This post was originally published November 17, 2011
Before Little Girl’s first Christmas in 2008, my husband and I started talking about and praying through how we would approach gift-giving with our children. Would we lavish them with any and every new toy? Would we do Santa Clause? How would we give to our children without them getting spoiled? How would we, as a family, keep Christ as the CENTER of Christmas?
Some friends of ours a few steps ahead of us in life gave us a suggestion: Just give your children 3 gifts–as the wise men gave Jesus 3 gifts when they visited Him.
Now, some of you may be thinking: “Just 3?! That’s it?!”
Really, if you could come sit down on the couch with me (after, ahem, pushing aside the mound of clean clothes I’m now eyeing on my right), you could look to your left and spy our girls’ play area. Let me just say: These girls have.plenty.of.toys. They are in no way deprived! (I think it may be the other way around!) Beyond just limiting the gifts, we decided to be intentional about the type of gifts. Each of our children will get a:
- need, and a
- spiritual gift.
The want usually ends up being a pretty big gift. Two years ago, we gave Little Girl a toy kitchen with lots of little gadgets and play food to go inside.
The need could be anything from a new sweater to a potty training chair to a new pair of shoes.
The spiritual is where the most creativity comes into play. It could be a play nativity set, a new Bible or, like my husband gave our girls last year, a journal where he records prayers and “love” letters to them.
Our childrens’ grandparents and other family members still give to them as they wish, although we are encouraging them to not feel obligated to give much–or to put the money they would have spent in a savings account.
Since we started this tradition with our girls right off the bat, they will always see Christmas as a time when they receive 3 gifts–just as Jesus received 3 gifts.
It will open up opportunities to talk more about God’s greatest gift of all–and the true reason for the Season–salvation through Jesus Christ.
And Santa Clause? We don’t pretend any gifts come from him. Both of us grew up with Santa, and, no, we do NOT think Santa and Satan are synonymous, but we prayed through things and felt that it was best for our family to keep the gift-giving simple.
Right now, Little Girl thinks Santa is as real as a Disney princess. She knows he says “Ho Ho” and comes out around Christmas. (We don’t live in a bubble.) And my dad even dresses up like him and we put the girls on his knee. But there is no anticipation of what Santa brought on Christmas morning.
When she gets a little older (maybe this year?), we will explain to her that other families do play Santa and children do think he is real, so we need to play along and keep the secret. We think there is nothing wrong with that.
You can check out what we gave our kids the last 4 years here:
- 2013 Christmas
- 2014 Christmas
- 2015 Christmas
- 2016 Christmas
- 2017 Christmas
- 2019 Christmas
- 2020 Christmas
Yes! I love this! It puts my thoughts into words very well and I will be using the idea of the 3 gifts and their categories. Our kids are still quite young but I want to start this tradition and keep the focus on Christ! Already the kids have been asked about their wish lists for Santa and they just respond with blank stares. We are focusing more on the giving than the getting and they don’t know they are supposed to want anything! You also bring out an important point about making sure the kids know to respect the Santa game that other families might be playing. Thank you! Merry Christmas!
Thanks for weighing in. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!
I love this idea. I have been trying to figure out how to do handle Christmas as my daughter gets older. I A) don’t have a lot of money to spend on meaningless presents B) live in a small home with little storage and C) don’t like the mass consumerism of th season. This is a perfect way to approach this
I hope you enjoy this way as much as we do!
This is something I have seen the past few years and love the concept! With multiple children its always hard to keep things ‘equal’ in regards to the gift giving. This is definitely something I would love to adopt and start doing with our family. Thanks for sharing!
It definitely simplifies things!
Wow! Your kids are lucky-3! Ours always only get one present from us. We let them choose something from the catalogues of gifts for the poor to ‘give’ each other and any other gifts are from the extended family. If they need something they work for it around the house. Are we scrooges?
Nope! Not scrooges at ALL! We started a tradition of picking out something out of the gift catalog together on Christmas morning last year. I am excited about what the girls will pick this year!!
Great idea! We always taught ours to expect two gifts. One from Santa, who gives gifts to everyone as an example of Christ’s love. We also celebrate Christ’s birthday (we always have a birthday cake and sing HB). The second gift was from us. However, as the kids got older there have been years where we could financially afford to be more self indulgent, and did so. But always talking about the two gifts so they never expect more than two.
That’s a really cool way to do it, Lori! Thanks for sharing!
My baby is only a year and a half, but this is exactly what we plan on doing and how we feel about Christmas! Love hearing that other people feel the same way. Sometimes it seems like everyone else is all about Santa and that darn elf on the shelf 😉
Sarah [email protected]
We do something similar except with 4 gifts – want, need, wear, and read. I’m still thinking about how to handle Santa b/c my daughter has talked a lot about him, which is sort of odd b/c we rarely talk about him at our house. It’s crazy how much they pick on just by hearing others or seeing things. I’m thinking about having her stocking come from him or either 1 of the 4 gifts be from him, but we’ll see. Thanks for the great ideas!
This is a wonderful idea!! I’m a mom, grandma, great grandma, and I’m sending this to my kids and grandkids. Thank you for a refreshing approach to the commercial Christmas that we all battle.
Thank you for your input!
Thank you for helping me refine my “Three”. We have had a tradition of “Something we want, something we need, and something to read.” I believe the refining of a spiritual gift, as well as the great revelation of the three gifts like the three for Jesus is so perfect! I love the comparison and understanding to help my growing kids. We have celebrated with the “three gifts” for 6 years now and I love the no expectations of gift explosions. Thank you for the refining idea.
I would love some ideas on what to give a 9 month old for a spiritual gift. Thanks!!
This list might help: