Christmas in a BIG family

Get excited for a post from GIRL NINJA!!!!!!….

santa christmas

It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year (except for the summertime).  I LOVE Christmas.   The smells, the music, the decorations, the lights, the joy, the greatest gift of all time…I just love it all.  I get it from my mom.  She is obsessed- I’m not kidding.  Our whole house was transformed top to bottom with everything Christmas during the month of December when I was growing up.  Along with that, we have traditions upon traditions that are celebrated.  One of them….spoiler alert…is that we would open gifts on Christmas Eve.

Almost all of them.

This really gets to Ninja.  He doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand it, and doesn’t care for it. But, he loves me, and he follows our tradition for the sake of tradition.

Now that we’re all grown up, things have started to change.  Within the last 3 years, 3 out of the 4 of us girls (yes, I grew up with 3 sisters, no brothers) have gotten married, and my oldest sister recently had a baby.

The more the merrier, right?

WELL…that is until we make our Christmas shopping list. Now before some of you commenters get all Scrugey on me, we love to give gifts in our family, especially these types of giftsThere is more joy in the giving, than in the receiving for our family. This is especially true now that we are all older, and a little less selfish.

That said, a big family, a big GROWING family, means a big BIG GROWING list of gifts to purchase each year.  It can become quite overwhelming.  All in all, there are 10 people in my immediate family.  Then, we have Ninja’s side of the family (another four),  close friends, and volunteer gifts for those that work in my classroom.


Unfortunately, that’s not really practical. I’ve talked with my sisters and instead of getting each of them gifts this year, we are drawing names and will only be assigned one person.  It’s new, it’s different, it’s not tradition…but if it goes well enough, it might be!

Instead of buying 10 gifts, I’ll buy one gift, and Ninja will buy one gift. We have a larger budget for our gift recipient, which will really broaden my gift giving horizons. So fun!  Not to mention, I think Ninja will be happier as this new plan saves everyone money and there is no more insane hunt for that perfect gift for each of our family members.

How do you (would you) handle Christmas in a big family?  Are we the only family that still gives gifts pretty religiously?How do you tame your Xmas budget?

30 thoughts on “Christmas in a BIG family”

  1. My husband’s extended family (like, just including aunts/uncles and first cousins) is something like 30-40 people big, and they draw names every Thanksgiving so everyone only has to buy one gift. But we still celebrate with both of our immediate families too, and for that, everyone buys for everyone.

  2. Welcome to my nightmare! My husband has 10 first cousins on 1 side of his family and most of them have 1-4 children and every Christmas Eve they get together and everyone gives gifts to everyone else… I’m not the only one who thinks this is crazy but as an in-law it’s not my place try to change their traditions. In the first year after we were married I drove myself crazy trying to pick out the perfect gift for each individual family member (most of whom I hardly knew). In subsequent years I’ve tried to put less pressure on the gift selection process, though it is still arduous. I fervently wish for a Secret Santa system like the one you’re starting.

  3. My mom has 9 brothers and sisters. Of those nine, all but 3 have more than one child. Needless to say, our Christmas gatherings are a little hectic. To save money on the kids gifts, 3 or 4 of the adults would pool their funds and purchase a nice gift or two for each child. The adults would then do a name draw with a $50 absolute maximum to keep things easy for everyone. That way everyone gets to hand out a gift and nobody is overburdened financially.

  4. We draw names as well for my side of the family. 5 nieces and nephews get expensive to buy gifts for. Each adult is assigned one kid and one adult to buy gifts for. So instead of buying 10 gifts every year my wife and I buy 2 kids gifts and 2 adult gifts.

  5. I have a very large extended family as well — so large that even buying small gifts for everyone would be very expensive.

    We get around this by holding a Secret Santa with an explicit price limit. We pick the people we’re going to give a gift to mid-November and then give the actual gifts on Christmas.

    People may be surprised to find that we still enjoy each other’s company around the holidays despite the relatively sparse gift-giving, but we stay up late, laugh, and cry, and otherwise catch up and have a great time 🙂

  6. I am so glad to see more people are going this route. It just gets crazy when the family extends too much.

    We have done the “secret santa” type thing where everyone puts down 3-4 gift ideas on an index card and then everyone draws a card. That resulted mostly in everyone requesting gift cards…

    So now we do a White Elephant/Chinese Christmas/whatever variation, where everyone brings a gift that is more universal and you play the game and everyone still ends up with one gift. It’s a fun activity if everyone is in the right spirits, and everyone is spending time together. We love it!

