Can we talk about the holidays? Don’t shoot the messenger – but it is coming up.
Here is the thing about the holidays: Sometimes we can find ourselves in situations where the gift giving feels a little out of control.
I know this was true in my husband’s family. He is the oldest, so when I came into the family I was just one more person to buy for. Over time, his other siblings got engaged, then married and then had children. After a while, the gift list became a bit overwhelming! We have made some changes over time, but it can be a tough topic to bring up.
We have found that suggesting a fun alternative, as opposed to just complaining about the expense and hassle of all the gift purchasing, has been met with enthusiasm. I suspect that you might not be the only one feeling overwhelmed, so your suggestions might REALLY be met with enthusiasm. You won’t know unless you start a discussion.
To help you start the conversation, here are some fun ideas to simplify gift giving that may appeal to your entire family.
In my husband’s family, the children under 18 all participate in a name draw gift exchange. There are 12 grandkids from 4 different families. There have been years that we literally put the names in a hat and had the kids draw them. Over time, it became easier for us to assign it, as we had some trouble with kids picking siblings over and over. I usually set it up, and I have done oldest to youngest, paired them up by age, paired them up by gender, paired the youngest with the oldest and met in the middle and everything in between. At our Christmas celebration, we all meet in the living room and each child presents her recipient with the gift. All the kids open the presents at once and then we go around and see what each person received. The kids love it and love to help pick out their special gifts to give. Set an amount to spend, so that the gifts are comparable and everyone knows what to expect.
The adults in the family (2 parents, 4 kids and 4 spouses, plus 1 child over 18) each bring a gift worth a certain value (we do $25) for a man or a woman (men get a gift for a man, women a gift for a woman). The wrapped gifts are placed in a middle of the circle and each person rolls 2 dice. If you get doubles, you get to pick a present. We keep doing that until everyone has one gift; we all unwrap the gifts and see what each person received. Then the fun begins! For a set amount of time (we usually do 3-5 minutes), the dice are passed around and when you get doubles you can trade with someone else. It is a ton of fun for our family and even the children cannot wait until they get to join the game. We love to see what the popular gift is, sometimes a person works to steal their own gift back and we have a rule that you MUST swap if you get doubles, so then spouses work together to keep coveted gifts in the family. We have two pie pans with dice passed around at the same time, so the pace is quick and exciting for everyone to play.
Give to Charity Instead
Another fun option would be to donate money as a family to a charity or even better, donate the money and all to work at the charity together! A donation to charity is a great gift idea for you to share with others for yourself, if you are battling against too much stuff and want to cut down on excess this season. The charity can be international or close to home – you choose!
Go On a Trip
My family did this one year, and we loved it! My father passed away a few years later, and I felt so blessed to have done this before we lost him. Instead of giving each other gifts, put that money towards a trip together. We went a couple of hours away to Lutsen, Minnesota in August of that year and had such a great time and made some truly priceless memories.
No matter which option you choose, it is always a good idea to begin the discussion as early in the season as you can (you may even want to suggest it for NEXT season at this year’s celebration) so people can get used to the idea of something different and come to a conclusion.
Good luck and happy holidays!
I have trouble with the need for grown adults to exchange holiday gifts. Unless you are an employer or gifting to show appreciation for a job well done, I think only children should be gift recipients. I may sound like scrooge, but really, giving adult family members gifts year after year just seems… kind of goofy.
I agree with Sherri. It is a topic that many adults in my family don’t want to talk about, but I believe we should just give gifts for the kids. I really enjoy just seeing family and eating great food, I don’t need anything.
I have proposed a fun “White Elephant” gift exchange for something fun that you already own and can regift or buy for $5. None of the adults have gone for that yet, but I keep trying. :)