Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving Gifts...

I had a comment the other day from Ali asking me how our family handles holiday gift giving in regard to our children. I've actually wanted to post about this, Ali. Since the official gift-giving season is in full swing, now seems like the perfect time.

We're minimalists when it comes to gifts for our children. Not because we're cheap or chintzy (though I am very, very frugal), but because we just don't believe that they need everything they see and/or want.

We desire to live very simply and to teach our children that the most important things in life aren't "things".

So, with that in mind, our children each get 4 gifts each Christmas.

We started out with three gifts each because I heard that idea at MOPS one year. The idea behind it (I guess) is that baby Jesus got three gifts from the wisemen.

But then I came across a wonderful little poem. I can't remember where it came from exactly (Carrie, was it you maybe?), but we loved it and it stuck. We've made it our gift-giving guide. Our children each get:

"Something they want, something they need, something to play with, and something to read."

We ask them to make us a list of some things they would like to have and of some things they need.  Of course, that means they have to understand the difference between the two, but we've taught them over the years and I'd say they generally understand.

Together, John and I look over their lists and choose what to buy.  We set a price limit and try to keep things pretty even between the three of them. I really, really encourage them to think about what they want and why. I enjoy buying "real toys" for them...things that encourage creativity and imaginative play. Last year, Sarah asked for and received an art easel, which I thought was awesome...but I'm learning to be flexible since I have a pre-teen son who loves all things electronic.

Usually the biggest gift on their list is from Santa.  Santa also stuffs their stockings (little stuff), and usually brings a new game that the entire family can play.  The remainder of their gifts are from mom and dad.  

Ali also asked how we keep it fun, and how we keep it Christ-centered.

Well, I think the fun part is easy. I've never met a kid who didn't love a present.

As for keeping the focus where it needs to be, I think you just talk and talk and talk about the meaning of the Advent season with them.

I also love this idea that my mom used with us growing up. Our nativity set always had a baby Jesus that wasn't attached to the manger, or creche. She had this beautiful gold box that she would wrap baby Jesus up in and put under our Christmas tree. It was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL package by far. On Christmas morning, before we could open any other gifts, we'd unwrap baby Jesus...God's gift to us...and place Him in the manger.

We've adopted that tradition as our own, and I think it helps keep things in perspective. Like I said the most important things in life aren't things...they're people and relationships and our faith in Christ.

Any ideas you want to add? I'd love to know what your family does.

*Update--credit for the poem above goes to Carrie's mom. Thank your for sharing your wisdom!

22 comments:

Kelly said...

I love this idea! I had planned to do the 3 gifts thing too but I like your little poem. I love to give but I think that gift giving at this time of year gets out of hand. I'd rather spend time with family and give to people who really need it.

petrii said...

What a GREAT idea!! I love the poem. I'm always looking for ways to get the kiddo (16) to think about what he might want and why.

I love the Baby Jesus gold box idea as well. Before we open any gifts we gather together and read the Christmas story out of Luke. It is a very special tradition to us. And reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas.

Thank you for this post ~~ GREAT!!!
Have a Blessed Lord's day, Dawn

Gretchen said...

Oh, LURRRRRVE it! 4 gifts it is. Puuurrrfect. yep, yep, yep. I've been looking for ways to simplify. I always tell my kids to put the "I" in Christmas when their harping on this and that. Yes, a little sarcasm occasionally squeaks out betwixt my lips. :( And (sigh) it occurs to me that I might occasionally want for more than the 4 in terms of "gee, wouldn't new countertops be nice...but then the walls would look dirty...how about some paint...and would you LOOK at the carpet!"

Yes, pulling the log out of my eye. Multiple times a day.

We started focusing on Advent last year. That helps keep it real for me. Also, doing this play and praying that it would glorify Him is a way that I try to keep Him in the picture. Because it IS a sacrifice and time eater. But who better to give time to?

Leigh Ann said...

Meredith! I got all teary reading about your tradition of baby Jesus. That is about the sweetest thing I have ever heard. I also like the idea of four gifts from the poem!

Tiffani said...

These are such great traditions and teachable ones, too!

We have some traditions, too but each year I find myself doing some new variation of whatever (crafts, baking, etc.)...it's mainly about being together as a family...this year I bought a Christmas movie and jammies and we'll watch that and put them on the night we put our tree up...

We cut a tree every year as a family and that's always hoot because it takes me forever to find the perfect one!!

We do the three gifts from Santa but we also teach our children that Santa doesn't come because you're good or bad...he isn't "watching you" but Jesus is and we want to honor Him with our actions and Santa knows the real reason for Christmas, too...we have a book called "A Special Place for Santa" where Santa gets sad because everyone is losing focus on the true meaning of Christmas and he prays beside the manger...really sweet...

Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt said...

Really, really great idea!!

Becky said...