    • We gave up the secret santa/drawing names and have been doing white elephant for the last several years too. We always have a lot of fun ‘stealing’ gifts from each other & it works pretty well (unless someone violates the rules and gives a gag gift that’s neither funny nor anything anyone remotely likes). We all compete on who can bring the gift that gets stolen the most and it’s a lot of fun.

  7. I also have a VERY large immediate family that has several different segments due to re-marriage. We’ve been drawing names amongst us siblings and plus ones for about a decade. It’s nice to focus on just one sibling (in one side of my family I have four siblings) or plus one in the mix than having to worry about buying for all! Now that we also have some kids in the mix we still all buy for them, as well as all buy for our parents.

    It’s a nice way to give!

  8. Last year, my side of the family did only homemade Christmas gifts, which was a lot of fun. This year, we have decided NO gifts for adults. There is one newborn in the family who will get gifts, but everyone else is over 18. Instead, each person is buying their own gift! That way, you get exactly what you want and spend exactly what you are comfortable spending. A lot of people may find this boring, but as a money hoarder it’s a good opportunity for me to actually buy something for myself and not feel guilty.

  9. My wife and I were able to get our siblings to agree to not exchange anymore once we started having kids so we just buy for nieces and nephews.(7 total)

    We spend about $35 or $40 on each which I don’t mind especially since my kids make out well in the process.

  10. Hmm…when I was a kid, I used to get multiple gifts from all of my parent’s friends. As I got older, I got less and less gifts. Now I get none and give none. Sad? Probably, but that’s my life as it stands right now. Actually it’s kind of nice not worrying about how much to spend on others and how much we should get back in return. I feel like the exchange of gifts can lead to “unequal valued gift resentment” :/

  11. I am one of 5 girls and 3 of us are married and between us have 13 children. For years we bought for everyone but now each adult gets another adult to buy for (my parents are not included in the modified draw) and then each child is given a name for one of their cousins (again, modified draw so siblings don’t buy for each other, etc.). Although there are less presents this has really helped keep the focus on Christmas itself and not just the frenzy of buying leading up to Christmas and the craziness of opening/receiving way too many presents on Christmas Day.

  12. Both Hubby and I have the opposite situation; we both come from very small families, no children on my side, and Hubby has very little contact with his niece and nephew due to his brother and ex-SIL’s divorce. The only people we exchange gifts with are my Mom and Step-Dad, and we do token gifts with Hubby’s folks. Between me, Hubby, my sister, and my Dad, we decided years ago to stop the gift exchange; Dad’s retired, so we didn’t want him to feel obligated in having to purchase gifts for us. We still have holidays meals with each family, though.

  13. On the hubby’s side we do a drawing and gift exchange. As for the rest…
    I try to pick up things throughout the year. If I find something I know the person will like, I get it, wrap it and put it aside. The bonus part is if I have bought the gift early enough in the year, I sometimes forgot what I purchased so it’s a surprise for me as well as the recipient. This year, because it’s a tight budget year, we’re doing the crafty thing such as cookie platters and wreaths made by me with the help of hubby. The crafty gift thing means a busy week during Thanksgiving and the first week of December to get things made and delivered so they can be enjoyed before the Christmas holiday…

  14. I have eight brothers and sisters. We are all grown up (the youngest is 25). There are also four spouses. We flip between secret santa and white elephant each year. (Last year I found and gave a pair of brand new white Reeboks with the straps, size 12, at Goodwill. It was epic.)

    Every year there is a crazy drawing of names. This is the first year that I used a website to generate for us. Best. Thing. Ever.

    I am in no way affiliated with the website. I just love it because it’s totally awesome-sauce. It even has a way to set it up so each person gives/gets more than one gift. There’s also a way to exclude certain people (because the first time I did it my one sister was assigned her husband, she was not happy).

    Great post GN!

  15. There are just six adults and three kids on my side of the family, but we still do a gift exchange. Although, last year and this year we didn’t because money is tight. Instead, we just give gifts to the kids and I do stockings for my parents because they join us on Christmas morning.

    There are, however, six children and six adults on my husband’s side of the family. We don’t traditionally give the adults gifts at all, but everyone gives the children gifts. Because our money is tight this year, and buying 5 children gifts cost us more than what we spent on our own child, I made ornaments for all of them and we are giving them a board game that most of the family can play together.

  16. It is called Kris Kringle when you draw a name and buy a gift for someone.

    It is very popular in Australia where I live and we do it at work so no one knows who has bought their gift – sometimes people get joke gifts which is great and we have to open our present in front of everyone. There is always a price limit and to date I have never had a dud gift.

  17. I have two brothers (one married with 3 kids, one hopefully engaged soon), and my wife has a brother/sister-in-law with 2 kids who live in Switzerland (which makes gift-giving difficult, due to shipping, etc.)

