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.