Why My Kids Only Get 3 Gifts For Christmas…

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.

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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.

photo 1Time 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.

photo 4That 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!

Do you go all out with Christmas gifts or limit them? Why or why not?

Katie, a self proclaimed "momma bear", enjoys living her busy, country life with her husband of 10 years and 3 sons just outside of Baton Rouge in Tangipahoa Parish. Katie attended Southeastern Louisiana University where she obtained a degree in Elementary and Special Education. Little did she know how her love of children with special needs would grow shortly after she graduated college. Her middle son, Connor, was born with a rare brain disorder called Schizencephaly-he is wheelchair bound, nonverbal, blind, battles retractable epilepsy, and is fed through a feeding tube. Katie and Connor endure the many trials they are put through with a smile and joy in their heart. Along with being an active member in her church and working for an online public school, Katie regularly advocates for those who experience developmental disabilities at the Louisiana State Capitol. She is the Region 9 leader for Louisiana Citizens for Action Now (LaCAN) and is a member at large for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Disability Affairs. When life's challenges seems too much to bear, Katie remembers this quote to keep forging ahead and being the voice for those who have none, “God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” -unknown

105 COMMENTS

  1. As a gramdma who has done the ton of gifts for each child until last year, i agree with the concept of only getting a few gifts for each child/person. Just an FYI, Jesus received his gifts from the wise men when he was a toddler, probably around 2 yrs. old. It took the wise men a few years to find Jesus’ family and it probable didn’t fall on his birthday. I know all the Xmas plays, (X is greek for Christ, btw, so not disrespectful), have the wise men coming on his birth, but they didn’t. Also, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many wise men there were either. You can google this yourself.

  2. We told our son the truth about St. Nicholas and how much he loved Jesus. His example of giving to others out of Christian kindness led to being honored as a Saint in the Catholic church. Our son never told another child the entire story but did tell others that he believed in St. Nick who became Santa Claus.
    Five requests for gifts were traditional at our home. There were three Wise Men gifts, one St. Nick gift, and one gift from mom and dad. That helped to keep the reason for the season at the front of our minds. We read the story of the birth of our Savior prior to opening gifts and shared reasons we were thankful for events of the prior year.
    The best present for me was when our child excitedly wrapped his arms around me and exclaimed that he was so glad that he knew his mom and dad purchased his gifts and not Santa. He talked about how much he appreciated the presents that day when he was just six years old.
    In my personal life, I remember feeling betrayed by my parents after getting into a heated argument with an older neighborhood boy who declared that my mother and father were the purchasers of Santa gifts. To avoid any more dramatic experiences, my father told me the truth. At ten years old, I doubted everything they had taught me. I did not know if God was real or if Jesus was ever born and placed in a manger.
    While we do not judge families who choose to make Santa a part of their Christmas holiday, we found that our traditions worked best for us.

  3. We live near one of my sisters and her family (herself, husband, daughter, her spouse who are both in there 30’s) Christmas after Christmas we watch them shower their daughter and spouse in presents, many from “Santa”. This year I counted over 30 gifts EACH! It troubles me to watch this every year and to have my son who is a child see this. Today he asked me why Santa brings them so many presents when they are grown up’s and he is a kid and gets just a few! (he is happy with what he gets and isn’t asking for more)
    What kind of answer can I give him??
    Considering not spending Christmas next year with them during the gift opening part at there house. We live near one of my sisters and her family (herself, husband, daughter, her spouse who are both in there 30’s) Christmas after Christmas we watch them shower their daughter and spouse in presents, many from “Santa”. This year I counted over 30 gifts EACH! It troubles me to watch this every year and to have my son who is a child see this. Today he asked me why Santa brings them so many presents when they are grown up’s and he is a kid and gets just a few! (he is happy with what he gets and isn’t asking for more)
    What kind of answer can I give him??
    Considering not spending Christmas next year with them during the gift opening part at there house.

  4. Wow…I couldn’t do this 3 gifts only thing….I have the whole of December to bake and decorate and watch christmas films and do family things….christmas day seems normal to me to be woken up at 4am with an excited child and spend 3 hours opening our presents. Our kid has the whole day to play….and every other day after. I think as kids grow up tho they become more patient and enjoy taking the time to open gifts. One day my kid won’t want toys, one day they he will have left home and my house will be tidy 24/7 but while my son is here I’m afraid making the most of everything each day and spoiling him at Christmas is priority because I can.

