Christmas is one of those things I battle with almost all year long.
I am still working on finding a balance. After last year's mandatory “gratitude experiment” I was very tempted to just forget about Christmas gifts all together! I was so done with the greed and the ungratefulness. I wanted my kids to “get” that Christmas was Jesus' birthday and that we were going to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and that that very fact should be enough to celebrate.
But then my husband brought me back down to reality. Reminding me that there is nothing wrong with gift giving, or receiving, for that matter, it's all a matter of the heart and the heart is what we needed to work on and cultivate. Our kids needed to know what to expect and be grounded in the reality that giving can be such a gift in and of itself. I needed some way to be okay with loving on my kids through giving them gifts, but balancing it with proper focus.
So how do we do that?
First of all, we have instilled an atmosphere of giving in our home all year long. For one example, (our kids actually began this several years ago on their own) whenever a friend (or cousin, and often times even an adult) comes to our home they are gifted a (used) toy (or picture, or sticker, or special rock from their shiny rock collection) from our kids before they are allowed to leave.
Our kids LOVE to regift their toys or art projects, and I love to see how they choose the “perfect gift” from their own treasured belongings to gift to some of their favorite people who come and go in our home.
We also keep the reality of the world as a whole in the forefront of our home. Our missionaries are front and center as well as the reality that our family has its own mission field right here in the Raleigh area. Basically, we want our kids to be thinking outwardly all the time. Every single one of our family members has the right to share if the Lord is leading them/us to give to a specific person, family, or area.
Second, we have talked openly about expectations for the holiday season. Actually, we have had this same conversation for birthdays as well. If they think that Christmas (or their special day) is going to be a day showered full of gifts, then they will be sorely disappointed. Not only do we not have the means to make Christmas a winter wonderland full of all their favorite things, but we don't believe that giving them everything on their wish list is making wise use of what God has given us.
We talk about how gifts are just an added bonus for the day (whether it is Christmas, Valentines Day, or a birthday). A special way for mom and dad to show “gifting love” on that particular day. But specifically, on Christmas we go as far as to list the number of gifts they will open, just so they know in their minds that it isn't going to be extravagant.
So if our kids are focused on the real reason for the season and have been given realistic expectations of what Christmas morning will be like, they are less likely to be disappointed and more likely to be grateful with a clear focus on the “reason for the season.”
Here is what we do for gifts on Christmas morning as a family:
We give each of our kids 3 gifts:
- A personal gift – something they have asked for or something we know they would love/use.
- A family gift – we print off a “coupon” or picture of a family “adventure” we will take. This year will include a trip to the pumpkin patch in the fall, a day trip to the beach, and even the NC aquarium. Something we can do as a family for fun.
- A spiritual gift – last year we gave each child a personal devotional that they could go through on their own (even though Josh and I needed to help guide the littlest littles). This year we went to Ross's and racked up on journals because we want to spend the year focusing on journaling our prayers and thoughts to God.
- Stockings – each year is different, but typically we put some fun little things in it. We are SO OVER CANDY in this house so we steer clear of that, ha! This year they have something practical (each of them have a pack of socks and undies), then they have a couple little toys too.
It's all about being open with your agenda and open about their expectations, while allowing the true meaning of Christmas to shine bright.