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poofandmook's avatar

Am I wrong for feeling negatively about the agreement made regarding Christmas gift exchange? (details inside)

Asked by poofandmook (17212 points ) November 30th, 2011

Okay, so… on Christmas Eve, my mom’s side of the family gets together for a meal, gifts, and visiting. Since Nan… quite literally the matriarch of the family… passed away a few years ago, it’s been my grandmother and her sister that “run” the get-together. They decide on the menu, split the food costs, and if any decisions need to be made about any of it, they do so together.

Just this week, my great-aunt (who has been hosting Christmas Eve since I was little), asked my grandmother how she felt about nixing the gift exchange between families, essentially doing away with half of a family tradition that’s been going on as long as even they have been alive. My grandmother hated the idea, but then they discussed it more. My aunt’s family essentially has about a dozen people to shop for, while my grandmother’s family has only 7, so financially, it’s very imbalanced. The guys never have wish lists, so either a gift is bought without a lot of meaning so the person has something to open, or a gift card/money is given… which everyone in the family hates because it has no thought behind it… either way, there’s a lot of agonizing over what to get. Same for a lot of the kids… there are never any ideas to go around.

They decided that the gift-giving across families would no longer happen. (Both families have always done their “inter-family” gifts on Christmas morning, and that won’t change)

I feel really sour about the whole thing. Granted, it’s a financial relief for sure. The family grows, it gets expensive. Way more so than it ever has been, obviously, because children grow up, they have multiple kids, those kids grow up and have spouses, etc. etc. Also, the tradition always involved watching the person opening, and now nobody really does that because it goes on so long.

But it’s tradition. It’s the way we’ve always done it. It’s the same as it’s been for 60+ years. A couple of years ago, my aunt wanted to do a hot pasta meal instead of our tradition of cold food (a throwback to the Catholic upbringing that involved midnight mass and eating dinner afterward… cold cuts and salads because it was so late)... and everyone hated it. It’s not as though the food was bad… it was certainly cheaper and less effort… but it wasn’t the same. The very next year, we were back to the old menu.

I doubt next year will be back to the old tradition… since it’s a lot more than just the meal.

Now, for me, I make crocheted gifts, and each family gets one. Well, now at least one of the kids is in his own home with a girlfriend… would I have to start adding a seventh project to my list? Or still do the “core” families? So for me, it’s a big relief too. Plus, my carpal tunnel in both wrists is immensely painful rushing to get the Christmas projects done.

And yet, it still seems all very “Bah Humbug” to me. Am I wrong for feeling this way?

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10 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think it is natural to feel a little “blah” when a beloved tradition changes.
From the description you’ve given, I get the impression that this is a smart move (financially, as you stated), so it may be necessary… but I think it’s okay to not be thrilled about it.

Blackberry's avatar

Traditions, like everything, won’t last forever. With each slow death of a tradition, there is backlash to be expected. It’s normal to not want to let go of the tradition, even though there are obvious drawbacks.

Traditions also are changed and modified to go along with general progress. Everyone isn’t going to agree all at the same time, so of course there will be some conflict. If you want to keep making crochet gifts, go ahead, if next year you discover you don’t want to do it, it’s not the end of the world.

This is why some people are upset with the way people treat the holidays. Is the family being together not enough? Are the holidays just a reenactment of empty slogans and motions, or do you actually care? There is a big picture to be looked at.

poofandmook's avatar

@Blackberry: That’s kind of the issue. We like to give gifts that will be genuinely appreciated and loved, things that are needed or desired… not shallow gift cards, checks, or cash. It’s gotten to the point where my grandmother can go down the list and half of them get gift cards because they never have a single gift idea… the tradition is being squashed BECAUSE we don’t want to be giving gifts just for the sake of that’s-what-you-do-at-Christmas.

But it’s still something that I’ve loved for 28 years that’s gone, just like that, without any warning. It’s hard for me to accept.

Blackberry's avatar

@poofandmook Well, what can one expect when you spend decades buying stuff for people? Eventually, people are going to stop needing stuff that’s actually useful.

chyna's avatar

While it is sad that the tradition is dying, it is as it should be. Kids grow up and start having their own kids that they would prefer to spend their money on. It’s hard to buy for people you only see once a year. We finally stopped this tradition in my family 2 years ago when I lost my job. I was so glad as I didn’t have the money and really didn’t want my brothers buying me things I couldn’t use. The getting together on Christmas eve and Christmas day and sharing meals and each other’s company is more meaningful to me now.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, things change, people need to learn to be more flexible and accept that shift happens. lol
When “tradition” is no longer working for all parties involved it’s time to negotiate a new way of doing things. Part of being a grown up, but, easier said than done for many.

