Big changes in how DH’s family does Christmas

Every year I talk about how DH’s family has gift giving as their love language and how DH agonizes over what to get and I make lists of what we’ve gotten people and worry or don’t worry about the expense for the other families in question.

DH’s sister has twins due in November.  This will bring the number of grandkids up to 8 and will double the number of her kids.  She has requested that instead of the regular gift giving we’ve done in the past where everybody gets everyone something that we just pick names out of a hat and each person gives one thing.  (Which I think is silly– I’d rather not do gift-giving at all than to have a random element with higher stakes, but again it’s not my family.)  I think the idea is that everyone still gets something to open at Grandma’s house.  Though we always just have presents direct-shipped to people’s houses since we have been flying instead of driving recently.

But this year it sounds like we will not be having Christmas at Grandma’s house.  With 8 grandkids, that’s too many.  DH’s siblings live about an hour away from each other and in a more populated part of the state whereas his parents and other relatives all live in the more rural part of the state 5 or so hours away (assuming you don’t get stuck behind a tractor).  DH’s mom is planning on renting an apartment near his sister so she can be on hand to help out with the twins and she thinks we should rent a house either near DH’s sister or his brother.  And we should do it after Christmas instead of on Christmas.  (Which will make my sister happy because this past year my parents didn’t end up visiting at the last minute and she spent Christmas with friends instead of family and she has been complaining about it ever since.)

It will be kind of nice to have Christmas at home again.  We haven’t done that since my sister bought a house in the City, which was before DC2 was born.  We’ll get to have a rosemary tree and get out the ornaments (instead of the felt tree we put up) and actually put things in the kids’ stockings here and we can not have ham (though I will miss BIL’s birthday lasagna).

Now, DH and I kind of think it’s pretty likely we won’t be going to visit this winter at all because the virus will still not be under control and it will be too dangerous, especially with his sister being post-partum, but that’s months from now.  With all those United miles we can afford to put off this decision for a while.

I suspect DH will still give presents to his brother because he tends to buy electronic games that he and his brother and other relative can play during their weekly online gaming sessions.  But that can be our secret.

Has gift giving with your extended family changed as it has grown (or shrunk)?

21 Responses to “Big changes in how DH’s family does Christmas”

  1. Turia Says:

    I successfully quit exchanging presents with my family at Christmas five years ago (we still get presents for the kids and I make the grandparents a photo calendar). This later became the incentive for my father and his wife to stop gift giving altogether with my sisters and I (birthdays too) which is huge because their birthdays were both near Christmas and gift giving was fraught with politics about how much one had spent and other such misery-inducing nastiness courtesy of my narcissistic stepmother. Gift giving is probably at the bottom of my love languages and I’m so sick of the idea of buying stuff to give to people who already have everything they need and then they give you more stuff you don’t need and on and on it goes.

    Q’s family still does gift exchanges but that’s his problem as I have refused to take on the responsibility for his family (except the kids).

    Christmas is still surprisingly complicated but it’s so much easier than it used to be and I’m so relieved.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’d be fine with just the kids!

      Now we have to figure out if it’s ok to continue the braille books subscription for a niece we weren’t assigned… And we need to figure out if this includes my in-laws or not because if it does, then we’ll need to actually buy more than one present for each of our own kids. But I guess once that’s all determined it will be the new normal.

      • Angela Says:

        Would the family remember/be reminded that you purchased the Braille books subscription? If not, I might just continue it without saying anything.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I would assume so since we have asked her parents if she still wants each year it once she hit chapter book age. And there was that one uncomfortable early Christmas where we sent everyone else their presents and her dad asked where hers was and we were like, that Braille subscription and then they looked it up and saw the price (2x what we spend on everyone else) and felt like they had to send us more stuff (which resulted in DH talking to him about how they don’t have to match our spending). So now it’s a known thing.

        But obviously that one year they forgot!

  2. Steph Says:

    On one side of my family, there are only 6 of us grandkids and we still do gifts, though it’s largely “grandma gives gifts to everybody, and each family gives a gift to each cousin.” Involvement of the cousins in gift selection varies, though we’re all adults now. I’m the only one who consistently gives gifts to all my cousins, but that’s because I love giving books to people and they’re always appreciative.

