Author Topic: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year  (Read 4256 times)

Gray Matter

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Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« on: November 14, 2014, 07:22:12 PM »
I've put this in the Antimustachian Wall of Shame and Comedy, because we are actually increasing our gift-giving this year and I wanted some advice. 

The backstory is that my family (parents, siblings and their families) scaled way back on gift-giving at Christmas years ago.  We might buy my mom or dad a gift if the perfect thing occurred to us, but there was no expectation of it and they were generally inexpensive.  My sisters and I agreed to forgo gift-giving, and instead our kids (cousins) would exchange gifts.  It meant that our kids would each have about three presents to open on Christmas, most of the time the adults had none or maybe one or two, and the emphasis was on other things (a wonderful meal, being together, etc.)

BUT, as the kids have gotten older and don't want anything other than video games, iTunes cards, etc., there really is no joy in giving anymore at the holidays.  It used to be fun watching the little kids unwrap and get very excited about wooden castles and Legos and other wonderful gifts, and we all lived a little vicariously through them and are missing the fun of gift-giving.

The other piece of the story is that my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, and was in hospice at this time last year, with little expectation of making it until Christmas.  She hung in there, but ended up in the hospital right before Christmas with what they thought was a stroke or metastasis to the brain, and though she got out of the hospital right before Christmas, my sister, her husband, DH, the kids, and I got a stomach bug and spent Christmas quarantined in a one-bathroom cottage to keep all of our nastiness away from my mom.  It was a shitty (pun intended) Christmas, and I was so sad at the thought of missing my mom's last Christmas. 

Surprisingly, my mom rallied, got kicked out of hospice, and is doing awesome (all things considering), and we all want to go a little bigger for Christmas this year.  We have decided that the adults will exchange gifts for the first time in over a decade.  But we don't want each adult to have to get a gift for every other adult, so we're looking for something that is a little more fun and animated than drawing names.  Does anyone do anything fun with white elephant gifts, or picking and stealing gifts, or any other general silliness that my family normally avoids like the plague (we all feel like a little levity this year)?

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2014, 07:53:22 PM »
My family discussed drawing names, but it seemed unworkable as family sizes and incomes were so different and some members were inclined toward hairsplitting. Hard feelings developed, aggressive Facebook statuses appeared, and my sister no longer attends extended family Christmas at all. So... proceed with caution!

I like the idea of a white elephant exchange in which people bring things they already own. That way, no new crap is purchased. And everyone has stuff in their house that they don't like or use that much but that someone else might want.

GizmoTX

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2014, 07:54:12 PM »
We've done the gift grab game for many years with DH's family on Christmas Eve. Each participant brings a gift, usually bagged rather than wrapped, & draws a number, 1 to the number of participants. After #1 picks & unwraps a gift, each successive participant has the choice of choosing a wrapped gift or grabbing one that's already been opened. The person whose gift got grabbed gets to make the same choice: wrapped or grab. The number sequencing begins again when the previous person chooses a wrapped gift rather than grabbing. You can't grab back a gift that was just taken from you, but you can grab an earlier gift during a later number if yours gets grabbed away. After all participants have had the opportunity to get a gift, #1 gets the final exchange.

The fun here is all about the exchanges back & forth as the game progresses. There are usually several very popular items but which ones they turn out to be is unpredictable. Over the years we've set a theme each year to help with the choices. It's important to put a spending limit on the gift if it's being purchased, & to not bring garbage unless the theme is truly white elephant. Our limit is $15-20 max. One year the theme was "something fun". Another featured "gadgets". This year we've decided on consumables -- no stuff to store, just enjoy.

This is the only gift we exchange at this gathering. For the young children, "Santa" (usually a very disguised DH, since we travel there from several states away) actually walks in the front door with a bag of wrapped gifts, secretly purchased & wrapped by each family for their children, & all under $20. There is usually a gift in the bag for my MIL, who is now 98, so I understand about possible last Christmases. Hope yours is very memorable & fun.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 08:06:59 PM by GizmoTX »

johnintaiwan

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2014, 08:26:38 PM »
We do a Yankee  Swap at my xmas party. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and then picks a number out of a hat. Whoever has #1 picks a gift and opens it. Then it is #2's turn. they can either steal #1's gift (and #1 would then pick a new gift) or opens a new gift. The #3 has the choice of stealing #1 or #2's gift or opening a new one. and so on until all gifts have been opened. Each gift can only be stolen once per each round. A round ends when a new gift is opened.

We do this will all of my expat friends here and it can be a pretty fun game.

hodedofome

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2014, 02:42:27 AM »
We do some sort of gift exchange for extended family, but the past several years I've opted out. I'm generally one of the only ones that does, but I could give a crap about a gift exchange so I don't care. Some other family members want to follow my lead and cheered my decision, but they are too chicken to do it themselves.

fantabulous

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2014, 03:15:32 AM »
What if the adults all buy things like wooden castles or legos for each other?

Gray Matter

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2014, 05:59:42 AM »
Thanks for the great ideas, everyone.  The drawing a number, picking a gift of stealing one thing sounds like a lot of fun.  I can see the importance of setting $ limits and possibly even a theme.

I'm not worried about hurt feelings--my family is pretty darned cool that way.  I have three sisters, all with very different lives, and we all secretly think we have the best one, and are genuinely happy for each other's success.  I'm kind of amazed that there's no sibling rivalry, but there really isn't (there used to be when we were kids, believe you me).  We've even all accepted long ago that my older sister is my dad's favorite, can do no wrong, and presides like the Queen, and we all joke about it and it's become part of the family lore. 

What if the adults all buy things like wooden castles or legos for each other?

That is a fantastic idea!  As a matter of fact, the kids are giving me a Lego set for Christmas this year (I'm not supposed to know this, but I have eyes in the back or my head and am omniscient).  I'm excited, especially since I'll rope them into building it with me.  But I hadn't thought about extending it to other adults.

lhamo

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2014, 06:20:56 AM »
We do a Yankee  Swap at my xmas party. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and then picks a number out of a hat. Whoever has #1 picks a gift and opens it. Then it is #2's turn. they can either steal #1's gift (and #1 would then pick a new gift) or opens a new gift. The #3 has the choice of stealing #1 or #2's gift or opening a new one. and so on until all gifts have been opened. Each gift can only be stolen once per each round. A round ends when a new gift is opened.

We do this will all of my expat friends here and it can be a pretty fun game.

I did this with my community at the end of my last Ph.D. fieldwork stint and it was a BLAST!  Except we let gifts be stolen up to 3x.  And I was the one giving all the gifts -- mostly stuff I had brought to give away to key informants that I never used, souvenirs from home, etc.  One of my favorite pictures is of the headmaster from the school where I did most of my research wearing these really sharp sunglasses he got.  It was so clear when he picked them that anybody who tried to take them from him was DEAD -- a couple of people jokingly tried, but nobody would actually challenge his authority.  He was one rad dude. 

I like the idea of a theme, too.  I would suggest stuff that is edible and yummy.

MrsPete

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2014, 11:04:18 AM »
My first question is, Are you sure the kids don't want anything except video games and gift cards? I have a 17 and 20 year old, and they enjoy a whole lot of fun stuff.  My oldest is in her first apartment and is very into cooking.  She's also hoping for Game of Thrones stuff, and she loves scarves and anything related to her college.  My youngest loves accessories -- especially earrings -- and she loves art supplies, comic books, and anything animal-related.  Both girls are into board games. 

Second, I have the impression that y'all used to have fun opening the kids' toys and playing with them.  Essentially you've removed that activity from your holiday line-up, and now you have a hole in your gathering.  If you're not enjoying what you're doing, do something different.  Add something new -- and not the same thing every year: 

- Make ornaments together
- Make cookies together
- Put together goodie bags for the cancer patients at the facility where your mom was a patient, and deliver them together. 
- Go caroling
- Go to a paintball field
- Go see the Christmas lights

Or, if you're sure you want to do an adult-gift-exchange, consider one of these: 

- The everyone-brings-a-gift-and-swaps is good, and others have suggested it
- Consider saying that all gifts must be handmade
- Consider a used book swap; nothing to buy, low stress
- Consider saying that all gifts must be consumable (rolls of stamps, baking goods, craft supplies, etc) so that items don't turn into clutter

« Last Edit: November 15, 2014, 11:07:35 AM by MrsPete »

iris lily

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2014, 11:15:58 AM »
OP, it sounds like your family, since they aren't jealous of one another, would have a lto of fun with the Yankee swap or white elephant games.

DH's family pulled that one out many years ago when they were right where your family is now--the children were all teens and young adult, gift giving was a pain in the ass, and no one cared about receiving anything. So the swap was very much fun.

mlipps

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2014, 02:41:08 PM »
Another fun thing my dad's family does some years is this super cheesy story game. Basically every one has one present & as you read a story, a certain word means to pass the gifts to the left and another word means to pass them to the right. We use to the steal game, but there are almost 40 of us now so it doesn't work as well and takes foreverrrrr. My aunt just buys all the presents from the dollar store, but it would also be cute if everyone contributed little things.

Here's an example:
http://www.santalady.com/xmasgame/lftrt.html

MayDay

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2014, 08:44:58 AM »
My family often does a themed white elephant where we can steal from each other.

Past themes have been ten dollar gift card to anywhere, coffee/tea, and a book.

A friend of mine does a really fun one- they all go to walmart or similar and everyone has 15$ to buy something hilarious/awesome, then they all go home, wrap, and exchange. Could be wasteful but as long as you keep receipts...





