When I was a kid, Christmas was the biggest day of the year in my home. My parents planned for it all year, snatching up clearance items and good bargains to give as gifts. Some years, they stacked presents nearly as high as the tree. I loved sneaking out early on Christmas morning to see the beautifully wrapped boxes, and trying to count the ones with my name on them before Mom heard me and sent me back to bed. It was magical.
I also remember that somebody in the family was usually unhappy because, despite the mountain of presents, they did not “get what they wanted.”
And I didn’t realize as a kid how much work and money went in to providing that magical mountain of gifts. I didn’t realize that Mom and Dad literally stayed up all night on Christmas Eve wrapping. I always wondered why they were so slow to get out of bed amidst all the excitement on Christmas morning.
As much as I loved my whole childhood Christmas experience, with all of its wonders and presents, Greg and I decided early in our parenting career that we wanted to do things differently. We wanted Christmas to be simple and meaningful. We wanted to give our kids less so that they would hopefully appreciate it more. We wanted them to remember that Christmas is really about the birth of the Savior – not about receiving stacks of gifts.
Plus, I wanted to enjoy the Christmas season without constantly worrying about buying…and buying…and buying some more. I wanted to have my shopping done before December even started. I wanted to relax on Christmas Eve and enjoy the ambiance of the lighted Christmas tree, without staying up late to wrap gifts.
In that spirit, this is the plan that we have stuck with over the years, and it works well for us:
- Each child gets one present from Santa, but it is usually something pretty nice. We go for quality over quantity every time.
- Each child gets one present from Mom and Dad. Just one. Isn’t that glorious?!? Sometimes we even opt to give one big gift (like a trampoline or ping-pong table) to all of the kids in lieu of individual gifts.
- We draw family names, so each person buys a gift for one other person. Usually we set a price limit of around $20. We open those gifts on Christmas Eve. We do this because the kids carefully and thoughtfully pick out their gifts, and we do not want those smaller things to compete with the bigger gifts on Christmas Day.
- On Christmas Eve we also give everybody a new pair of PJs and a book that they can read if they wake up too early on Christmas morning. We don’t start opening gifts until at least 7:00, so the new book gives those early risers something to keep them busy until then.
Can I tell you how much I LOVE our system? There are very few presents under the tree, and I think that makes the few that are there so much more meaningful. And it makes the holidays so much less stressful and harried for me. Mission accomplished!
Now, that is not to say that Greg does not go a little crazy with the Christmas lights on the house…but that is another story for another day.
The holidays are coming quickly…are you ready to simplify? It is liberating!