We are trying to start some traditions. Christmas Eve he gets to open 2 gifts...Christmas pajamas and a Christmas book that we read togther by the Christmas tree. I want the book to be one that will help us focus on baby Jesus instead of just Santa coming. Hopefully, this is something we can do even if we aren't at our home every Christmas.
This year I am working on an Advent calendar for us to have each year.

Michele said...

We don't overdo it for our kids either, pretty much for the same reason. Things don't make you happy.

We always make a "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake every year and on Christmas morning sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat cake for breakfast.

We do something for a family in need anonymously. We try to involve the children in this, but last year the family we did it for was really close to our family and we didn't want them to know it was us, so we didn't tell the kids.

I have this book by Lisa Welchel called, "The Adventure of Christmas" It tells why we have Christmas trees, lights, wreaths, etc. - they all point to Jesus. We relearn these things every year when we get our tree and decorate it.

This was a fun post!

Kim Heinecke said...

AHHHHH! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that little poem of the 4 things. I gotta call the Mr. right now...!

Amy said...

I LOVE the poem and the 4 gifts idea, I LOVE the nativity story....

What a great post!!

*carrie* said...

Mer,

The credit for discovering the "gifting poem" goes to my mom--I think I posted about it last year.

I loved reading about the tradition of opening baby Jesus on Christmas morning. Really helps with the idea of anticipating his birth, too! Thanks for sharing these ideas.

Hope you'll have a chance to leave some comments on my simplifying Christmas series this week while you're in AR. Have a safe trip!

Amber said...

We try to keep things pretty simple. One main gift and then little gifts like PJs and games. We are overrun with toys, so we're trying to take the focus off those types of things.

We also try to stick with the 3 present rule, but I LOVE your poem. That is so great!!! We may have to adopt that one....

Ali said...

Thanks so much for the great ideas for keeping gift giving simple for your kids. I love the poem about the 4 gifts! Such a wonderful idea! We have two kids that just turned 5 and 2 and a baby on the way and I think we'll totally adopt your idea! It is important to make this time of year more about family, giving and most of all Jesus than just getting things. I also think we'll wrap baby Jesus to open on Christmas morning! What a terrific idea! That is the true gift of the season! I'm so thankful for each of these GREAT ideas! Thanks so much!

~ Ali

Jacquie said...

Wow! This was a great post with some great ideas for the season. I loved your 4 gift and "baby Jesus" traditions. I wish I'd heard that while my kids were still young!

Gina said...

When I was young our rule was that we could get our stocking and take it back to bed with us- but we couldn't wake ANYONE else up. Our stocking always held a piece of fruit and some nuts or pretzels (Predawn snack), a pretty, a SILENT toy or activity and new mittens or socks or slippers etc.
After breakfast (usually cinamon pull aparts) we opened our gifts. With 8 of us in the house it seemed like there were SO many gifts- I know my parents were careful, though. My dad handed out the gifts and we had to watch and ooh and ahh over each other's gifts. Maybe that is why it seems like a lot, it took a long time.

We don't buy gifts for our kids, but this year I am definitely going to wrap our baby Jesus up to open on Christmas morning. I know nothing about advent. Maybe I should learn.

Angie said...

I wish I had heard that poem 15 years ago!!! What a great idea. Great post!

Joanne (The Simple Wife) said...

Love your gift poem, Meredith! Think I may have to "borrow" it!

Joanne

Leah Belle said...

i agree with you about simplicity. i try hard to teach my kiddos to have grateful hearts and not feel entitled to get everything they want.

Angie said...

LOVE that poem! We've been struggling with how to cut back on gifts without cutting back on fun and tradition. We were thinking 3 gifts from us. But then... factor in grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins... and it's out of control. I'd also love to take the kids shopping for one gift for each other. How do you do that? Is it beyond the 4 gift rule? Are those 4 gifts just from you and John?

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I heard that little poem at a MOPS meeting a few years ago. I think this is the year for us to implement it.

But I echo Angie's question. How do you "control" extended family? Because four gifts from Mom and Dad are reasonable. But when you add in two or three from both sets of grandparents, gifts from my siblings and Corey's extended family -- suddenly, we're back to 20 gifts per person again. (And we have NO ROOM FOR ANYTHING. But that's a separate post.)

Jenn said...

Great poem and a wonderful post too. Our kids get 4 gift as well and the biggest is from Santa. My parents did the same thing growing up with us - it was a tradition that I carried on with my family.

Rae said...

I have been thinking about this post since I read it. I've also told a lot of people about what you wrote here. I just haven't gotten back to post a comment yet!! Anywho, I wanted to thank you for this post and for helping me come up with a new plan when it comes to gift giving. We have always followed the three present guideline-3 Kings...but I think I am changing the way we gift gifts to the chickadee's to fit the four gifts.