3 Gifts for Christmas and a Stocking – The Season of Christ’s Birth

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This post was originally published on December 6, 2011. It is not meant to say that what anyone else does at Christmas is wrong, just to share how our family chooses to celebrate with the giving of gifts.

Several years ago was our first time to buy Christmas gifts for kids in our home.  It was our first year to be foster parents and we loved getting to know the kids and spoiling them with a life like they had never known before.  I spent lots of time trying to figure out what they would enjoy most for Christmas and then searching those items out.  It was exhausting, and when it first came up that Santa was coming I made the split second decision that Santa wouldn’t be responsible for the gifts the kids received.  It seemed to be all that they were focusing on. From what we’d been told I had already bought 3 or 4 times as much as they’d ever seen for Christmas before. Since they hadn’t had a Christian upbringing, it was understandable that their focus would be on the gifts, but I wanted to give them hope of something real to pin their Christmas hopes.  

Not wanting to negate their beliefs of Santa, nor ruin any future of Christmas at their own home with all the gifts they would receive that year, we simply told the kids that Santa would bring their gifts to their Mom’s house but that we would get them plenty of gifts to make up for it. That made sense to them and we had a great Christmas.  It was a good decision, because many of those kids had little or no Christmas gifts before and it would be horrible to ruin their notions of Santa and why he didn’t bring as many gifts to them when they returned home.

When our own son was born, Santa wasn’t an issue for the first two Christmases.  By the time he was 2 he was confused by questions of what Santa brought him for Christmas, and we had to make a decision.  We decided that we wanted Jesus to be the focus of our Christmas.  We don’t hide Santa or negate that he exists because he exists for many kids, and historically there were real “Saint Nicks” who brought gifts to children in other countries.  We choose to present Christmas as the season of Christ’s birth with a few gifts to celebrate that.  We don’t talk about Santa or take the kids to get their picture with him, but we don’t really hide Santa either.  We think that each family should celebrate Christmas in the way that is best for their family so we don’t want to ruin that by teaching that Santa doesn’t exist. An angel or star will always top our tree instead of a santa, because celebrating Christmas as the season of Christ’s birth instead of the season of gimme, gimme, gimme gifts from Santa, is what’s best for our family.

So how does this fit with the theme of tips to help you save money on Christmas?  Because we are focusing on a Savior and not gifts, the kids each get 3 gifts for Christmas from us and a stocking of candies snacks and trinkets.  We got the idea from a girl in our Sunday school class several years ago.  There were three wise men who brought gifts to baby Jesus.  They brought gold (something of value), frankincense (something used in worship that brought people closer together and to God), and myrrh (something useful and needed).  The kids’ Christmas gifts are patterned after these 3 gifts of the Magi:

Gold- the thing they have wanted most all year long
Frankincense- something the whole family can do together.  It could be a game, season passes to a theme park, a special vacation, a netflix subscription – anything goes as long as it’s a bringing the family together thing.
Myrrh – something useful for the kids.  It might be a set of clothing, an educational toy, or furniture.

So far with our two biological kids we’ve given all toys at Christmas.  Their gold item is unwrapped beside the tree and the frankincense and myrrh items are wrapped for them to open.  Because we don’t spend hours unwrapping tons of gifts, the focus can be on Christmas and family.  

Now before you think that we don’t give our kids much, I should tell you that we give more gifts to the kids on their birthday.  That day is all about them: showering them with love and gifts, and to have a party to celebrate the child that they have become.  So we may go overboard a little bit with our birthday gifts, but I’d rather go overboard for birthdays than to cause Christmas to become a season of gimmes.  In the future I hope that we’ll have the finances to be able to adopt an angel from the angel tree or participate in adopt a family at Christmas to help our kids see what Christ was all about.

Another advantage to the 3 gifts of the Magi?  It sure takes a lot of pressure off at Christmas time so that I am better able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas as well. Remember “Turn you eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” Although not a traditional Christmas song, I’ve sung this as a Christmas time solo because it’s so fitting as we all get busy during the Christmas season.

This is what’s right for our family.  I’d love to hear how your family celebrates Christmas.

This post is being linked up to Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are That Family.


  1. I love this! my husband and I heard this idea a long while back and have wanted to implement the three gift thing too. thanks for spelling out what each should be! We’ve always been traveling for christmas, but we will be at home this year so I hope to spend a lot of family time together talking about these things.

  2. I like that, I know a lot of people that do 3 gifts for that reason but never heard of breaking them down like that. Very nice.

  3. I think your family celebrates in a way that honors the meaning of Christmas, and I have tons of respect for that.

  4. I love the angel topper in this photo. It reminds me so much of the one we had on the tree every year while I was growing up. Good memory.

    I love the 3 gifts idea. We have been trying to decide on a tradition that more appropriately reflects the meaning of Christmas and pulls some of the focus off “the gimmies” & commercialism.

    Two years ago, as I’m trying to teach my elementary aged children that Christmas should NOT be all about “what santa is going to bring” my son was being told repeatedly by his school teacher that if he did not believe in Santa Clause, he would wake up Christmas morning to find no presents under the tree. I was livid.

    We, too, do the bulk of our gift giving on birthdays rather than on Christmas… and what a delight that our youngest son was born Christmas morning last year.

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading how someone else approaches the season!

  5. I think this is beautiful and a wonderful way to keep the focus on the real meaning of the holiday. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Wow. I really love this. I am going to print it out and keep it as a reminder. My kids are 13 and 10 now, but I would love to start this tradition now. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

  7. Love the post – I’ll just comment on the tree topper for now. I don’t care for most angels, as they are usually female, unlike the male warrior angels in the Bible. That being said, we have had an angel topper before. We now have a star, as well as a cross (partly because I couldn’t find one of them one year), and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having the cross up last year. Some will disagree with the cross at Christmas, but I really like the reminder to us that he grew up & didn’t stay the baby in the manger. (important transition time for our pre-teen boys) Thanks for all your info & sharing!

  8. This is a timely and thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Christmas is such a wonderful Idea-to celebrate the birth of OUR LORD. We too celebrate with the 3 gifts– Ours is a NEED, Want, and because I love you. type gifts– We celebrate Easter much more — because of the scriptures noted Remember my death, but its because of the beginning of new life, once you except the Lord and he died for our sins. At first it was much to deep for the small children, but as they have learned to read the Bible they understand why it is more important. I for myself,believe that when they understand the whys, it is easier to except.After all they are the blessings from God.

  10. we have focused on many different things in the years that I raised children now with all grown children we reflect on the years where the theme was of the nativity and those that we outlawed all gifts but homemade ones loved reading your post

  11. Thanks everyone for your encouragement and support!

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