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Opening presents at family Christmas get-to-gathers... without all of the chaos

Moms View Message Board: General Discussion: Archive November 2006: Opening presents at family Christmas get-to-gathers... without all of the chaos
By Tn_Mom on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 05:54 am:

We have our family Christmas get-to-gathers at my house. Things are always so chaotic when the kids go to open their presents. There are fifteen people in a rather small living room. Kids ranging from age 2 years to 10 years. My mom is the one that passes out the presents and Iím the only one that takes any pictures. This is the part that is so chaotic and stressful.

Iíve tried coming up with an ďorganizedĒ way for all of the kids to open their presents and where I can still get their pictures. Iíve tried having it where the kids sit in a semi circle and they each get one gift to open before moving on to another present. Iíve also tried having one child at a time open one present at a time. But none of the other adults help me to follow through with these ideas.

Iím trying to come up with a suggestion that the kids come over to open their presents. I know Christmas isnít about the gift giving and the focus should be on families being together. But I would like to come up with a way where it would be more enjoyable for everyone. It's just way too chaotic for me to relax and enjoy everything. Having the gather at someone else's house just isn't an option and everyone pitches in for dinner, so I'm never overwhelmed with fixing it all myself. And clean up afterwards isn't all that bad, so the only part of these gatherings that get to me if the present opening and picture taking.

By Reds9298 on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 07:22 am:

We have a similar situation. There are 18 of us, and while there seems to be enough room, 18 people is still 18 people! Everyone gets along well, but it's chaotic with all of the kids and the opening and everyone is talking at the same time! :) Mine is the youngest (at 2) and the ret range from 6-19, plus the adults.

I've been thinking about it and I think that this year we're going to open by family. With everyone opening at the same time, no one knows what anyone got let alone hearing a 'thank you'. We have my parents, my family, 2 sisters' families, and my brother's family. We will each be opening as a family. When one family is done, the next family will open. Then when EVERYONE is done, kids can put together their toys or whatever. I'm hoping that will help make our family get-together this year less chaotic and more enjoyable. The way it is now, by the time it's ove rand everyone is gone, I just sit down and can't remember what happened with all of the talking and opening and kids! I want it to be a more enjoyable FAMILY time, and part of that is the opening of gifts. I know how you feel...we barely get any good pictures the way it is now, too.

We have it at our house as well, and since my Dad's a big cook, he makes a lot of the food and I generally do the drinks and dessert. We meet around lunch, so we generally have a sandwich of some kind (often BBQ pork) with mac and cheese and beans. It probably sounds like a crazy Christmas get-together meal, but we like it!

By Dawnk777 on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 07:38 am:

At my SIL's house, there are probably 12-13 people. We all sit around the family room, in about the same spots every year. We go around the circle and all open our presents one at a time. Everyone sees what everyone got, and you get to hear the thank-yous. When my FIL was alive, we usually let him open all his presents first, because he could never seem to be able to wait, until his turn came around the circle again.

I know my first Christmas with DH's family, it was a free-for-all, and over with so quickly, and you didn't know who got what! I love doing it one present at a time!

We do it that way, with my family, too.

By Bellajoe on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 08:25 am:

Usually when we do family present opening, we have about 9 people and we try to do what Dawn's family does, taking turns opening presents around the room. But inevitably someone (an adult) takes their good old time opening something, while talking and the others get antsy and just say "forget this" and start opening their presents :)

Getting good pictures on Christmas morning, or during present opening time is just impossible, imo. The kids are so excited, they don't care who gets a good picture of them.

Tn-mom, in my opinion, if someone asked me to drop my kids off so they can open their presents so you can get a good picture of them, i would not be happy. I would want to be there with my kids while they opened gifts, and I know my kids would want to see what I got also. Like you said, it is a family holiday.

By Luvn29 on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 08:49 am:

Well, to me, pictures are nice, but memories last forever and are what is really important. I'd rather have good memories of Christmas, than perfectly posed pictures, and a bunch of uncomfortable or angry family members.

