My husband's family has a great way of celebrating Christmas. They are a large traditional divorced family with fantastic family occassions on both sides. My husband has 2 parents + 2 step parents + 3 grandparents + 3 sisters, 2 brother-in-laws & 3 nephews + 1 Uncle, his wife and their 2 grown kids. Plus me and the little monkey. We are a blessed family and in need of little.
Every couple of years we do a family ski trip and enjoy some time together in the fresh air. The 3 oldest kids (spouses and their kids) usually get a condo for the entire time, and the parents and grandparents split their time so we get to enjoy both sides of the family. No matter where the family is celebrating they have some great traditions for young and old. The kids usually have a bit of a show - singing or dancing for us. Oma usually does her felt puppet "Christmas story" and of course we have lots of songs and hymns.
You can image buying gifts for that large of a crew would be a lot of work. So they like to focus the holidays on the togetherness, the occassion, the food and photos (we have more than our fair share of shutterbugs) - not the gifts. We all get gifts for the kids, of course. But then we draw names and each person buys a gift for only one other adult on each side of the family. This lets us focus on our time together and not spending a lot of money or time on gifts (although my husband usually still buys lots of fun German treats - he says he isn't technically cheating as they are meant for everyone's stocking).
Charitable giving also has an important part of their Holidays. A few year's ago we gave a goat in Opa's name to a family in South America. As 2009 has been a tough year for many the family decided that there would be no adult gifts at all. The family drew names and donated to a charity in that person's name.
So hubbie and I decided to do the same with my family this year. We have told everyone over 13 to expect small fun holiday gifts and then we were giving the rest of our Holiday budget to charity. Since Vancouver has the highest child poverty numbers in the country we decided to make our donations to:
In spirit of full disclosure we did do a special gift for Daniel's Omi who flew us out to Calgary as a surprise for the family this year. She gave us the gift of time with our family, so we put together a nice little memory of her Great Grandson. But as it technically won't arrive until January we didn't really cheat. Since she doesn't read my blog this should be a nice surprise when it arrives.