Both JR and I come from large families (there are six children in my family and five in his) so buying Christmas gifts for each and every sibling (and their spouses, and their children) has never quite worked for us.
The past few years in JR's family we have had a theme for our gifts, which has worked out really well. Two years ago we all gave each other board games (some of our family favorites are Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Settlers of Cattan). Last year we were inspired by the Favorite Things party I had just attended, where each person brings their "favorite" thing. Each family was to gather some of their favorite things and send it to their assigned family. You can see our gift from JR's older sister in the photo above. Each little package included some favorite thing from each person in their family (minty M&M's are a favorite of Dad's, mom loves scented candles, etc.) The kids had a great time unwrapping each one and learning about their cousin's and aunt's and uncle's favorites.
For our Favorite Thing, we shared our ritual of Tea Time, something JR and I were trying to do every few nights. We had gotten into a bad habit of putting the kids to bed and then retreating to our computers, to finish up emails and catch up on work. Some nights we would watch a show, but we both felt like we weren't really spending time together in the evenings (even if we were both in the same room). Tea Time was our solution.
The note read: After the children are tucked in bed and fast asleep, we take turns boiling the water on the stove and getting out the tea bags. We fill our mugs with hot water and let the tea steep, then stir in a little sugar. Tea takes some time to cool, so we sit and talk at the table while we sip our tea and discuss the business of our family. Sometimes we take the time to play a game. After a busy day, it's just nice to sit down together and talk for a minute. We hope you'll think so too.
We included two nice shaped mugs from Pottery Barn (perfect for sipping tea) and a pack of our favorite tea (our new favorite is Tazo's Wild Sweet Orange Tea.. it is delicious!) and our favorite card game (Coloretto).
How do you handle gift swaps in your family? Do siblings buy for each other? What about cousins? Because we now have about 18 children between us, we have the cousins do a swap too. We've tried different things, like the year we had everyone make cards for each other (not as big a thrill for the kids as we had hoped!). But the past few years we have done a book swap, each child picking out a book they think their assigned cousin would enjoy. So far, so good.