To me, it's all about fun and family. We are a free for all family. To me, the best pictures are the spontaneous, natural ones. Relax, have a good time, and most importantly, enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.

If you really want well-thought out pictures, either take them before or after the present opening. Maybe a good one would be after all presents are open, have the child sit with all the presents received around him/her, and take a nice picture like that. Get families as they come in, and take a family photo then.

Good luck and I hope you can work this out for the best for everyone!

By Mommmie on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 08:54 am:

I wouldn't overthink it too much. My mother dominates holidays with picture taking and it's such a distraction. A few pictures after the fact is enough. To organize present opening to the point where people are opening presents on a schedule seems like it's missing the point.

By Pamt on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 09:01 am:

My DH has recently gotten BIGTIME into photography. One thing a photographer does with candid shots though is fit into the situation, not create the situation. If chaos is the order of the day, then your pictures will (and should IMO) reflect that. I agree with Mommmie that really all anyone needs is a few pictures. Photo after photo of people opening gifts is, in fact, boring. Get the kids playing with their toys, playing with each other, people eating and talking...not just going around in a circle opening gifts.

And in the spirit of the purpose of Christmas and the original was chaos. Being 9 months pregnant and traveling on a donkey, no hotel, given birth in a barn, unexpected guests dropping in, being totally unprepared with no closet full of baby clothes or diapers...even no bed. I say embrace the chaos and let it give you a new appreciation for the chaos that is Christmas.

By Tonya on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 09:12 am:

We have about 20 people at my moms every year. 5 kids and the rest adults. The way it works is the kids sit in their own spot the presents are passed out to the kids all of them and then they are all only allowed to pen 1 a piece. We take pictures if need be then go to the next present batch. Then when the kids are totally finished opening gifts they go around the room and hug and kiss and thank everyone that got them gifts. Then they each take a gift and go play in the play room while the adults open gifts and socialize.

The only thing I can say is with a big family chaos happens you have to just go with the flow and not be so uptight. Let everyone enjoy themselves and take pictures how ever you want to. It is not about the gifts it is about the family.

Oh and I would not suggest the parents drop off their kids and leave them that would be rude.
Good luck.

By Kay on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 12:26 pm:

Every Christmas morning, my DH sets up the camcorder on the tripod in the corner, so that it captures everyone in the room. Then he turns it on, we forget about it, and we have so many laughs when we go back and watch and hear the things we've said as we're opening gifts (and even those that we missed) :)

Yes, I also snap away with my camera.

By Tripletmom on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 12:38 pm:

Christmas is total chaos at my house,ALWAYS :)I love it that way.I also take spontaneous pictures,they always seem to turn out the best.We're a definate free for all family too!!

By Yjja123 on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 02:38 pm:

We open one present at a time, one person at a time. I snap candids and never ask anyone to pose.

By Tn_Mom on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 10:34 pm:

What about something like this? Having everyone over for a lunch (if work schedules allow) and have some kind of Christmas related game, craft or other activity set up in one of the bedrooms for the kids do be able to do once they finish eating. Then have each child draw a number and whoever draws #1 comes into the living room with the adults to open all of their presents. Then that child could take their toys into the bedroom to play with and let the other ones see. Then whoever that drew #2 goes next and so on until all of the kidís gifts are opened. The adults could wait to open their present after the kids are finished.

This way all of the adults would be in the living room and would get to watch the kids open the presents and the other kids would be occupied in another room. I wouldnít think it would take too long to have the presents opened, so the other kids shouldnít get too antsy. This is a variation of having each person open a present at a time, just there would only be one child in the room at a time. The problem I see with this idea is the kids may not want to stay in the bedroom until it's their turn.
Like I said earlier, we all live within 15 minutes of each other and both of my brotherís kids have only gotten to see each other two or three times in the past year at my house. I would like for them to be able to have some kind of relationship with each other, in spite of their mothers not liking each other, after all they are all cousins.

