Differences Between Families at Christmas

Updated on November 17, 2012
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
16 answers

Every time my husband's family and my family are all together at Christmas it gets very stressful for me. The two famillies just do things very differently. My mom was a single mom and she shopped sales year round and had piles of presents for my brother and I to open as kids. She wanted us to be so happy and she wanted it to be a magical and amazing day. She always overdid it and went way overboard and over her budget. So, as kids we would get 15 or 20 gifts...mostly little things but there were many boxes to open! It was crazy. Santa was a big deal when we were kids. My husband's family gives 2 or maybe 3 gifts...a book, some homemade knit socks (which I love homemade things, this is not a complaint about that), and one toy. His dad is extremely frugal and always has been. His mom does not place much value on gifts...which is nice. I think they have good values in life but when I first spent Christmas with them 20 years ago I was pretty shocked. Now as a mom with 2 kids I think I am pretty frugal. I get nice things my kids are wishing for...but not too many gifts. I do a stocking, 2 gifts from santa and 2 gifts from mom and dad. I also give them each a book. My mom still shops year round for my kids and her other grandkids. She is on a budget but she loves to give gifts. So, the problem is we will all be together for Christmas. (Sorry this is so long). My husband's mom is planning on giving one gift to each child. My husband's sister does not really do Santa and gifts. She will probably give her 2 boys one gift and none from Santa. And here is my mom with multiple gifts for my kids...and I have 5 things for each of them. :( My brother and my husband's brother both have younger kids who will not notice these differences. But my husband's sister has 2 boys about the same age as our oldest (8-10 age range) and they will definitely notice. Every year we all get together this is very stressful for me. I want all theid to be happy. Usually we are at a grandparent's house and I leave my kid's extra gifts at home to open when we get back telling them Santa could not deliver everything to grandma's house. This year everyone is coming to our house. I hate it that I have to stress about this. What would you do if you were me?

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So What Happened?

Edit - They are all coming from different states. None of us live close to each other. They are renting a house in Santa Fe (an hour away). They have planned xmas eve dinner there (and we are invited so we will go there for xmas eve) and then the faralito walk on Canyon Rd in downtown Santa Fe (a New Mexico tradition). Then they are all coming here for xmas morning to open gifts. They want to open gifts together. I tried to convince people to open gifts there and then drive up to our house but they do not want to do this. Thanks so much for everyone's replies!

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answers from Seattle on

We have 2 Christmasses.

23rd is Xmas Eve & 24th is Xmas day
24thbis Xmas Eve & 25th is Xmas day

23/24 are at my house
24/25 are at my mum's
Xmas Eve (either) are with cousins to exchange gifts.

That way, the magic is up and running. Not held to the lowest common denominator.

So PERSONALLY, if everyone was coming over on the 25th?
... We'd already have had Xmas the day before!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Have Grandma save some in the car or something for later on. Be honest you dont want the other boys to feel bad.

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answers from Dallas on

Here's my experience with blending. I have a sis and brother from my dad's first marriage. They are old enough to be my parents, so they also had kids of their own. They would do their own extended family Christmas at home, as would we, and then we would get together the first Saturday after Christmas and do a party at their place where we gave them gifts, and they gave us. Now they always had a few extra gifts for their kids, but nothing crazy. But as an older kid, I knew it was because it was THEIR home and their kids, etc. It didn't bug me.

BUt I grew up to realize that the Christmas holiday is NOT ONE DAY, it is pretty much 2 weeks long.

So stop making yourself crazy and start a new tradition - have mom come to your place either before or after the blended family event and do her mega-gifting. Save one for the blended gathering. That way she can do her thing, you can do yours, and you don't feel like you are not doing enough for others. It will be a new grandma tradition and everyone will probably love it.

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answers from Biloxi on

And this is why we have Christmas Eve! LOL

Have a nice evening with your Mom and kids wherein they celebrate with her and open her presents. Sing Christmas Carols, watch its "A Wonderful Life" - create a new holiday tradition.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

When I was a child we all met at one grandmothers house and opened all of our gifts.