    For my family, we all buy gifts for the kids (no kid should go without gifts on Christmas) and my mom, but for the brothers/couples we’ve set a per-couple limit ($30 for each brother/significant other pair, or $60 total since I have 2 brothers/significant others) on what everyone can spend – that way, no one goes overboard, but we still buy something for each other (my family doesn’t do birthday gifts at all, so we felt it important to keep up the gift-giving tradition, albeit at a smart budget). For my wife’s family, we again buy gifts for the kids (which we ship together with my in-laws’ gifts), but we don’t do anything for her brother/sister-in-law since it’s hard for us to get anything to them (and they don’t want to go thru the hassle of getting us gifts either). It seems to work…

  18. My parents, sister/brother-in-law, and I/my husband decided this year, for the first time ever, that we are only buying presents for the kids. My sister’s kids as we do not have any personal children. We have dogs and they aren’t expecting anything for Christmas.
    It got to the ridiculous point of everyone buying gift cards for each other, or buying things that no one wanted or needed. The sentiment was sweet, but the gifts most often got put away in a drawer, and gift cards just don’t cut it. It was like, I give you a $50 gift cert to Brookstone and you give me a $50 gift cert for Barnes & Noble. We might as well each keep our $50 and spend it on whatever the hell we want.
    I said that I thought we should go to no gifts. Sister/bro-in-law said, “Great Idea.” My Mom was doubtful at first, but then said that she’d go for it. Later she said, “Are you sure about this?” I told her that if she wanted to give me a gift, I wanted her and Dad to visit after the holidays and take me to dinner. I’d rather spend time with them than have another kitchen gadget or a pair of slippers.
    The idea of the Christmas gift is mostly now being pushed by retailers and sellers of advertising. I think the idea of a smaller, simpler Christmas is just what our family needed.

  19. A few years we have decide that instead of giving gifts, our family takes a trip out of town somewhere. Sometimes it turns out to be even cheaper than gift giving! Great post.

  20. I like the secret santa idea! I remember doing that in school and it was a lot of fun. A great thing about doing the secret santa is that the gifts tend to be a lot better than they most likely would have been if the “santa” had to gift many people.

  21. At an office that I use to work at, Christmas time was a very fun time of year. We would draw names out of a bucket and gift the person whose name was pulled out. Many of the gift were gag gift which made it even more fun!

  22. Great post girl ninja! I would much rather treat my whole family to a nice dinner at a 5 star restaurant and spend quality time with them rather than giving gifts that most likely will never be used. Memories mean a whole lot more than materials!

  23. I can not keep up with all the nieces nephews and children of close friends and so I have moved towards “family” gifts such as a zoo, public pool, or museum memberships that the whole family can enjoy. Or tickets to a play or an event, or a movie gift card presented with movie candy for a family trip to the movies, etc.

    Although I have 4 siblings, I typically only exchange gifts with the one I spend Christmas with. The out of state siblings get occasional homemade candy, ornaments or goodies. And occasionally I will get something from them. But it is always a surprise because there are no expectations or pressure to exchange gifts with them. I am not sure exactly how that happened. It’s just how things have evolved and everyone seems fine with it. Thank goodness.

  24. I have 7 siblings and my husband has 5. All married with kids of their own so you can see where gifts could get out of hand quickly. When kids were little we would draw names: if you had 3 kids, you would draw 3 names. Adults were not included in gift giving. We alternated hosting Christmas Eve and it was always a potluck event. Very crazy and noisy but everyone had a great time. Now the kids are all grown so we’ve gone to a “White Elephant” Christmas. Anyone who wishes to participate buys a gift for no more than $20. You draw numbers and select a gift in that order. A drawn gift can be “stolen” by the next numbered person. A gift can be stolen 2 times and still be up for grabs. When stolen for the 3rd time, that person gets it for keeps. This gift exchange is hilarious and so much fun. Just as crazy and noisy–if not more so. Since we are Irish, there’s usually a bottle or two of Jameson being stolen (and then opened for Irish coffee).

  25. My family used to draw names for Christmas gifts, too. Our family is so big that we had to do two different pools: one for the “older” gen and one for kids. Now that “the kids” are growing up and having their own kids now, we switched from drawing names to having one big White Elephant so we don’t have to further split up into different groups (and no one gets offended).

  26. With my family, my sister who is a very involved with environmental awareness came to a fantastic idea for the kids’ presents: they each bring 3 toys/ games that they are willing to give away and they all just exchange toys, really cute! and with the adults, yes, it still remains a huge expense 🙂

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