Holiday Gift Giving In Crappy Pictures

Holiday shopping is stressful. Every year I make a list and check it twice and then I freak out. What am I going to get for all of these people? How am I going to afford to get stuff for all these people?

Here’s the deal. If you are feeling this way, most likely your family and friends are too. Talk to them and change the rules.

Here is what some families do:

Draw names

Holiday gifts - Drawing names

I did this for years with my extended family. Each year on Thanksgiving the adults would write their names on pieces of paper and pass around a hat. If you drew someone in your immediate family you had to put it back and try again. Then we’d all write down our wish lists to give our secret gift giver some ideas. We still gave gifts to the children and parents and grandparents but among the siblings, aunts and uncles we only had to buy one gift. Online name drawing sites like Elfster are great for families who are spread out all over the map.

Handmade only

Handmade holiday gifts

This is something I’ve done with my friends for years. We don’t buy each other gifts, we make each other gifts. I have one friend who knits, one who makes jam and one who bakes the most amazing cookies. This stuff is like crafted gold to me. Obviously, this only works if you and your friends or family are interested and have the skills and time.

Annual gift themes

Holiday gifts - Annual gift themes

You could also come up with a theme for gift giving. This makes it easier because you have some direction and you can get the same thing for each person. We did this one year and it was fun. Thrifted or used only? Edible only? Drinkable only? Books? Movies? And of course you could go the experience route such as tickets to movies or museums.

A friend’s family picks a theme each year. Last year they all exchanged books and this year they are all exchanging dish towels. I don’t know how they decide on a theme but they all get along really well so it works for them. In families where this will just cause more drama, draw a theme out of a hat maybe? That could work.

No gifts

Obviously, not exchanging gifts at all is an option. One I really wish my family could pull off but we’ve never been able to. Every year we’ve agreed on this at least one person still buys gifts which makes the rest of us look like jerks.

Holiday gifts - No gifts

However, some families do have success with this. Or so I’ve heard. Some just exchange cards and give gifts to children only. Another idea is to do something together instead of exchanging gifts. Go to a nice restaurant or a show or something. Other families donate as a group to a charity or volunteer together.

White elephant

This is where each person brings a gift and wraps it. Unmarked. The gift is supposed to be something ridiculous or weird. Then you take turns picking a gift from the pile and opening it. Then on the next person’s turn, they can either “steal” a gift or pick a new unwrapped one. I’ve been to holiday parties with this game and it is hilarious. This is also how I ended up with an electric nose picker.

Tell us

How does your family handle exchanging holiday gifts?

Image credit: Amber Dusick

About the author:

Amber Dusick - Crappy PicturesAmber Dusick is one of our SheKnows Experts Among Us. She is the author of the bestselling humor book Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. She writes and illustrates the blog Crappy Pictures where she captures the hilarious and frustrating things that happen in marriage and parenting. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

More about motherhood

7 Reasons why bathrobes are cooler than yoga pants
5 Reasons homemade popsicles save my summer
Why I love (not) back-to-school time


Recommended for you


Comments on "How to make holiday gift giving less stressful"

Sarah December 10, 2013 | 10:27 AM

I have a lot of in-laws who acts like out-laws. The agreement we make each year is to pick names (Secret Santa) and not spend more than $30 on the person you pick. But then everyone cheats and buys extra gifts for people whose names they did not pick. And then they try to justify themselves. And I guess that's just what it's like to be related to a bunch of criminals.

Jenny December 10, 2013 | 8:31 AM

My family started a couple's gift tradition. Each couple buys a gift that would work for any of the other couples at a predetermined price. At Christmas we draw numbers to determine what order we pick our gifts in. It is interesting to see the variety of gifts that people come up with. We have had anything from already prepared meals for a month to games to horse drawn carriage rides or gift cards for a night out.

Becky December 10, 2013 | 4:42 AM

My husband's side of the family does "white elephant" at the Christmas Day potluck and it's really fun. Meanwhile, my side has lots of siblings, nieces and nephews scattered around. Somehow, in the past, it was decided that we wouldn't buy for each other. We also don't hit each other up for school and activity fundraisers. We try to see each other before the holidays, but no shopping is involved. It's nice.

K December 09, 2013 | 8:05 PM

I can't handle the whole secret santa thing - I love gift giving and buying too much! We did it last year and I found it miserable. We stick to close family and friends and send everyone else a christmas card.

Erica B December 09, 2013 | 7:21 PM

In our part of the Country, we call the white elephant a "Yankee Swap".. usually "White Elephant" is used in terms of a table at a yard sale with used stuff on it, most commonly small and not really wanted by anyone.

Molly December 09, 2013 | 7:15 PM

My brother, sister and I (and our spouses) decided last year to leave the kids with the grandparents and go out one night around the holidays. We had a blast and treated ourselves to someplace fancier than normal because it replaced the gifts that we don't need anyways.

l smith December 09, 2013 | 6:58 PM

My family is big and getting bigger, each year each individual family or couple annonymously put an amount of money in a closed box. Its great because some years if you cannot afford a lot nobody will ever know what you put in. Then all the ladies of the family get together and have a shopping day, the money is counted and devided by the amout of ppl coming. We usually end up with around $100 each so instead of getting a stack of cheap little things we can get somthing we really wanted (which is sometimes a stack of cheap little things haha).

Heidi December 09, 2013 | 6:45 PM

A gift that usually shows up at our white elephant gift exchange is a "Santa Fish" which is a fish from the meat counter dressed in a santa suit made of felt, bells, and pom-poms :)

mairin December 09, 2013 | 6:08 PM

my family did the white elephant thing, i ended up getting a y santa bedroom-dress that actually fit! it would have been hilarious for any of the uncles or grandpa to get, but actually ended up working out :)

Jeremy December 09, 2013 | 6:03 PM

Your "white elephant" game is called "dirty Santa" where I am from...most people bring silly things, some have brought food...I had one uncle that took the "dirty" too seriously and actually wrapped an "Adult Toy" to add to the pile. That raised some eyebrows among the more conservative in our bunch.

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)