I will admit it--I can take no credit for this. I read it in the current issue of Family Fun magazine, but thought it was such a fantastic idea, that I wanted to pass it along to those of you who either haven't gotten your issue yet, haven't gotten a chance to read it, or don't subscribe to it.
Somewhere near the front of the magazine (sorry--don't have my copy with me at the moment), I found this suggestion of how one family makes the holidays about giving:
They have a large family (26 in their extended family) and found it impossible to buy gifts for each member of the family every year. Plus they wanted to make the holidays about giving rather than receiving.
So each family member chooses a charity they would like to see get money. Kids participate too. People can certainly decide to pick the same charity as someone else if they want. They write their charity of choice onto a slip of paper (one preschooler simply wrote "help tigers" one year).
Each family writes a check for the sum of their family's ages (two 40-year old parents, one 8-year old, and one 6-year old equals a $94 check from that family).
Each family member puts their slip of paper in "the hat" when they gather together for their holiday festivities. Grandpa draws a winner at some point in the day. That charity receives all of the money from the checks from each family.
They hand their checks over to the family who had chosen that charity, who then write one big check for the total amount and send it to the charity that won. As a bonus, that family can write the contribution off on their taxes the following new year. That family then sends out the reminder email the following year to tell everyone to start preparing for the event again.
I thought this was a FANTASTIC idea to emphasize giving while making it fun; for teaching children that giving was a blast and more important that getting gifts for themselves. Although we've never tried it ourselves, this is certainly something I think we can incorporate into our festivities in the future.
Go over to We Are THAT Family and see what other holiday and/or gift ideas you can find!