjoyable and relaxing. No one had to run off because there was other people to visit. Definitely will do this again next year!
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:36 PM   #5
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Both of my parents have 8 brothers and sisters and they all had kids (that are my age), and most of them now have kids, and they all live around this area. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are usually anywhere between 40-60 people depending on who shows up. We usually have it at my aunt's house, we remove all of the furniture from the biggest room (the living room), rent (borrow?) big long cafeteria tables (that my Aunt decorates very nicely) and chairs from their church (we usually have 3-4 tables set up), and dinner is buffet style with everyone bringing a dish (many phone calls go out beforehand to make sure we don't end up with 5 of something). My Mom usually cooks 3-5 large turkey breasts and cuts them up before we get there.

We used to all do the gift exchange but it got to be too big of an ordeal so now all of the kids under 13-14 exchange names at Thanksgiving and get a present under $20 to be given at Christmas. The family's that rotate their holidays with their spouses either send the gift with another family member or if they're not there for Thanksgiving someone picks for them.

Two things are always guaranteed at our holiday get-togethers: it will be HOT and LOUD .

**I wanted to add that sometimes we do a "White Elephant" exchange where you just bring a wrapped gift of a certain monetary value and pick numbers and pick the presents, exchange the presents, etc. (I'm sure most people know what this is). This alleviates a lot of the headaches with all of the gift issues and little kids.
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:43 PM   #6
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Honestly OP, I don't really see anythign wrong with the way you described the large family gathering. That sounds like "Family" to me

-most of our family gatherings are potluck/buffet style. Food is pretty much out all day.
-the kids get turned loose and the adults find people with similar interests to talk to. No forced or awkward conversation. Everyone pretty much does what they want.
-For gifts, if there is an organized exchange, I would try to do that where everyone gathers at a set time and the exchange gifts are passed out in a somewhat orderly fashion. I see nothing wrong with godparents getting gifts for godchildren or late bday presents being brought. However I think those should be presented outside of the normal Christmas exchange (ie the godparents could quietly pull the godchild off to the side and present their present).
-Also, everyone has multiple family commitments to deal with. Some people work. With that many people it is hard for everyone to be there at the exact same time. We have always had an open door policy on holidays.
-As for the timing....not everyone is on the same schedule. If you know about it well in advance, people can adjust nap times for instance accordingly. We have "gasp" been one of those people showing up late due to DS needing a nap and us waiting until he woke up. Again, no matter what time is picked it will be more convenient for some than others.

IMHO OP, it sounds like what you want is the "Hallmark" version of a holiday, and in reality you got an actual "family" holiday. Either you need to change your expectations or start some new traditions with your immediate family. But to change the extended family gathering just doesn't seem practical.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puffkin View Post
Honestly OP, I don't really see anythign wrong with the way you described the large family gathering. That sounds like "Family" to me

-most of our family gatherings are potluck/buffet style. Food is pretty much out all day.
-the kids get turned loose and the adults find people with similar interests to talk to. No forced or awkward conversation. Everyone pretty much does what they want.
-For gifts, if there is an organized exchange, I would try to do that where everyone gathers at a set time and the exchange gifts are passed out in a somewhat orderly fashion. I see nothing wrong with godparents getting gifts for godchildren or late bday presents being brought. However I think those should be presented outside of the normal Christmas exchange (ie the godparents could quietly pull the godchild off to the side and present their present).
-Also, everyone has multiple family commitments to deal with. Some people work. With that many people it is hard for everyone to be there at the exact same time. We have always had an open door policy on holidays.
-As for the timing....not everyone is on the same schedule. If you know about it well in advance, people can adjust nap times for instance accordingly. We have "gasp" been one of those people showing up late due to DS needing a nap and us waiting until he woke up. Again, no matter what time is picked it will be more convenient for some than others.

IMHO OP, it sounds like what you want is the "Hallmark" version of a holiday, and in reality you got an actual "family" holiday. Either you need to change your expectations or start some new traditions with your immediate family. But to change the extended family gathering just doesn't seem practical.
I realize that there is no changing certain things.. This family always runs late, no napping babies involved. One year the turkey came 3 hours late to Thanksgiving...that sister is always asked to bring desserts now. I guess with a smaller family you can have a "Hallmark" Holiday and that is what I grew up with. I do enjoy a more formal meal with food on the table, as opposed to buffet, with linens, wine glasses and adult conversation. I make sure my DD has some exposure to formal dining when we are on vacation etc.. This year I bought chafing dishes for the family to use so at least the food can be served warm.

I really go out of my way to accommodate everyone. I hosted a baby shower here for one DSil and rented round tables, chairs and linens. It does seem a little more enjoyable to me when we can at least all sit to eat.

I guess my issue is that the "large family gathering" as you call it, does not seem like a holiday to me. It feels just like one of the very many gatherings we have all year long, only with more chaos and confusion.. It probably bothers me more than most since I am from a small family. I realize it is my problem and that I cannot expect to change anyone, least of all, people that are happy to have it that way.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverlandClub23 View Post
Both of my parents have 8 brothers and sisters and they all had kids (that are my age), and most of them now have kids, and they all live around this area. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are usually anywhere between 40-60 people depending on who shows up. We usually have it at my aunt's house, we remove all of the furniture from the biggest room (the living room), rent (borrow?) big long cafeteria tables (that my Aunt decorates very nicely) and chairs from their church (we usually have 3-4 tables set up), and dinner is buffet style with everyone bringing a dish (many phone calls go out beforehand to make sure we don't end up with 5 of something). My Mom usually cooks 3-5 large turkey breasts and cuts them up before we get there.