    Things have evolved significantly with the other side of the family, because there were two waves of grandkids (and now the great-grandkids are starting). When the second wave were very little, the older relatives decided that none of the adults or older kids would get gifts anymore, but each family that was able would still give gifts to the younger cousins. Since my younger aunts & uncles had always given us gifts before they had their own kids, that seemed fair. We’ve done secret santa or white elephant exchanges some years since then, but only if someone is up for coordinating that.

  3. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Today I finished up some voter registration paperwork from yesterday’s protest.

  4. CG Says:

    We have the oldest grandchildren on my husband’s side, so I have been the one to push for changes in their gift-giving system. When they were little they got presents from all my husband’s aunts and uncles as well as all the cousins who were adults. It is a big family and the amount of gifts was insane. I suggested, first, that the aunts and uncles bow out, since there was a new generation to give presents, then eventually I suggested a book exchange for all the grandchildren where they draw names and everyone buys a book for another cousin. Everyone seems to like this, or at least they haven’t told me they hate it. For our generation, we went from everyone buying for everyone to drawing names, which I don’t mind. We also went from requesting specific items to broader categories, so you get some guidance but at least you have to put some thought into what the other person might like. My extended family no longer gets together for Christmas so that issue sort of faded away on its own. I have no idea what Thanksgiving and Christmas will look like this year. It will be a real bummer if we can’t see everyone.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A book exchange sounds lovely!

      I guess if we’re giving fewer gifts we will have to actually bring and wrap the gifts we do send? I don’t know. Previously we’d have things sent to people’s houses which was easier for us.

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I have no idea what we’re going to do this year though I have already shopped for some of the nibling gifts. We were already figuring out a huge change in our “normal” routine for this coming year’s holidays, but now that’s out too because neither of us are willing to risk travel when COVID is unlikely to be under control enough to risk exposure. I prefer to be done with the holiday logistics months in advance and COVID is really wrecking my ability to do that in so many ways. I might just make an executive decision about shipping all the gifts and pack them up accordingly. There are also some new babies expected this year that I’ll need to plan for.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, planning is hard!

      It helps that my MIL wants to not do Christmas at Christmas this year, but instead after, and that we have so many United miles to use if we do decide to go.

      Though I am leery about actually going in an airport/on a plane before the vaccine and we can’t drive to DH’s siblings in a single day, we’d have to spend the night somewhere. So… we kind of suspect we’re not actually going to see DH’s family over the winter holidays.

      Though I’m supposed to be going to a ginormous conference in Chicago in January. I sort of doubt that will be happening in person either. Who knows!

      Basically I’ve told myself not to think about anything happening August or later until July at the earliest (that’s when I’m supposed to find out what modality I’ll be using to teach).

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        I keep trying to tell myself to stop thinking about what’s going to happen post-August too, and it’s such a struggle!

        I suspect the same – we’re not going to see people for the winter holidays and I am kind of ok with that. Part of me is admittedly getting cabin fever finally BUT not having to do the huge holiday visiting bonanza? NOT having to pack and unpack ten times? I can’t help but love that idea.

  6. Angela Howard Says:

    My grandmother used to buy gifts for all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. A couple of years ago, with the help of my aunt & uncle, she gives everyone a $50 Amazon gift card to order their own gift. You must spend the $50 but you can add your own money to it if you want something more expensive. It gets shipped to my uncle’s house and put into a gift bag and then everyone has the gift to open on Christmas.

  7. Susan Says:

    DH’s family does the name-in-a-hat round of gifts among the adults. It works well, although we have a nominal $75 limit that everyone exceeds in a somewhat eye-rolling fashion. It does put a lot of pressure on gift-giver, but it all evens out over the years, really.
    For kids, we do one couple: one kid. We implemented this after a year in which the then-toddler kids got bored (!) opening presents, because everyone loves getting things for the kids, but the kids just didn’t appreciate or have attention span for it, and we wanted to minimize the consumption rather than train the kids to get used to consume more.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I wonder if the $ limits will change under the new regime. Right now we spend ~$50 give or take on each person no matter the age (more for DH’s parents since they spend so much on our kids and we can afford it and etc.). I was thinking we’d just do the same, but when each family has fewer presents to buy, will they just end up spending more?

  8. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    My sisters both live in Israel where it costs literally $100 to ship things and also it is extremely difficult to order things so… I just don’t.

    Which reminds me I never did last year’s photo books for the grandparents. I really should.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That does sound like a good reason not to exchange gifts!

      My SIL had been doing the photo calendars, but then last year my MIL made them all instead. It’s so hard to keep up!

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:


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