Our oldest daughter was just shy of two years old.  We sat in my in-laws living room watching her amidst all the boxes, wrapping and bows.   It was so much fun to see her having so much fun.

The last present was deposited into her chubby little arms.  Her lips puckered pensively, trying to figure out where to open the package first.  With one swift pull she ripped paper down the side.   And there it was.  A beautiful toy, shiny in all it’s newness.

She stared briefly up at us, back down to her new toy, and then this word……...More? 

I was baffled.  The child had everything her little heart could want.  Piled around her were toys, clothes, coloring books and videos.

When she realized that “more” was not forthcoming she expressed herself as any child wanting more, does.   She leaned back and pitched an absolute fit!  Tears, snot, arms and legs were flying everywhere.  It was not a pretty site.

Today that 2 year old is now 19 and we have come a long way since that Christmas morning.  That day was defining for us as a family and as a couple.  From that moment we decided we needed to make some changes in our Christmas giving process.  While we love to bestow gifts on our children and loved ones, we never want it to become just about the gifts.

That’s hard in our over-commercialized world.  We are bombarded daily by images of new technologies, gadgets, gizmos, clothing choices and sophisticated toys and games.  Who doesn’t want those things.  Seriously! I want those things.  I love beautiful clothes, and nice jewelry.  I love my i-phone and i-pad.  I want to live in a beautiful home and have things that make life more comfortable.

Grinch Christmas

But at the expense of what?

And that my friends is the question we’ve decided to ask ourselves each Christmas.  At what expense?  Not just monetarily, but emotional and physically.

Here are some guidelines our family has put in place so that we can enjoy Christmas for what it is really meant to be.  Simple and meaningful.  Take what you need, leave what you don’t.

1. No Christmas Debt –  We committed several years ago that we would not go into debt for Christmas.  We pay cash for any gifts we choose to purchase.  This means we have to plan ahead, set limits and stick to a budget.

2.  3 gift rule-  We have set a “3 gift” rule.  Our girls receive 3 presents from us.  In the last few years we have shifted to two gifts from their list and an experience gift that fits them individually.  The experience have become one of their most favorites as it allows them to spend one-on-one time with mom or dad and experience something that really interest them – such as the Braves opening day game in Atlanta or experiencing the home of American Pharaoh for our horse loving girl.

3.  Give Back –   Each year we work to give back in someway to those around us.  For many folks the holidays can be a tough time and lending a helping hand or serving a warm meal can hopefully bring a small amount of joy to their lives.

So what about push back?  What about the kid (or adult) who is not on board with “less is more” idea?  For our family, it’s been a process over time.  Over the years we have been intentional about speaking to the hearts of our children about what gift giving and receiving is all about.  Then we walk it out as best as we can, little by little.  It doesn’t mean we don’t still want things,  but wants are something we can still achieve through hard work and saving over time.

I leave you with this quote –

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Is Christmas giving a challenge for your family?  What ways have you come up with to simplify and get back to Christmas and what it’s meant to be?  We welcome you to share with us in the comments.


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