I promise you we did not sit there and watch each other open gifts.. We opened our gifts all together. As we received a gift from someone we would say "thank you aunt Margie and uncle James! " so much was going on.. It was not a big deal.. No comparing, no note taking..

My husbands parents have always been odd about Christmas gifts.. Apparently as children, they were not tell the grandparents what Santa sometimes had given them or sometimes what his parents gave them...

I am not sure why, but it made my husband a nervous wreck. His mother still will pull our daughter to the side and say, here, I am giving this to you, but don't tell the boys. Meaning her grandsons Or she would give me something and say, do not tell my daughter I gave you this

. It s so ridiculous. We are fine with people giving whatever they want to whoever they want.. These games take a lot of energy to keep up with and cause a lot of hard feelings.

Just be natural, do not keep up with other people's lives by making assumptions or trying to keep up or hide your true selves. Let this go.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Your Mom sounds like fun!
Don't burst her bubble and she shouldn't have to change. Nothing wrong with how she does things.
But so, maybe you/your kids and her can open some gifts on the Eve? And on Christmas day/morning.
Just tell your Mom to put some aside, and not all at one time for opening because you are stressed about it... because your Husband's family is very not festive.

But to a certain extent, this is how your Mom/your family has always done Christmas and gifts. So that is your and your Mom's "tradition." And there is nothing wrong with it. I mean, your Husband's family could ALSO be the one to have to "change" their method of Christmas gifts too.
I really don't think, your Mom should have to "change."

What does your Husband think? It is his family that is sort of like not real into gifts. They can be more flexible, too.
I mean, they are going to your house for Christmas day to open gifts... it is your house and you SHOULD have your own traditions too.
They as "guests" should realize that.
Your Mom, is fine.
Don't make the "conflict" about her or make her "wrong."
She is fine.

It seems like, there will be only your Mom (from your side of the family there), and meanwhile ALL of your Husband's family, will be there too. But just because there is more of them versus your side of the family... it does not mean you have to do things, "their" way.
It is your home, and this is your Mom. And you have nice warm memories and traditions of how you gift people, for Christmas.
And that is good. You don't have to be a "Scrooge" because your Husband's family is less festive about it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Please try not to stress too much about it.
My husband's side of the family is large and very diverse. The Christmas's and Easter's we have spent together have always been a little "unfair" but that's just life!
My kids (from a very young age) saw that some of their cousins got more, some less.
They grew up knowing which grandparents and aunties and uncles were the most "generous."
Sure there were times when my kids got an Easter basket filled with candy, coloring books and art supplies while they witnessed a fellow cousin getting an Easter basket with the latest video game system, but what can you do? You can only control YOUR choices and values. Don't let it dampen your own Christmas joy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My mother fussed over everything, her table was always so beautiful and her china was passed down to me so that is one of the few occassions that I use it, other then the few times during the year that the girls want to have a fancy dinner but all I hear from everyone is why am I making such a fuss, paper plates are fine. As far as presents, my husband thinks I'm nuts to wrap the little trinkets that I put in my daughter's stockings, but that was the best part of Christmas morning for my little brother & I. Once we got done w/the presents we could open them. Our Christmas's were back & forth, some were big & some were small, but they all meant the same. One thing that I truly miss is not attending the Candlelight Service as a family. We used to walk to the church as a family w/my family but no one is that interested from my husband's side of the family & he is a 911 dispatcher so we celebrate Christmas Eve w/his family so he can be home Christmas morning. I do think this year we're going to go b/c my 8 year old keeps on asking. Blending holidays can be extremely difficulty, as this will be the 24 Christmas I'll be spending w/my in-laws & you would think by now they'd realize certain things, but I just continue the traditions my mother instilled and look up at my angel in the sky and ask her to get me thru yet another one! Enjoy your Christmas!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

We do Christmas Eve with our families and exchange gifts with them at that time. Those gifts are from grandma & grandpa and aunts and uncles. Santa delivers the presents to your home after you are asleep on Christmas Eve. We open our presents from each other and Santa on Christmas morning.

