Christmas Gift Giving – Less is More

Now that the kids are older, it is both easier and harder to buy them gifts for Christmas.  For the most part, whatever anyone needs during the year, they get.  The operative word here is NEEDS not WANTS.

Buying gifts for our family is easy for a few reasons.  No one has expectations of getting the perfect and most expensive gift.  We also never go overboard on buying gifts.  Having a lot of kids prevented that from happening anyway.  We never believed in going into debt over buying gifts.

Stockings on our mantle every year.

Often, our kids most favorite gifts are the ones they buy for each other – and none of them are very expensive.

One year, our middle child carved a large piece of wood into the shape of a pencil and painted it to give to her older sister.  She worked on this project with Daddy for weeks.  I still smile when I think about the precious time she got to spend with DSH making something with her own little hands and how proud and happy she was to give this to her sister.

To this day, one of my greatest pleasures is watching them unwrap the presents that they give to each other.

Philosophically, we are opposed to Christmas lists, but we all prepare them each year.  When the kids were little, they would make a list, but they knew that they would never get everything on their list.  They also knew that they might get things that weren’t on their lists.

I have an acquaintance who was complaining about her daughter’s Christmas list.  Apparently, the child had prepared a list which family and friends had used to complete their shopping for her.  Then she changed her list.  Mom and family were in a panic because they now had to return everything and start over.

Really.

Christmas card picture taking 2011.

It’s also hard to buy our kids gifts now that they are older because they don’t have gigantic lists of wants.  Our middle child didn’t even prepare a list until a few days ago.  She said that she was happy with some things we had done for her during the year and didn’t have expectations of getting more.

Our twins’ lists were a mix of fun and practical things.  I enjoyed that they ranked things, but that they also said they would be happy with whatever they received.

So, when people ask me about my Christmas shopping, I often don’t know how to answer them.  Buying gifts is much lower on our list of holiday priorities than other things.  And our gift buying lists are not very long.

For instance, we stopped exchanging gifts with our siblings and nieces and nephews a long time ago.  As the numbers grew too large, we started doing gift exchanges with just the kids and as they got older that even stopped.  It has nothing to do with not caring for one another.  It has everything to do with eliminating stress and overspending.

We do other things with family other than give gifts.

Christmas 2010 – my brother and his family pose for their annual Santa hat picture.

Making our annual photo Christmas cards.  Christmas Cookie Baking Day.  Delivering Christmas Cookie Plates to family and friends.  Pictures with Santa hats.  Reading Christmas stories, listening to Christmas music, and going to church on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Breakfast.  Christmas Dinner.  Christmas Theme and Rob Your Neighbor.

Christmas 2010 – Rob Your Neighbor “Disaster Preparedness” theme.

Lest you think our children are deprived, please know that we do give them gifts.  DSH loves to buy and give gifts.  He even coordinated getting the lists from the girls this year.  We know that our family is blessed, and we have a lot.  Especially compared to most of the rest of the world.

So the girls will receive a pair of PJs – like they do every year.  Their stockings will be stuffed because this was DSH’s favorite thing to go through each year when he was a child.  And they have to include a Lifesavers Candy Book.  They also include a package of Thank You notes.  Because our rule, from the time they were old enough to understand, is that they can enjoy their gifts all day long on Christmas Day, but the day after, all gifts are off limits until the thank you notes are written.

Christmas gift giving may not be a top priority in our home, but that doesn’t mean we don’t share and give to one another.  But, more often our gifts are time spent with one another.  At the end of the day, particular gifts will be forgotten, but the memories of spending time together and the traditions (like waiting until they are all awake and ready to come downstairs together and drinking orange juice mixed with Sprite and eating homemade cinnamon rolls) are what is really important.

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