Gift-giving has never been easy for me–particularly around the holidays when I desperately want everyone in my life to know how much they matter to me.
Sometimes I’ve purchased way too much, and the dozens of hours shopping, wrapping, mailing, unwrapping, organizing, storing, and maintaining all of those gifts have felt like an added burden during an already-busy season.
Other times, I’ve kept things simple, but I haven’t been as focused on the meaning of the holidays, the memories we were making in the process, or the extent to which we were reaching outward.
This year, I want my gift-giving experience to be about more than whatever items happen to be on sale at Target. I want to do it “right.” So I went to our Power of Moms Community for help, and wow, you’re a smart group of women.
Here are six beautiful ideas you’ve taught me:
(1) Give a few meaningful gifts to our own children–and let them in on the plan.
Certainly, we don’t want our children to feel disappointed on Christmas morning if the living room doesn’t look like Toys R Us, but it’s not about how much they receive. It’s about the expectations they have–and how loved they feel. We can have a simple family conversation about our overall holiday philosophy (involving everyone in the decision-making), and then we can let our children know what to expect from us and/or Santa. Here are some possibilities:
- Some parents give an educational toy/game, something their child needs, and then a stocking of small gifts and treats.
- Other parents give three gifts for each child–to mirror the three gifts given to the Christ child. Some do a Frankincense (spiritual) gift, a Gold (want) gift, and a Myrrh (useful) gift–in addition to a stocking and a Christmas Eve gift (which is traditionally new pajamas in many families).
- Some children receive one special toy or other item from Santa and then receive books, board games, and clothes from their parents. (Activity-type gifts seem to be popular for young children. Receiving things that they can do will help keep them busy and happy during colder weather or time at home during vacation).
- Several moms use the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” idea:
- Some parents find that their children receive abundant gifts from relatives and that Christmas feels overly-abundant if they do anything beyond “helping Santa.” But these parents often still feel the need and the desire to give their children something themselves (rather than just via Santa). In this case, it can work well to give children coupons for special time or activities with mom or dad or a “Family Fun Jar” (see ideas below) rather than just adding to the pile of toys. This approach is spelled out on Saren’s blog here.
I know there isn’t one “right” way to do this, but I love how deliberate and uncomplicated these suggestions are.
(2) Simplify the gift-giving among extended and immediate family members.
With large families, especially, it can get expensive and time-consuming to purchase gifts for everyone. Many families have met this challenge by drawing names among siblings, cousins, in-laws, etc. and focusing on inexpensive handmade gifts (that actually make the giving process more meaningful). Another idea is to do a group family service project or group activity (like attending a cultural event or a nice homemade dinner) in place of the traditional gift-giving. BRILLIANT.
(3) Give the gift of memories.
Although we don’t see ideas like this in the Black Friday ads, sometimes the best presents are the ones that enable us to spend more time together in the coming year. Ideas include…
- A special date night with Mom and Dad
- A family vacation (that you announce in a creative way at Christmas)
- A coupon book (featuring things like a trip to get ice cream, 30 minutes playing handball at the school playground, or an afternoon playing with kittens at the animal shelter)
- A family activity jar with a collection of great outings listed inside that can be selected each month (Saren has a fun post about this on her blog)
(4) For neighbors and teachers, keep things simple and handmade (and involve the kids!).
Growing up, my mom would help us make a fresh loaf of bread for each of our teachers, and we would wrap each one with a new holiday dish towel. Those moments spent in the kitchen, surrounded by the smell of bread baking, meant the world to me, and my teachers loved the bread. This is easy and fun for me, so I do the same thing with my children.
Bread-making might not be your thing (and that’s totally okay), but there are lots of great handmade gift options out there. I just won’t go into detail because I think Pinterest has this covered.
(5) Make an effort to focus outward.
Simplifying gifts for family and friends not only means less stress for us, but it means more time and money can be spent on people who are really in need. One mom involved her son in Sub-for-Santa, and he loved being part of the process. Lots of families have enjoyed reading Christmas Jars and then creating their own jar of coins and dollars to give to someone in a tight spot.
There are tons of fabulous charities that would also appreciate donations around this time of year. One of our community members recommended Heifer International, which fights hunger and poverty by providing animals to families–to help feed them and generate a reliable income. (Why give a cup of milk when you could give a cow?) I love this idea.
And if you’re looking to involve your children, Saren’s Children for Children concert idea is absolutely fantastic. She and her children work with friends and neighbors to put on a beautiful performance, and then they collect donations to send to orphans in Bulgaria. (I haven’t done one of these yet, but someday I hope to do so!)
