Six Holiday Gift-Giving Traditions


This will by my family’s first Christmas as a party of three, and I’ve been asked several times in the last few weeks what my husband and I are planning to get our nine and a half month old daughter.  I was caught off-guard the first time I was asked this, thinking, “Ummm…food, shelter, clothing?”  She certainly won’t remember this Christmas, so we figured we could just ride this Christmas out without having to buy her anything special just to watch her find the wrapping paper far more exciting than the actual gift.  Plus, we know that she will be getting plenty of gifts from her grandparents.  And maybe we’re just being kinda lazy…whatev.

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However, this question (along with this story that’s been circulating online lately about a mom who bought 300 presents for her three kids) has prompted me to begin thinking about how we are going to approach the tradition of holiday gift-giving with our daughter in future years.  We’ve got another year until we plan to really begin our own family gift traditions, but here are some great ideas that we are thinking about starting:


  • Keep gifts limited and place an emphasis on the religious meaning of the holiday:  After all, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, so why not give gifts in a way that reflects the gifts Jesus was given upon his birth?  Just as Jesus was given the three gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh by the Wise Men, children also receive three gifts at Christmas.  This is a great way for families that choose to focus on the spiritual aspect of the holiday to use the giving of gifts as a teachable moment each year.  If you wanted to focus the three gifts you give your children even more on the spiritual Christmas connection, you could designate each gift to have a specific meaning just like the gifts of the three Wise Men (check out this article for more info!).

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  • Limit the number of gifts and give each gift a purpose:  This idea has been all over the internet for a few years now for good reason:  it allows kids to still get many things they will enjoy without going overboard.  The idea is that each child gets four gifts over the holidays:  something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  There are other variations of this idea that include fewer than four gifts or more than four (including something to make, something to eat, something to watch, etc…).  The best parts of this gift-giving tradition are that it makes it a little easier for parents to plan for what gifts to buy plenty ahead of time and kids know what to expect each year, hopefully eliminating sibling jealousies and outrageous gift expectations.

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  • A give/get bag:  A give/get bag is a some sort of bag/box/container/whatever you have handy in which kids will put toys that they want to donate to children less fortunate than themselves to enjoy.  The give/get bag is then left out for Santa, who will take the donated toys away to give to other children and leave behind new toys for your kids to find on Christmas morning.  The give/get bag is a win/win:  the toybox gets cleaned out a little and some other child gets to enjoy “new” toys.

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  • Christmas Eve gifts:  These are fun to help build family traditions and often include items such as pajamas, movies, books, cookie-making items, and other things to help your family have a create fun-filled evening together the night before the big guys visits.


  • Give a gift built on a tradition:  Anything that helps to build a collection or further a tradition can make for a special gift-giving option each year.  Some ideas include:  a new charm for a charm bracelet, a specific type of ornament each year (perhaps from somewhere you have traveled, made from a certain material, or focused on a theme special to both the giver and recipient), or the next book or movie in a series.

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  • Give a new version of the same gift from year to year:  Again, predictability can make things so much easier for both the gift-giver and recipient.  Each year, give a set of tickets to a concert or show later in the year, give a subscription to a new magazine (or renew an old subscription), give a puzzle or game that the family can play together Christmas evening, or give a year’s subscription to a _______(fill in the blank:  toy, make-up, clothing, wine, coffee, vegetable, etc…) of the month club.

I’m glad my husband and I still have a little time to decide on what gift-giving traditions we want to begin with our family since there are so many fun ones from which to choose.

We want to know:  what are your family’s favorite holiday gift-giving traditions?