My daughter is getting pressured like crazy to please her dads side of the family this year, I feel for her.

SuperMouse's avatar

You are absolutely not wrong for feeling this way. There are positives to the situation and there are negatives. If grieving the loss of a ritual is what you need to do then by all means do so. It is also totally ok to appreciate and loathe the change at the same time. If this was my family, I would probably also be bummed that this was a unilateral decision – made between aunt and grandmother – without consulting the families involved. I wonder if that is causing a bit of your bitterness as well. Sorry if that last part sounds too much like psychobabble!

Adagio's avatar

This doesn’t quite answer your question but have you thought about introducing the family to a new Christmas gift exchange tradition, here are some ideas for starters.

Kardamom's avatar

Our family thankfully did away with the tradition of giving every single person a gift (sometimes there was 25 or 30 people at our Xmas party). It got harder and way more expensive to give thoughtful personal gifts to everyone, and when the economy tanked, it also seemed like an ugly over indulgence.

So what we do now, is each individual or couple brings a $20 gift certificate to the party and wraps it, so it’s hidden and throws it into a bowl. The fun part begins with each person also providing a $5 or less (so it could be homemade or a picture from a magazine) item that is a “hint” for what the gift card is. That is where the fun and the creativity come in. For example, one year I brought a See’s candy gift card. My hint gift was a pair of reading glasses that I got at the 99 Cent store. Everyone in my family wears reading glasses, so the “hint” gift was practical, inexpensive and it was fun for people to guess what the gift card might be (could be for a bookstore, or magazine subscription, or a phone APP or whatever).

So the hint gifts are also wrapped grandly and set out on a table, we draw numbers and then we choose a hint gift in the order in which our number was chosen. The hint gift is opened, and the person either gets to keep that one or choose a second time. The next person gets to open a hint gift, choose a second one, or “steal” the hint gift from a previous chooser. Finally, after all of the hint gifts are chosen, stolen or traded, everyone tries to guess what the gift card that goes along with it represents (could be Starbucks, Home Depot, California Pizza Kitchen, ITunes, Movie Theater or whatever) and then we open them up (at which time, even more trading might go on) Either way, it’s a hoot. And no one is expected to participate (if you want to play, though, you need to bring a gift card and hint present, but nobody will hold it against you if you just watch and save your money, because in this economy, some people may not want to play, but ususally everybody does, or helps out anyone who can’t afford it).

The other part of the party is the fact that it is always a potluck, with the host family providing something substantial like a turkey or whatever. We change the theme of the potluck every year. One year we did Italian, and this year we are doing “breakfast at night”. The host family is setting up a waffle station, I’m bringing a Quiche, my Mom is making a coffee cake. Everybody in my family (including the men) like to cook, so we eat well at our Xmas parties!

Then the third part is a themed dress code. Last year we did “ugly sweaters” this year we’re doing “pajamas” to go along with the breakfast at night theme.

We still get regular presents for the children, so we still do the whole watching the gifts get opened thing with the oohing and aaahing and picture taking.

So basically, we have altered some traditions, dropped others that were impractical, and added other new ones. If we’d have kept all of our family traditions, the women would still be cooking figgy pudding over a wood burning stove.

We love Christmas and traditions and family, so we try to make the most of what we have. But one thing we never want to do is cause pain or hard feelings, so there are really no hard and fast rules. It’s mostly about getting together, and enjoying a good meal with people that we actually like and having a good time. Whatever that means.

Next year I’m proposing that our dress code be a “White Christmas” simply because most people look really silly if they’re all dressed in white, and it would just be really funny, because no one in my family would be “dressed up” in white, it would be more likely to be something like This

poofandmook's avatar

Thanks for letting me know I wasn’t being a selfish bitch about this… lol… I DO hate it. I also REALLY appreciate not having to work my carpal tunnel overtime to finish crocheting gifts every year.

The gift card swap thing was suggested, as well as a secret Santa, and that leads to spending money on something not thoughtful, which they don’t like. They’re really against gift cards… though I don’t really understand that. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to know that I can go into a store I love and buy myself something I normally wouldn’t. I got grocery gift cards a few times and I LOVED them. Oftentimes, I would buy a steak or something I’d NEVER buy.

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