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  • Writer's pictureNicci Smith

The Four Gift Tradition

Every Christmas morning, our children know they will have four gifts under the tree. When we were still young in our marriage and ministry, we struggled quite a bit to simply make ends meet. There were a few Christmases when the gifts under the tree found their way there via gifts from family and friends who knew we were struggling. Back then, even the smallest gift came from the heart and meant the world to us.

As we started to gain our footing a little and struggle less we got to experience the fun and the joy of filling the space under the tree. I would often get carried away and have a last-minute panic that I wasn't doing enough -- giving enough. My husband and I had some heartfelt conversations and decided that we needed to make some changes for three reasons:

  1. Consumerism is the name of the game in the world and we don't want to allow ourselves to get caught up in the race for the most. We certainly aren't perfect and often have to remind ourselves to take a step back and re-examine our priorities, but we know that stuff isn't what brings us joy.

  2. We celebrate Christmas as a Christian family. We celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, on this day. (Yes, we're well aware that the celebration of Winter Solstice is a pagan tradition, but we recognize it as a time for us to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.)

  3. We have five kids. Five. We have absolutely no desire to go broke for Christmas. Not a thing we get excited about.

So, we decided we needed to make a change. We needed to find the balance between the desire to buy all the things for our kids with our desire to also not buy all the things for our kids. (If you get it, you get it.) This is where the four gifts came into play.

Gift #1: Something They Want

Typically, there is at least one gift that each child has been asking for all year. One thing that is their heart's desire. This is often the easiest gift to buy because we've been tracking all their wants throughout the year. The greatest thing about this gift is it doesn't have to be stuff. One year, for our oldest, it was concert tickets to a virtual concert of one of his favorite bands. We LOVE experience gifts.

Ideas for "Something They Want":

Gift #2 Something they need

This one kinda' sounds like a bummer, but it doesn't have to be. I think all of our kids have gotten new bedding at some point since we switched to the four gifts. Our youngest got a giant box of diapers one year - and she LOVED unwrapping it!

Ideas for "Something They Need":

Gift #3 Something to wear

This could be one piece of clothing or an entire outfit - the sky's the limit. We often make the call based on the cost of items. It's often the same cost to buy our youngest an entire outfit as it is to buy a sweatshirt from our oldest's favorite band. I'm sure one of our kids received a pair of shoes one year.

Ideas for "Something to Wear":

Gift #4 Something to read

Probably my favorite category and varies greatly from one child to another. One of our kiddos loves comic books so we might buy him a number of them. Another child likes thick novels, so they might receive just one book. This one is fun to get creative with.

Ideas for "Something to Read":

Stocking stuffers

We like to stuff our kiddos' stockings with stuff we would have to buy anyway. This is the time for new socks and underwear!!! We also stuff the stockings with new toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, shampoo & conditioner, body wash, loofahs, etc. We've already budgeted for it, might as well wrap it up so they have fun unwrapping it!

Christmas eve pajamas

Finally, we do pajamas. The kids all know that after Christmas Eve service we go home and they each get to open one gift. They all know it's going to be pajamas. And they all love it anyway.

It's tradition.

We've found that the 4 gift tradition helps keep our spending in check and our hearts in the right place throughout the Christmas season. As the kids have gotten older, they've expressed the desire to buy a gift for their siblings so we've added those gifts under our tree as well. The week before Christmas, we have the kids draw a name so they can each purchase a gift for one sibling. (Any earlier and there's no way they could keep their chosen gift a secret!!)

Does your family have any gift giving traditions? I'd love to hear about your traditions!!

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