I absolutely LOVE Christmas time. Yes, I am one of those crazy Christmas decorators who have their decorations up before Thanksgiving (gasp … another elf apparently bites the dust). I love everything that the holiday season brings to my family and having decorations around just makes me HAPPY! Shoot, I’d have that beautiful lit tree up all year long if I wasn’t such a clutter freak. Celebrating Christmas with all the wonderful components of it (baking, decorating, gift giving, spending time with family, going to church, etc) is the highlight of my year.
My cut back on my children’s gifts from “Santa” all began about 7 years ago. Back then, I had a 3 and a 1 year old. Christmas morning of 2007, I was smacked in the face with a reality check. My 3 year old had been opening gifts for over an hour. Like really an hour … and that was fast opening too. Why was it taking so long? What in the world did I buy that kid? How many presents did he receive from Santa? Did Santa actually sneak in my house and ADD to the presents I had already bought?? Surely he must have. It was SO.MANY.GIFTS for one tiny human. After approximately 73 minutes, my three year old turned around, looked at me with a very nervous smile, and said “Momma, can I stop opening my presents so I can play?” Oh dear … that just happened.
Time stood still in that moment. My mind was swirling with all the shopping trips that began in August. The stockpiling of gifts in every nook and cranny in my house, hiding from my kids AND my husband. The times I wondered, “Does he have enough presents? Oh, what’s one more!” as I wandered aimlessly around Target or Toys-R-Us. Oh my GRACIOUS. I was breaking the bank on all of the toys that I bought knowing he’d love every last one of them. I was raising my child to come to know that Christmas was a time of PRESENTS!!! AND LOTS OF THEM!!! Well, yeah, I wanted him to understand that Santa brings good boys and girls presents for Christmas, but I also wanted him to know the deeper, much deeper meaning of Christmas. It became apparent to me that Christmas morning, as I sat in my robe sipping cold hot chocolate, that I was failing my kids by the over abundance of presents. Something had to change.
As the next Christmas season approached, I was vigilant about finding a way to keep the CHRIST in Christmas, as we are a Christian family who attends church regularly. I read a blog I found one Saturday morning that pointed me in a new direction. I would give each child of mine 3 gifts for Christmas. Jesus was born on Christmas and received gifts from the three wise men. 3 gifts … on Jesus’ birthday … perfection in my mind, as cliché as some might think. So I set out finding the three most perfect gifts that holiday season for my two boys … 1. something that they wanted, 2. something that they needed, and 3. something that would surprise the heck out of them. It wasn’t about how much money I spent on these items, it was about the quality and thought put into finding that gift that I KNEW my children would cherish and love for months to come.
That Christmas morning was everything I had hoped it to be and more. The boys absolutely loved their gifts, we got to spend so much more time together, and my clean freak momma bonus … a much smaller mess to clean up. Score!!! Our family has chosen this method of Christmas gift giving since then and my boys know no other way. Gone are the days of endless purchasing of nonsense, filler, cheap toys to make the tree look fuller. Gone are the days of hiding all of my Saturday splurges. Gone are the days of the million mile pileup of toys in my living room from 2 hours of opening gifts. Our Christmas days now consist of more snuggling, more reading Christmas books, more cooking and baking, more one on one time with each child, more gratefulness, and more time to spend with each other. And in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Not presents that never end or spending $500 dollars on each child so they can have “enough” that chilly December morning.
Is this the right way for every family out there? I doubt it. I have gotten the stink eye a few times when I have told someone our gift giving tradition. I’ve been called a Scrooge. But every family is different and we all choose our battles. Keeping Christmas Holy was my battle, and I’d say that I finally have this battle won!
I listened to many conversations just like this among friends well before I ever had my daughter. For her first Christmas, my husband and I discussed for a while how we wanted to preserve the magic of Christmas while also being sensible. We also do three gifts, but these are from “mom and dad.” She gets something to wear, something to read, and something to play with. If we do more than one outfit or more than one book, we still wrap the items together as “one.” My parents never wrapped our “Santa” gift when I was little, so we also went with this idea. We’ll do one additional unwrapped Santa gift for as long as she believes. With so many aunts/uncles/grandparents/godparents, our girl is well showered in gifts, so we chose this route for our family so that we could save money and have more time to enjoy other traditions on Christmas Eve and morning. Not everyone in our families shares the same thought process, and that works for their families. We just knew we wanted something more simple so we could add other elements to our Christmas activities.
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