Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Tips for Big Families

Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today's Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday. ~Gladys Tabor

Thanksgiving is past, we survived Black Friday and now it's on to the Christmas and holiday tips!

Long time reader, Patty, sent in these wonderful holiday tips:

I have a pretty big family and we have never had a lot of money, so Christmas was a tough time for us for a while. We tried doing gifts for the kids only, but that didn't work because someone always found "something perfect" for someone else and had to give it, making others feel left out or the recipient feel uncomfortable. We tried drawing names, and that didn't work for the same reason. So about 22 years ago we came up with this idea, and it has served us well ever since.

We give to everyone, but we have a "handmade or less than $5" rule per person. If giving to a couple, you can do up to $10 together. At first we thought we couldn't do it, but took it as a challenge, and have had so much fun with it ever since. You have to get pretty creative sometimes to do the right gift for less than $5. We have found some fabulous kitchen gadgets for cooks, make food mixes and treats for the guys and teen boys, costume jewelry or journals and a fun pen for the teen girls, puzzles, games, and so on for the kids. We have given babysitting or yard work certificates, coupons for Christmas light take down, seeds from a special flower, homemade treats galore, and ornaments that have become treasured. You get the idea. Not only do we get to have the fun of planning the perfect gift for everyone, we get to have the opening fun, too, and nobody ever feels left out.

The children have grown up with this rule, so they don't expect big-ticket items, and they enjoy planning what they will make for the family too. I have to admit, there have been a few (very few) times when someone has cheated for the "absolutely perfect" gift, but it involved spending $6 on that special someone, never spending $10. Amazingly enough, even with inflation, it has gotten easier to spend so little, rather than harder, probably because we have so much fun with it and we are all committed to the game.

When my husband and I got married, and his large family had a similar problem, they came up with a different plan. The children do a name draw about a month before, and for adults they do a "pirate exchange", where each adult attending brings a gift of $20 or so, suitable for man or woman. We sit in a circle and draw numbers out of a bowl. Then the person with number 1 chooses a gift, unwraps it, and places it on their lap. Number 2 can steal that gift or open a new one. If the gift is stolen, the original owner cannot immediately steal it back, but must take a different gift. Then number 3 takes his turn, and so on. A gift can have three owners, then the third owner places it under their chair, making it untouchable. When all gifts have been opened and the game is over, there is usually some further trading that goes on. This way, everyone gets something good, nobody spends more than $20, and it is a fun way to spend some time together. This is actually so much fun that we have used it for kids Christmas parties too.

As far as the Christmas dinners go, we have a traditional dinner on Christmas day. But with so many people getting together, we also do a soup dinner on Christmas Eve. Since I am always off that day, I make a couple huge pots of soup, and my family brings breads or appetizers to go with it. Needless to say, there is usually some sort of dessert, too. We attend church service at 4:30, then go to see a hot air balloon "glow" that we have nearby or drive around looking at Christmas lights, then home for the soup and gifts. All in all, it's a very satisfying way to be together, with very little pressure and lots of fun.

Hope this helps someone out there. It certainly saves us time and money, two things we could all use a bit more of, especially at the holidays. ~Patty

On OFL, Mary Emma shares tips on decorating the holiday table:

1 comment:

  1. Putting a price limit on gifts makes things easier and creative. Thanks for the tip. It's really all about family anyway, takes the away the whole bad gimme aspect of Christmas


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