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Holidays w the Families

While I know this has been posted multiple times, here is our situation:

Both families get a long. With Thanksgiving, we've structured it well to have the parents swap every year and host because my parents or my in-laws will go to the other location.

My wife's parents have their families in Oklahoma. Mine are based around Washington. So, when it comes to Christmas, my mom tends to host her family from Bellingham and invites the my in-laws to join.

The other issue we're trying to solve is presents. My mother loves the holidays so much that once they're over she's depressed a little as to the lack of the spirit not being around anymore. So, when it comes to gifts, she really loves giving them. However, my wife and I are well off to the point where we don't need to accumulate more stuff in the house just because, and that's partly the joy of being married, right?! You can give ideas/hints to your spouse to buy for the morning of.

While we all get along, my wife and I have yet to feel like we've come away from the holidays with enjoyment over stress. We feel like 8 year olds when it comes to be the holidays to where we can never just do our own thing. Always being pulled multiple directions just to see everyone.

 So, first:

Any thoughts on how to deal with stockings, gifts, etc? We both just enjoy the time to socialize and spend time with everyone.


Any suggestions on how to define boundaries with the parents when it comes to Christmas, etc.?

We don't have children yet, and fear if we don't get a handle on it before then, we might be regretting it down the road.

Thank you in advance.


Tim husband. photographer. creative.

Re: Holidays w the Families

  • Tell them you want the focus to be fun, food and family. That you just wang to have a good time and not have the stress of having to go all out on gifts. Maybe set a limit on x number of gifts given to each person or a price limit. You can also suggest doing a Secret Santa gift exchange. That way each person only has to worry about one gift instead of 6 or 20. Ya'll can still gift each other gifts but that would help cut back on tons of family gifts.
  • You could also suggest drawing names. It might be a good compromise between your mom who likes to do presents and you. My family moved to this a long time ago to save us on the amount of time/money/hassle that everyone had to go through. It has suited us very well so far. 

     I would also like to mention (since it sounds like your mom really likes the presents) that my Granddad still insisted on buying everyone a present and everyone buys him a present. However, everyone else draws names. 

  • My nuclear family (one I grew up in) is up to 12 adults and 2 kids with one more on the way. (We started out with my parents, my four sisters & me.)

    The adults draw two names each and everyone buys for the kids. We started that when I was in college. It was great because I was always low on cash. Now it's great because H and I can buy for his family and our friends as well without stressing out.

  • Well, I don't see the harm in RECEIVING gifts, I think that it's actually a little self-righteous and 'holier than thou' to refuse gifts from your mom because you've accumulated stuff from the house. If you don't want it, post it on Craigslist the next day.

    And you're a grown man, you can spend your holidays anyway you want. Please do understand though that many people would love to have your problem. There are so many who don't have any families to go to during the holiday. I understand how you feel, but I think it's also good to put things like this into perspective.  Hope everything works out!

  • I think you can be candid with your mom.  Just say, mom try not to go too crazy this year for christmas gifts. Wife and I just love you...and don't need tons of presents. 

    then just accept it, no matter how much she buys. Don't stress about what others give. it is just stuff and nothing to stress about. 

    DH and I started a small tradition just for ourselves while we dated, DH would buy me the newest disney movie and we would watch it christmas morning before leaving for families homes.  It doesn't have to be a movie either.  Maybe you make breakfast together, or play a game, go for a hike or a drive somewhere etc.  anything that is could be special for the two of you.

    As for boundaries, start now.  Make some rules that you cannot get together until after 1 or 2pm. the morning is just for you...or maybe you prefer the night, so you can get out early but want to be home by 4, etc

    I was having a little trouble following the distance between the familes but if you can Split xmas day and eve so you are only seeing each family one day. Also have them alternate years. also don't be afraid to host. You could host full dinner and select a time that is convenient for you all. Or you could do just dessert and drinks, etc.


    CJ :-)
  • 1. Time and Distance:

    Break up the holidays, theres no way to spend time with everyone if they don't live in the same area and feel like you have actually seen everyone.

    We rotate christmas, one year we spend it with my family, the next year with his family. We will see the other side sometime 'near' christmas, but it might be a week before or after, it might not be till January. When we have kids we plan to rotate it 3 ways, so one year my family, one year his family, one year at our house (and anyone is welcome to come).

    2. Gifts and stockings:

    I like the pp's suggestion on drawing names. My mother still does this with her siblings. So far in my family we havn't done this, but we do all (my siblings) spend $20-$50 per person so it doesnt get unreasonable. Everyone buys something for the nephews, but nothing expensive (I got one nephew a megablock set for about $15 and the other a dump truck that was on sale for $7). We also have christmas with the extended family a lot, but everyone only buys for thier own nucular families.

    Stockings are done per household, no one when I lived at home then ment my mom and dad did the stockings for whichever of us children are living at home and we would open them before we would go over to celebrate with family

    Now that I am not at home and married, my H and I fill eachother's stocking and open them before we go to my parents (or his).

    3. How to set boundrys: Tell your parents what you feel is reasonable as far as time, money spent etc, and stick to it. They might whine the first year if they don't get thier way or get what they are used to, but if you stick to it, they will get used to it and have to suck it up or the alternative is to not have holidays with you at all. Also as far as your mothers gift giving..suck it up and say thank you, its her money to spend how she wants, Don't feel like you have to spend that much just because she does, and don't take away her joy in the holidays by telling her not to buy presents. Be grateful.

  • If you want to do your own thing for a holiday - do it!  If it doesn't work out, do something different next time.  You don't know until you try.  Whatever it is, stick to your guns.  If you just want to stay home, don't let yourself get needled into "well, ok, I guess we can still come over for dessert"  For the first time, it might be easier to plan to be out of town.  Then they can't bug you to swing by.

    Whatever you decide, be up front about it.  It's easier when it's not a surprise.  It totally sucks when you're expecting somebody and they don't show up.  If you know what's going on, then you can make a plan to deal with it.

    Tell mom how you feel about presents- specifically stuff.  How would mom feel about getting you tickets to something?  A tree to plant at your house?  Membership to the fancy new gym in town?  Mom gets to give a gift and you don't get any more stuff.  A friend's husband gets her car detailed every year as her gift.

    I totally agree with you about not needing stuff.  I'm a big fan of food for gifts.  It's not going to hang around, collect dust, and you don't feel obligated to display it when the giver visits.

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