Christmas Presents

Try not to hate me, but I’m almost done Christmas shopping! I just need to make the time to go to the PX without my son and pick up one last thing and I’m done.

A few years ago we ended up wallowing in Christmas Gift Excess. My feelings were a little hurt as my young children bounced from gift to gift saying, “What’s next?” without giving their gifts more than a passing glance. These were gifts that I had thoughtfully and joyfully bought for them and they just didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. Granted, they were very little, but I realized that year that we were starting down a dangerous path.

The next year we cut back dramatically. Our children each received 3 gifts, just like baby Jesus. Santa brought them one particularly large gift that was to be shared by the whole family. I filled their stockings with little trinkets. I explained the situation to my parents and asked that instead of many small gifts for each child, that they buy fewer but more meaningful gifts. They happily complied.

I have to admit, that on paper, our first scaled back Christmas looked great. But then I saw what my friends with similar aged children were buying. Their lists were 15 to 20 items long, for each child. I wavered in my enthusiasm as I wondered if I were setting my children up for a life of crime due to Christmas neglect. I stood my ground. Christmas is not about getting gifts, after all. My resolve was strengthened after reading the Christmas chapters in the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura and Mary were overwhelmed at receiving a tin cup, an orange and a penny in their Christmas stockings. They grew up just fine and so would my children.

Christmas Eve came around and Philip and I worked quickly to set the gifts out under the tree. (Well, I wasn’t all that quick because our baby Rebecca had been born just 2 days before!) Between the gifts we bought for the children, plus the gifts from grandparents, godparents, aunts and other family, the presents were still spilling out all over. The next morning was the usual Christmas Morning Chaos. But it was just the right amount. Boo and Pumpkin Girl were thrilled at their presents and didn’t even notice they had gotten significantly less than the year before. I think we really found a good balance.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that the stocking stuffers never get played with. They get left in the stockings until the decorations are put away and then a few months later when we’re purging the toys, they get put into the give away pile. This year in their stockings, they’ll each get a video they’ve been asking for and a little candy. I’ve also put a new spin on a tradition from my dad’s childhood. He always had an orange in the toe of his stocking. To put a modern spin on this tradition, I now put a chocolate orange in the children’s stockings.

Limiting the number of Christmas presents has been a real blessing to us over the years. As the primary gift buyer, I am challenged to choose the very best gifts that I think they will enjoy most of all. No buying something just to buy it. Our playroom is overflowing as it is, so we aren’t adding a ton of new toys. The children genuinely like and play with the toys I’ve chosen for them. And most importantly – and let’s not forget this – I can be done Christmas shopping in mid October!

More Mac and Cheese, please!


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  • Great ideas. We do a scaled-down Christmas too. I need to also rethink the stocking stuffers. You are right, they don’t get played with. I really wonder how people can afford to buy all the presents they tend to buy for their kids.

  • i also scale down my gifts to three. but even so, it’s so much stuff. by the time you add a couple of aunts, gparents and 4 kids, there are almost over 25 gifts coming home with us. i wish there was a way to get relatives to give less stuff and more of their time.

    i’m wondering what you are giving other pple?

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