Jacana

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2014, 02:59:48 PM »
Two years ago my extended family gathering (family and friends) switched to pick a name from a hat with rules about max amounts and no gift cards. This year we are still doing that. But next year we've all agreed to do a grab bag with the rules being it must be inexpensive and something that can be 1. consumed (food/drink) or 2. Immediately played in a party setting (game, mini craft, puzzle, Lego's, joke book, etc.) No formal exchange rules but a lively bartering or bidding system will be encouraged! The year after that we might try a theme grab bag too.

The year before we all received surprise "build a medival weapon" kits Christmas eve and had until Christmas Day to build them, and then we laid seige to the gingerbread castle my mom baked. The weapons included various forms of catapults and ballistas. Custom modifications were allowed. That was awesome.

Oh, and my 2 year old daughter is exempt from all gift rules and prohibitions because she is so far the only child in the family and when I suggested no gifts the whole family staged an immediate riot. But they did promise to restrain themselves this year.

southern granny

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2014, 04:08:02 PM »
We've done the gift grab game for many years with DH's family on Christmas Eve. Each participant brings a gift, usually bagged rather than wrapped, & draws a number, 1 to the number of participants. After #1 picks & unwraps a gift, each successive participant has the choice of choosing a wrapped gift or grabbing one that's already been opened. The person whose gift got grabbed gets to make the same choice: wrapped or grab. The number sequencing begins again when the previous person chooses a wrapped gift rather than grabbing. You can't grab back a gift that was just taken from you, but you can grab an earlier gift during a later number if yours gets grabbed away. After all participants have had the opportunity to get a gift, #1 gets the final exchange.

The fun here is all about the exchanges back & forth as the game progresses. There are usually several very popular items but which ones they turn out to be is unpredictable. Over the years we've set a theme each year to help with the choices. It's important to put a spending limit on the gift if it's being purchased, & to not bring garbage unless the theme is truly white elephant. Our limit is $15-20 max. One year the theme was "something fun". Another featured "gadgets". This year we've decided on consumables -- no stuff to store, just enjoy.

We did this type exchange at a party and it was a lot of fun.  However, in our version a gift could only be "stolen" 3 times.  If you are the third person to steal the gift it was yours and no one could take it from you.

This is the only gift we exchange at this gathering. For the young children, "Santa" (usually a very disguised DH, since we travel there from several states away) actually walks in the front door with a bag of wrapped gifts, secretly purchased & wrapped by each family for their children, & all under $20. There is usually a gift in the bag for my MIL, who is now 98, so I understand about possible last Christmases. Hope yours is very memorable & fun.

Villanelle

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2014, 09:51:59 AM »
I'v done the "pick and up to 2 steals" thing i many environments and it has almost always been a huge success.  I suggest including a price range, as it definitely helps in preventing serious dud gifts. You do themes (consumables, books, gift cards, alcohol, Christmas decoration, etc.). or just ask everyone to bring a gift valued at $15-20, or whatever range you think is appropriate.

I've been in a few situations where the that kind of swap hasn't been ideal (living in Japan, culturally it was very uncomfortable for my students to "steal" a gift from someone who liked it, for example), and there are a lot of alternatives.  You can google for poems that specify what each person must do "Number 8 must take from number 3" or "Number 10 can steal from 9 or pick his own", and those can be a lot of fun.  They are faster, too, if you have a large group. 

You can also do "pick and steal" but without letting people open the first.  Or there are games in which everyone starts with aa wrapped gift (their own or random) you read a poem and every time the word [whatever word] is said, everyone passes left, and every time [Other word] is said, it passes right.  This one is very fast though, and you might want it to last a bit longer to have more family time. 

But options abound and google has a zillion.

CommonCents

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Re: Advice requested: increasing our gift-giving this year
« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2014, 10:22:36 AM »
Two years ago my extended family gathering (family and friends) switched to pick a name from a hat with rules about max amounts and no gift cards. This year we are still doing that. But next year we've all agreed to do a grab bag with the rules being it must be inexpensive and something that can be 1. consumed (food/drink) or 2. Immediately played in a party setting (game, mini craft, puzzle, Lego's, joke book, etc.) No formal exchange rules but a lively bartering or bidding system will be encouraged! The year after that we might try a theme grab bag too.

The year before we all received surprise "build a medival weapon" kits Christmas eve and had until Christmas Day to build them, and then we laid seige to the gingerbread castle my mom baked. The weapons included various forms of catapults and ballistas. Custom modifications were allowed. That was awesome.

Oh, and my 2 year old daughter is exempt from all gift rules and prohibitions because she is so far the only child in the family and when I suggested no gifts the whole family staged an immediate riot. But they did promise to restrain themselves this year.

I was going to suggest the theme for your Yankee Swap be "toys" to bring back that fun element, but also like consumed or party game.  Love the gingerbread siege idea!