  5. Personally, as a child myself still, who knows Santa does not exist, I would not like to only get three presents. Now before you go calling me selfish let me explain. My parents are divorced and my dad lives in Florida. When I was younger I was raised firmly in Santa and the Tooth Faerie, as well as the Easter Bunny and other myths. My favorite part of Christmas and winter in general is the beauty, part of which is the sparkling tree covered in twinkling lights. And what characteristically goes with that vision of a tree? Presents. In that sense part of all my Christmas memory’s are the presents themselves. Instead of celebrating Christmas like usual, my main celebration is Christmas eve where I open presents with all of my family, thats my family’s chance to give the cousins and aunt, uncle ect. presents and for everybody to meet. That in itself is about 20 presents, not all expensive, but all meaningful. On Christmas morning I open presents from my mom. I also open the few shipped from my dad. More presents. All of which I will use. If I don’t use them and there unopened then I will donate them to Samitras purse. If I want the, then I will keep them. Call me selfish but presents are a big part of Christmas to me and hold many memory’s. I would explain more, but I need to go to violin lessons.

  6. So thankfully I found this article. I have a 15 month old. Last year was a breeze, but as he gets older I was afraid what Christmas would turn into. As a Christian, I had often to said to myself I wouldn’t celebrate the worldly view of Christmas, but I did as a kid 🙂 After reading this article, I will work with my husband and extend family to incorporate this 3 wise men gifts into our CHRISTmas celebration!!

  7. My brother and I weren’t put on a “limit” but our parents didn’t buy us loads of presents, and at least half of what we got was something we needed! We were raised to be thankful. We never fought over who had more, getting too few, etc. we appreciated what we got and thanked our parents for what they had gotten us and had done for us. I can see an amazing reason behind the 3 gift rule, and it seems like an appropriate number of presents not only because kids have enough when they are clothed, fed, and loved. They have something to enjoy. Also considering, they’re gonna be getting gifts from other relatives most likely and it just adds to a pile of toys they often get bored of! There were years we had 2-3 presents when we were younger, but we knew our parents and “Santa” had worked hard picking them out and giving them to us!
    I can’t agree with the whole thing about thinking it’s ok for your kid to go around telling other kids Santa isn’t real. I get that many families want a heavily Christ based Christmas, I am a Christian too, so is my fiancé. We were both raised with Santa. I was not raised religiously at all, he was raised in a very religious home, but sharing the nativity story, and talking to children about why it is we celebrate Christmas, why they get presents, and raising them Christian year round is a great way to instill those values. I don’t even disagree with people not wanting their children to believe Santa is real. That isn’t child abuse, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a good parent, your children probably won’t even feel they’re really missing out on anything (can’t speak from personal experience on that, as I said, I was raised with Santa), but the Santa thing didn’t make me trust my parents any less. Personifying an array of love and giving made it easier for us to grasp the idea as children. To think there were seemingly magical things here on earth visiting us helped us imagine wonder in the world, it’s all in good fun. Don’t ruin other people’s fun. If you’re telling your kid it’s ok to come to school and tell my kid Santa isn’t real, I’m going to get pissed. I knew kids in primary school that came and made fun of kids for believing in Santa, or just became irate when no one would listen to them when they claimed Santa didn’t exist. You don’t have to include certain aspects of a holiday in it FOR YOUR FAMILY. As a parent, you make that decision. You can’t make that decision for anyone else, regardless of what vehicle you use to push it into others.

  8. Thanks for the article, the Christmas gift idea is great and I think I’ll be trying that for my three year old. I was really wondering how many things to get him. He gets wants on Christmas however, since we get his needs as they are needed. I do not consider needs a gift I suppose. I felt bad getting him three gifts, but perhaps not.

  9. Christmas is the most joyous occasion of the year and I have completely loved this blog which depicts a mother’s love towards his children. Gifting is an integral function in the festive period but the problem which mostly arises here is what to gift to your loved ones and hence to overcome this problem I recommend visiting CuteRascals,the URL of which is given down.

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