Anyone else who comes to our home on Christmas Day that may give presents (sometimes the grandparents wait til then), gives the presents but they are not from Santa.

You SIL should be having her sons open their gifts at home and you should be opening your gifts before everyone gets there. Then just exchange with each other once you are all together.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Maybe this is the year to implement a little 'immediate family only time' first thing in the morning?

We do this. It will solve all your problems and if your kids are anything like mine and most people's for that matter, it will be easy to accomplish: Let the kids get up early and you guys open all your presents to each other. Then when family comes you guys only exchange gifts to one another. Maybe even have your mom bring her gifts over x-mas eve? Either way, if you let your kids open the presents you got them and their Santa gifts that should dramatically cut down on the amount they will have to open when everyone else gets there.

You are absolutely correct that the other kids will notice, which really isn't your problem to solve, it's the other kids' parents...your SIL should worrying about it, just like you are....but if she is not, that is on her and she will have to deal with her kids' hurt feelings.

If you can not accomplish opening gifts before everyone come (which would work best for EVERYONE, who like to pack up every single present?) what about maybe buying the nieces and nephews a couple extra gifts so their piles aren't as small?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I would have your mom over the night before and have an additional gift exchange with just her and your little family. Include her in the Christmas Day festivities, of course, but do her gift exchange for the kids the night before. If her gifts are "from Santa", have her pick out a couple to share on Christmas Day from her, and then tell the kids that Santa asked Grandma to help him this year. His sleigh was too heavy, so he asked Grandma to bring some of them over early.



answers from Bellingham on

We had a similar problem when my niece would receive hundreds of presents, while the rest of the children received a normal amount. My sister-in-law and I were very aware of how our children would see the difference. The presents of my neice would literally take over Christmas morning and we would sit for hours watching her open them. We simply decided not to put ourselves and our children through that anymore and we do not do Christmas morning together any longer.

If I were you, I would take into account other children's feelings, and set aside some gifts. Or perhaps you could have a pre-Christmas Day event with your mom for present opening.



answers from Chicago on

Open some of grandma's gifts on X-mas Eve and others with the group.



answers from Omaha on

Does your mom travel a long distance from you? Perhaps you could share with her how this stresses you and perhaps have her come over on Christmas Eve and give your kids most of her gifts, but leave 1 or 2 items for the next day when everyone is there? Let her know that you wouldn't want the cousins to feel bad.
Good luck! We always do Christmas separately with our families so differences like this isn't a huge factor.
EDIT: I just saw your SWH. I would just let it play out the way it plays out. This is the way your mom enjoys Christmas, so let her be and enjoy yourself. It will be fine. I am sure this isn't the first time the cousins haven't come across a family that goes all out. It will be ok.



answers from Wausau on

I think you need to focus on what you choose to do in your own home and let everything else be as it will be.

We do not travel on Christmas Eve or Day. We used to, but decided we would rather sleep at and wake up in our own home to enjoy a leisurely day. We don't have people over either. We may see family the week before or after Christmas, but those two days are for just us

I think now would be a great time to have your own traditions within your nuclear family. Teach your kids that what happens elsewhere has no bearing on what happens at home.



answers from Washington DC on

Why compare? We go to my aunt's house every year and I know that my cousins trade gifts but we long ago stopped between cousins. We do buy for each other's kids, but we buy more for our nephew than our cousins' kids.

If the issue is that the kids don't have the same grands and don't get the same at the same event, ask your parents to please pick a few to give at the same time, or arrange for them to deliver gifts at another time (before or after the in-law invasion).

If everyone is fully aware of the gifting and want to do it anyway, then give SIL the opportunity to handle her kids. Will her kids be there overnight/for stockings? If so, ask her for ideas. And remember, they have other family your kids do not. My stepkids have a whole additional family that DD doesn't so I give more to her than them because DH and I are all she's got.

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