Rethinking The Way We Give Christmas Presents


Maddy and I just finished watching the Curious George Christmas Special, “A Very Monkey Christmas”. Usually I find that while there are some differences, most Christmas movies follow very similar plots, which makes them boring to me. But I thought this one was actually pretty cute, and I liked the message. It was simple, sweet, and showed that Christmas truly is about family and friends.

While I do think that Christmas is way more than the material things we find under the tree, I also think that kids should experience the magic of Christmas and the excitement that comes with tearing into presents.

That said, this year I’m strongly considering doing the best of both worlds. What that looks like is this: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. I first heard about this from my cousin Beverly, who has seven kids. That may be part of why they do Christmas this way! Seven kids must be very expensive to shop for.

Her eldest daughter Michaela was the one who told me about it many years ago, we were probably 8 and 10. It was the day after Thanksgiving and we were playing at our Grandmother’s house. We started talking about Christmas, and what we were hoping to get. When she said “Our parents give us something we want, something we need, something to wear, and something to read”, my jaw probably visibly dropped. I hate to say it, but I was a very bratty kid, and this never would have flied with me. But Michaela and her brothers and sisters never knew anything different.

Saving money is another nice benefit to all of this.  I think it’s crazy how much money parents spend on their kids’ presents, and I’d be willing to bet that half of them get played with only once or twice.

After speaking to my mom yesterday, I learned that she’s thinking in a similar way. She told me that she’s tired of getting things for my sisters year after year, only to have them sit untouched. She then explained that she’s thinking about taking them away for a weekend instead. I thought this was a novel idea. Experiences are almost always better than a shiny new toy.

Now, do I think that Maddy would only get those four things plus her stocking for Christmas? Hell no! She’s spoiled rotten by her grandparents. So I know she’ll still be getting plenty of gifts.

This is her first Christmas where she’s walking and talking, but she still has no clue who Santa Claus is. I haven’t decided whether I want her to receive the four gifts plus the stocking from Santa, and that’s it, or if we’ll get her the four things, and Santa will get her one or two toys plus the stocking. Technicalities, we’ll figure it out.

Wrapping up here, let me get to why I want to do Christmas this way. There are four very simple reasons.

  1. To teach Maddy that the spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with gifts.
  2. To lessen the amount of stress that comes from trying to find the perfect gifts.
  3. To save money on toys that won’t be played with. Maddy received gifts last year that she’s only played with a handful of times.
  4. To spend less time shopping, wrapping, etc., and more time baking cookies, singing carols, watching Christmas movies, visiting family, etc.

Every family has their own Christmas traditions, but this is one I’d never heard of until my cousin Michaela told me, and that was more than 10 years ago. I still haven’t heard of any other families doing this. I would love to know what you think about this, and if you would ever do it?



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