(6) Make the season less about “obligatory giving” and more about rich traditions and the true meaning of the holiday.
I’m guessing we’ve all gotten caught up at one time or another in “giving because we feel like we have to.” But I would really like to change that. Personally, I would rather someone not give me an obligatory gift–and instead simply say, “I love you so much, and I’m keeping things simple this year, but please know I am glad you are a part of my life.”
And then with all that energy we’re collectively saving, we can take time to read Christmas stories by the fire (great post about this here), sing carols around the tree, act out the Nativity, or establish new family traditions focusing on service.
As I’ve been considering all of these ideas, I’m actually starting to feel excited about this season. Because what really matters is that the feeling in our homes and the “magic” of the holidays shapes us into better people. That’s a gift that will keep giving all year.
QUESTION: What other deliberate gift-giving ideas do you have to share? Is there something that has worked well for your family?
CHALLENGE: Take some time this week to discuss your family’s gift-giving strategy–and do everything you can to keep things simple.
Many of the ideas above are from our Facebook conversation, and you can see the entire conversation here.
To listen to a whole podcast on this topic, there’s a new Power of Moms Radio Show you can access here.
If you want to know which gifts our Power of Moms Community recommends, please visit our Amazon Store, and if you’d like to suggest a book or toy that we’ve missed, please use this submission form.
Finally, if you would like more ideas on how to organize the actual gift-giving (so you can fold these additional tasks, errands, and activities into your life without adding stress), our Mind Organization for Moms program has a special audio tutorial being featured this month for our M.O.M. members.
Thanks and good luck!
Originally posted on November 19, 2013.
Rebecca Y. says
Our favorite tradition is that we draw names within our own little family (Mom, Dad, 5 kids) and we exchange our gifts to each other on New Year’s Eve. The best part is…the gifts MUST be handmade. It is so special to watch both the giver and the receiver. I can tell that each of my children feels something special as they watch their gift opened…something they worked hard to make themselves.
I love all these wonderful ideas; we are always looking for ways to make the holiday season more meaningful. We were blessed to learn the lesson of a simple Christmas (by choice) when our oldest was 5. As our traditions have developed over time, we have come up with a solution that works for us. Santa brings a family gift, but the individual gifts under the tree (and there are usually only 3-4 from us) come from us or other people that love them.
I love a big Christmas. I love to shop for my kids and husband and get them the perfect gifts. This year we are forced to cut back because of unemployment and I’m finding it is a blessing to simplify and focus on more meaningful activities and traditions. Time together will be wonderful and I have a few fun surprises in store that will be so fun.
This is such a great post, April! Thank you so much!
Priscilla McConnell says
This was so great April!!! I’ve been awakened to the true meaning of Christmas this year and I already feel a load of weight being lifted off my shoulders. I refuse to take part in ‘obligatory giving!’ I LOVE all these awesome ideas and am so looking forward to teaching my boys all about the fun and joy in GIVING (as opposed to the huge slant toward ‘give me, give me, give me.’ We are choosing to do away with Santa this year while we move along on the journey to SIMPLE and MEANINGFUL. Thanks so much for writing this! Incredibly helpful!!
Linda Wightman says
We found the number one simplifier of Christmas was simply to abstain from the “Santa thing.” It’s so much easier to avoid expensive and/or difficult-to-obtain gifts when you don’t want to fool the child into thinking they come from someone with infinite resources.
I love a good celebration, and unwrapping gifts has always given us great pleasure — so we wrapped everything. Did the kids need socks? They went under the tree in bright paper. Boxes of cereal — the kind they weren’t allowed to eat the rest of the year. And educational materials galore, even before we officially started homeschooling. If we bought it, and it was anywhere near Christmas, it got wrapped and put under the tree. Lots of joy, little extra expense.
Alisha Gale says
How funny, Linda–we do almost the same thing. We’ve never done Santa, but we wrap EVERYTHING: toothbrushes, shampoo, a Christmas book, etc. Our kids always have a fantastic Christmas, even without Santa.
Do you by chance have a printable “want, need, wear, read” Christmas gift list like the one in the picture? I love that idea!
Holly here is a link to it that we used:
Cheryl, thank you so much!
Nice & beautiful idea. Just phenomenal & great. Love your approach & all the things here. Thanks.
Great idea. Something really special. Appreciate your thoughts. Go ahead.