DH and I don't exactly see eye to eye about gift giving. Maybe it comes from the way we both grew up. DH grew up as an only child in a relatively small condo to two parents who were quite comfortable financially. I grew up with two siblings in a big house (which cost a lot to heat and light and . . .) to two parents who, well, we were still considered middle class, but we knew money was not abundant.
Growing up at Hanukkah time each of us had a choice: eight small presents or one big present. And that's just the way it was.
When I first started spending Christmas with his family, I was literaly speechless at the amount of presents they had. It felt like their Christmas tree had thrown up all over their living room. And when the kids came along, it got worse.
Don't get me wrong - I LOVE getting presents. And I love giving presents too. But I don't want our kids to grow up just expecting all of these presents! Personally, I don't think they end up appreciating what they get when they each have five, six, seven presents to open in one morning. I would much prefer they get one or two things each and then time to play with each thing as they open it.
We celebrate Christmas at my IL's house. This is how I am able to wrap my brain around having our Jewish family celebrate Christmas at all. And it is my IL's show. We help them pick out a tree and then whatever presents my ILs get for the kids goes under the tree. DH and I do not buy the kids Christmas presents; instead we buy Hanukkah presents which we give them during the holiday at our house. DH feels very strongly that the kids should open a present for each night of Hanukkah, which translates to us buying six presents for each child (one night will be at my parents' house, so they will get gifts from them and my sister; another night we will be at my ILs and they will give them a Hanukkah present or two that night).
In my perfect world, here's how we would be celebrating Hanukkah this year:
1st Night - Hanukkah dinner at the Temple
There will be games, songs, and activities, plus a little goody bag included in the cost of the dinner, so that is the gift for that night.
2nd Night - two books for each kid
3rd Night - Sunday dinner and Hanukkah at my ILs
Gifts from my ILs
4th Night - special toy for each kid
5th Night - Surprise for the kids!
We have a tradition each year of picking a night where the kids put on their pajamas, get bundled up, and we all go off in the car with Hot Cocoa to go look at the Christmas lights. My thought would be to change this tradition so that it will happen one night during Hanukkah with the kids never knowing which night it will be - we'll wrap up a new pair of PJs for the kids (something that we give them each year for when we spend the night at the ILs for Christmas) and when they open it they'll know it's time to go look at the lights.
6th Night - A home-made kit for each kid
For example, J loves art right now, so her kit would include lots of paper, stickers, fresh markers, and maybe the materials needed for a special project.
B LOVES science, especially watching the reaction when you pour vinegar into baking soda, so his kit would include a huge box of baking soda and large bottle of vinegar (so he could use as much as he wants without having to ask each tim) along with some other household ingredients that he could use independently to create fun chemical reactions.
A's kit would include graph paper and colored pencils along with some kind of Lego design book so he could write down the Lego designs he makes (something he loves to do).
7th Night - Gift certificate to spend an afternoon alone with whichever parent they choose
8th Night - Shabbat/Hanukkah dinner at my parents
Gifts from and for my parents, my sister and BIL, and for my niece and nephew
That's what I would like to do. DH - not so much. Maybe after the holidays this year and I can show him this plan and start laying the groundwork for next year. Probably he still won't go for it. Not because he's a jerk (I know he's going to read this and worry that people will think that) but because he wants them to get more. I realize that marriage is about compromises, so I have been compromising about this every year, but maybe we can move more to my plan a little each year. Maybe.