We used to all do the gift exchange but it got to be too big of an ordeal so now all of the kids under 13-14 exchange names at Thanksgiving and get a present under $20 to be given at Christmas. The family's that rotate their holidays with their spouses either send the gift with another family member or if they're not there for Thanksgiving someone picks for them.

Two things are always guaranteed at our holiday get-togethers: it will be HOT and LOUD .

**I wanted to add that sometimes we do a "White Elephant" exchange where you just bring a wrapped gift of a certain monetary value and pick numbers and pick the presents, exchange the presents, etc. (I'm sure most people know what this is). This alleviates a lot of the headaches with all of the gift issues and little kids.
This sounds like the occasional Christmas that I experienced as a child with my Mom's family. She was one of 8 children with spouses, kids etc.. We exchanged gifts by drawing names and there were never any additional gifts for a few. These Christmases were pleasant and I have fond memories of them.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:24 PM   #9
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Christmas morning is for immediate family gift giving. We have huge dinners usually at my moms or one of my aunts. If a kid gets a gift at dinner generally he does not open it there but the parents will stash it. We just have too many kids running around to keep track of who got what and at the end of the night some one use to loose a gift and there would be tears.

Dinner is served buffet style. There are just too many people for every one to get a seat at the table at the same time.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:32 PM   #10
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Your family event is much too large to realistically expect a formal sit down. In the gatherings I have been to that include large extended family...REGARDLESS of occasion, those meals are always buffet style with folks finding where they can to sit and the host having done their best to make sure there was adequate seating.

The gift exchange sounds like a greedy free for all for the kids. But the worst part is folks bringing extra gifts outside of the exchange. To me that is just a bit rude.

However--you won't change them, so you will just have to grin and bear it.

We have done gift exchanges all of DH's and my 15-year relationship except this year. This year was kids only and not done all together. But over the course of the years, we did the slow exchange with recognition. I didn't like how long they got and that was crazy. But outside of that--there is a compromise between a gift exchange that takes hours and an exchange that is over in less than 5 minutes.

But again--that isn't anything you will change. Outside of that, the event sounds rather normal for the amount of guests involved.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:34 PM   #11
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Christmas Eve is at Grandma's where all of DH extended family gets together. We do not do a gift exchange because we are talking 45 people! we just have a buffet dinner.

Christmas Day we spend with my family at our house because my side has little ones who still believe.

Then the Saturday after Christmas we spend with my DH side at our house. Everyone is off on the weekends and this arrangement works best for his side because they then don't feel like they have to eat and run to visit other family members. We usually get together in the early evening for dinner and we can take our time and have a nice visit.

Then that leaves Sunday to recouparate.
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Old 12-28-2009, 05:56 PM   #12
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We have our extended famliy Chistmas parties for my side of the famliy on 2 of the Saturdays leading up to Christmas. My mom's side does not do a meal, instead it normally starts at about 2pm and everyone brings a snack to pass. There are kids ranging in age from 16 to 5 and they all just hang out and play together. The adults normally break up into groups and talk or watch football.

On my Dad's we do have a meal, it is buffet style and everyone brings a dish to pass. There is always enough room for everyone to sit, but it is normally spread out over 2-3 tables and is not formal at all. The kids range in age from 2mos - 15years. The kids will play together, the last couple of years they kids and the fathers played video games in the basement and the women talked in the living room.

We have done away with gift exchanges for both of these parties. Both sides of my famliy have been hard hit by the economy so we decided just to get together and enjoy each others company. The 1st year we did it the kids asked about gifts, but after that it just isn't mentioned and I don't think anyone misses it.

DH's extended famliy meets on Christmas day in the afternoon, they also have a buffet style lunch. Here there are no tables, and everyone just sits where ever they want. They still have a gift exchange, but we only buy for kids.
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:33 PM   #13
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We gave up on tables when our gathering topped 40. Now we just buy a couple huge table cloths and tarp a rooms floor. We then do a picnic style meal.
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:54 PM   #14
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We have about 25 family members at our home Christmas Eve. WE serve buffet style, on paper plates etc. The first couple of years, I actually pulled out every dinner plate I owned and stemware. After hours of doing dishes, I quickly shifted to paper.

Our present opening is kind of a free for all too. Have you hosted the party at your home OP? I'm the first to admit to being an introvert, but after all the food/drink prep, mingling with everyone, I'm exhausted!!! Any way I can make this party easier, I'm all for!!

My mom has the same group at her home the next day for dinner. She does china/crystal/linens. For years, we daughters have taken turns doing the dishes for her. However, again, she has the task of preparing all the food/drinks etc. I don't know how she does it. Even with us doing the dishes, I know we put stuff away in the wrong place, etc. So still much work for her, after we helpers finish.
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:21 PM   #15
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I thnk is sounds fun and will make great memories.
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