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Old 12-03-2013, 03:28 AM   #16
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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.
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:21 AM   #17
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We have been trying to 'narfle that garthok' for years. ("Conehead" movie reference. )

I suggested NO GIFTS at all however I think that went over like a lead balloon.

I would just go with buying for the kids. That means you are going to have to include the kids that their parents are in a bind and expect nothing in return for your kids from them.

This is actually a nice way to go and the kids love it.

We have bounced around with that system and then also buying for everyone. We have also tried doing names, other stuff, etc and frankly it is just not the same.

So my vote is that you tell family we are buying for kids. Make sure to tell everyone including your family "in a bind". Tell family that is financially strapped that you understand they are strapped and that you are going to buy for their kids anyway and that they are not obligated to purchase gifts if they are not able to.

I am going to be sending out that message TODAY as well. Good Luck!
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:18 AM   #18
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Xmas isn't time to dwell on other family money issues.

It's the time to dwell on giving from your heart to your financial ability.

Giving doesn't have to be plastic junk from china

Craft table might be fun or making and decorating gingerbread houses. Kids would get to spend time together and play.
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:28 AM   #19
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I'd just let the gift exchange go this year. If they have 5 kids it's not just one $25 gift, it's 5. I would never want to upset someone or make Christmas awkward because they didn't have the money to buy presents. I know you said you like them opening gifts together but it's really just one less gift for each kid.
I would not do a dollar store exchange. It sounds like doing a gift exchange just to open something
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by ksjayhawks View Post
What about having the kids draw names and buy for that person, setting a limit of $10?

You could also set up a cookie decorating table/movies/etc.
I'm pretty sure this is the way they're already doing it and the problem is that one of the families (with lots of kids) is stretched too thin this year.

To the OP, I'd also steer away from gifts this year if it were us, but if you really want them to open gifts together how about just dropping the "Secret Santa" exchange part? You and your other siblings who are able just arrange for there to be a modest gift under the tree in advance for each kid; you don't have to belabour who the gifts have come from. At a certain point in the evening just gather everyone around and hand them out - all the kids get one and nobody has to feel bad about what they did or didn't bring. Merry Christmas!!
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Old 12-03-2013, 08:02 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NMAmy View Post
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 no longer do a gift exchange with our nieces and nephews. It got too be too much about the gifts so all of us decided to stop doing and instead focusing on just spending the holidays together. It has been great, and I know my kids will remember playing games better than they will remember opening some toy from one of their cousins.

OP, I think its a good idea to have things the kids could do, like crafts, or a gingerbread house, etc, but I bet a bunch of board games and Christmas movies would be just as good.
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Old 12-03-2013, 08:24 AM   #22
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Im not sure how the four families is connected but when we had the same tradition going to my grandparents house for xmas eve and exchanging gifts it just got too much once the grandchildren were getting married and having kids.

For example there was me and my sis (4 great-grandkids total), my parents, my aunt/unce then their 2 kids (had 5 kids total) and my grandparents.

Me and my sis really couldnt afford buying gifts at 22 years old for our families then also had to buy for 5 of our cousins kids. My sister bit the bullet one year when she got a present re-gifted from one cousin (that she had given) and the other cousin bought stuff from the dollar store (no biggie but we were spending 20-30$ gifts. She put an end to it and I was perfectly happy with that.

So what we ended up doing was still having xmas eve- no more exchanging gifts for the kids but great-grandparents bought stuff for them.

The next day my parents, me and my sis and our kids had dinner together and she and I still bought presents for each others kids but didnt give them at xmas eve.

Not too long after that year we stopped doing xmas at my grandparents (since our parents were the grandparents now) and we had our own xmas and my uncle and his family had their own and swapped off my grandparents every other year.
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Old 12-03-2013, 08:55 AM   #23
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I just don't go with 'organized' gift exchanges. Period.
And, I don't think that focus should be on gifted material items.
Sure, kids love gifts. And the exchange could be just for the kids.
But, not only does that put a focus on material things.
It also adds stress for the families.
In my family, some have been givers, some have not.
Some bring token gifts and goodies.
Some just love to buy for the children.
There were times when Mom was not in a position to give, but we all wanted to give something special to Mom.
And, everybody understood that it was not 'organized' or 'equal'.

Those that want to give should be cheerful and discreet givers.
And, those who receive should be gracious.


Last edited by Wishing on a star; 12-04-2013 at 09:24 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-03-2013, 10:39 AM   #24
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I like several of the ideas here--including the cookie decorating or crafts table (I think gingerbread houses might go over better, but hard to say not knowing the group), and just making it a party (volunteering could be difficult since there are also several very young kids).

One idea that I thought of that I have not seen mentioned:

If everyone lives sort of in tech same area, can the grandparents suggest that this year they really want to take the kids out (one family group at a time) to shop fir their cousins, and they are picking up the tab? They think it would be fun to be with the kids picking items out, and have even all the parents be surprised by what was purchased, etc.

The two families who are in a good financial place right now can actually give $$ to grandparents to make this happen, without any of the kids, etc knowing about it. All the kids would get a day out with grandparents, everyone would get a gift from their cousins, and no one would feel "too poor" to be a part of things

Love some of the ideas here. I may steal a few.

1) the regifting idea is great. I can imagine the laughs my family would get trying to explain some of the gifts.

2) scavenger hunt. I think I'm going to try this one out.
3) game night iwth popcorn etc

I, myself would probably NOT let the gift exchange go especially for the little ones. We enjoy watching them open up a small "goodie".

Now like Ndisney in my family the seniors make sure all the babies get a gift. LOL, I'm fast approaching that position. For most of us 60-70 dollars is not going to break us so we're very happy to do it. I have a cousin in NC who makes a list of all the 8 and under crowd in the family and then we phone conference like mad.