As for pictures, I sometimes take each individual family pictures shortly after they arrive. I also take a picture of all of the kids in the floor in front of the tree. I also try to get a picture of each individual child sitting in front of the tree with all of their presents surrounding them after they have finished opening them. I just like to get a few of them while theyíre in the process of opening the presents as well, to put in the photo albums that I have made for each of them. I have never had much luck with taking candid pictures. It seems that someone always gets in front of the camera right as I'm about to take the picture. Or the person that I'm trying to take a picture of will turn suddenly turn around to look at something else. Therefore causing me to only get the back of their head.

By Kaye on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 08:13 am:

When we do Christmas we have 8-12 children and 10-12 adults. It is a little chaotic, but it is a fun chaos..LOL. We let one or two kids be Santa, they deliver the gifts. We all sit in a semi circle and they just open. My kids would hate the whole wait in another room thing. They all like to see what everyone else got, they like to see that they got that wa the same, etc. Some years my pictures are bad, some years good, but it is Christmas.

Let me just say this, 9 years ago, my grandfather was very ill. So I decided that I was going to do one heck of a Christmas scrapbook, I took lots of pictures ( 7 rolls of film). I did get some great pictures, BUT i did really miss out on the season. Turns out my grandfather didn't die, my mother did. I am glad to have the album, but even though my pictures of her aren't great, I still love them.

Honestly the key to getting better pictures, quit stressing, and take lots and lots of photos. Get down on the floor, get close to each person and snap away.

After the kids open gifts they do mostly go up and play. We meet, have dinner, the kids play for awhile, while we eat more and clean up, then we do gifts.

By Debbie on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 09:00 am:

Well, as far as taking pictures while opening presents, I just snap as many as I can. It is pretty wild here too. To me, that is just part of the fun of Christmas. I think you are going to have a really hard time seperating people while you open gifts. Half of the fun is watching everyone else open their presents.

As far as your two sils that don't get along, I think it is a great idea to just have one leave their dks for awhile after opening gifts, so they can play together. It also make it so the two sils don't have to be around each other.

By Reds9298 on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 09:13 am:

Ditto Debbie. We just taking snapshots while we're opening, then do posed family pictures at the end. We also choose 2 kids to be Santa and pass out gifts.

By Dawnk777 on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 10:08 am:

I wouldn't want to be separated from other people, while we are opening presents. I want to see what everyone else got! To me, that is half the fun of Christmas!

I would definitely want to be there, when people open my gifts. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to miss my kids opening their presents. The first reaction is the most precious.

We don't take a lot of holiday pictures. We just enjoy the moment.

By Tn_Mom on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 03:23 pm:

I guess weíll just do it the same old way. I will try to past the picture taking duties on to someone ele this year. But I don't really know who to pass it onto because everyone has their duties already. Maybe I'll see if both of my brothers will take the pictures this year. One with my camera and one with a disposable camera. But are disposable cameras good? Honestly, I hate being the one taking the pictures anyway. But in years past,if I didnít take them, then there wouldnít be any holiday pictures because no one else brings their camera.

Thanks for the input, I just want to come up with something that will please everyone and where everyone can enjoy the moment.

By Dawnk777 on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 07:43 am:

Disposable cameras work great! My mom has a beautiful picture of pink tulips in Central Park, that is framed and up on her living room wall, that was taken with a disposable.

Here's a picture of the girls and I, on the Maid of the Mist, in 2005, that was taken with a disposable!
Girls on the Maid

By Tn_Mom on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 01:37 pm:

That is a very nice picture. I went to Niagra Falls a few years ago. It sure is beautiful there! I lost my pictures that I took of the falls though. Well, they have to be around here somewhere, so maybe someday I'll find them again.

By Dawnk777 on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 07:01 pm:

I loved Niagara Falls. Good luck with Christmas.

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