Truthfully I don't think giving little kids a cheap gift automatically means the emphasis is on getting a gift. It didn't mean that when I was a youngester, it wasn't the emphasis when my kids were toddlers/school age


Op, all the ideas were really great, don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

Have a happy holiday
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Old 12-03-2013, 12:03 PM   #25
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We've played a game where we wrap up something small in a box and then put that inside another box and so on and so on. Heavily taped with packing tape. You roll two dice and if you get doubles it's your turn to put on oven mitts and try and get the package open.
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Old 12-03-2013, 12:32 PM   #26
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Another suggestion:
Have favor bags for all the kids, they could each include a more expensive gift such as a DVD, small Lego kits, etc. and some smaller goodies. These could be given as something from all the adults. That way each family could pitch in money for it or not, but all names still included.
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Old 12-03-2013, 01:27 PM   #27
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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?

I completely understand not wanting to make people feel bad and it's great that you're being sensitive and coming up with some creative ideas, but I would discuss it with them. It seems like this is a Secret Santa situation, right? To suppose that five $25 gifts are too much for a struggling family to afford is a pretty big assumption. It might be a tradition they really enjoy--taking their kids out to shop for the cousins. Definitely offer the options, but if they say that they want to go ahead with it I wouldn't question it. To me, that just kind of feels judgy--it's likely the gifts will go on credit, and if that's what they want to do I kind of feel like, even thought it's not sound finances, it's still kind of their choice and it's not a dire amount of money. Honestly, just because there is a $25 limit, they might control the cost by steering their kids towards cheaper items.

I'd definitely show them that you are thinking of other options and suggest other options, but be honest that you're doing it because you don't want to put them in the tough spot of needing the shell out $25 each kid--tell them you know it's expensive and you don't want them to feel like they are obligated to do this because no one will be disappointed with another option. Say that you'll work with them make any of these other options work, but if they say they want to go ahead with it, just let it go. It's Christmas, and they might really treasure the tradition $125-worth. I'm sure that they're constantly reminded by how cash-strapped they are, but this might be one area where they don't want to have to have the discussion. It might be easier for them to cut back on gifts for each other, or what have you, but they don't want their Christmas tradition to be one big reminder of their financial situation.
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Old 12-03-2013, 02:03 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wishing on a star View Post
I just don't go with 'organized' gift exchanges. Period.
And, I don't think that focus should be on gifted material items.
Sure, kids love gifts. And the exchange chould be just for the kids.
But, not only does that put a focus on material things.
It also adds stress for the families.
In my family, some have been givers, some have not.
Some bring token gifts and goodies.
Some just love to buy for the children.
There were times when Mom was not in a position to give, but we all wanted to give something special to Mom.
And, everybody understood that it was not 'organized' or 'equal'.

Those that want to give should be cheerful and discreet givers.
And, those who receive should be gracious.

I just wanted to say how much I agree with this-- although I understand organizing Secret Santa for sure as a way to make things easier or less awkward in the short term, it does set up an expectation around what is "fair" or "normal" in terms of giving or receiving gifts. There kind of isn't a fair or normal! What about cousin A who is closer to cousin B and notices something they'd like to give to or make for cousin B if they have cousin C for Secret Santa? That stuff will creep up sooner than later, I bet. As a kid, I asked my mom why one grandma gave me $15 and the other gave me $75, and that's how I learned that some people have more money than others. You learn to be gracious and enjoy the occasion irrespective of "gift opening".

I was shocked my first Christmas with my fiance's family that everyone opened up rounds of presents at the same time. His sister even kind of still kept track of how many each person had! His mom always felt pressure to make sure everyone had the exact same number of presents. In my family, Xmas morning was a marathon affair where we really belabored each and every gift on a completely individual basis, and honestly we still sometimes say the gifts are from "Santa" (even though we're all grown up) when it's a particularly silly or extravagent present. Everyone knows who it's from, but we do it to make the point that it's really coming from the spirit of the season, and the gift purchaser is just kind of a conduit for it. I honestly can't imagine keeping track of who does or doesn't give each other presents--I just focus on what I'm able to give that year and happily receive whatever I get. It's definitely more awkward in the short run to explain to kids, but I think it's more realistic and easier to manage in the long run. Come Xmas time I could never organize one big Secret Santa among family and friends, and there's no method to the madness--it's great to start early making those decisions and compromises around what you have the time and money to create and give. Some years everyone will get something, and some years you just won't make it to everyone on your list, and that's OK, too.
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Old 12-03-2013, 02:09 PM   #29
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For some organization would cause stress for some release it.

Can't imagine it being anyone's business to say what is right for others.
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Old 12-03-2013, 02:25 PM   #30
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OP, you might want to weigh how no gifts in this one celebration will dampen your kids' Christmas experience versus the stress and anxiety a gift exchange for this celebration brings on the family no doubt already overloaded with stress and anxiety about finances and the holiday. I would guess there's no doubt the outcome there.

If you do a craft idea it might be nice to come up with some simple Christmas ornaments the kids can make. When my girls were young they did this with some of their cousins for a few years as part of our Christmas get togethers and those ornaments hold a very special place of honor on our trees -- cousins' trees too. I completely get that boys may not be so very interested in crafting, however I overcame this issue by carefully selecting what they made. One year they made ornaments by wrapping thin gauge wire around Christmas cookie cutters to be hung with ribbon. With Pinterest and the internet as a whole more of a resource this year I think you can come up with something simple, fun and memorable.

After a quick ornament session a fun game or scavenger hunt for the older ones and a classic Christmas movie for the littles should be lots of fun.
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