Three Gifts

I either get flack or positive remarks on our family holiday gift giving tradition.   

Aside from what the boys receive from Grandparents, Godparents and a few very close family friends, they only receive three gifts each from Santa.  

Nothing comes from us and the boys believe the three gifts are from Santa, which of course is simply wonderful. Paul and I don’t exchange gifts and enjoy the holiday being about the children. The tradition began years ago and we’ve stuck with it.  

So, our decision to focus the holiday on our children and marry the religion and symbolism of the three gifts Jesus received with the magic of Santa as our Christmas gifting formula has worked and has been fulfilling.    

Aside from the positve comments and the “Good for You’s”, we’ve heard it all from people over the years. Questioning us about what we’re doing to them; How awful that they only get three gifts; We’re depriving them of the excitement of a plenitude of gifts and the experience of being a kid on Christmas; We’re ruining it entirely…  

We judge no one and don’t care what anyone thinks. It works for us. This is entirely personal and without judgment for what anyone else does. I’d like to think  if you have the ability to provide an abundance of gifts for your family, you’ll also consider the needs of those less fortunate and give back with charitable gifts. I hope this is true, but I don’t judge just as you shouldn’t judge us.  

There are wants and there are needs and there’s a distinct difference between the two. For our family, our Christmas lists have always been about our wants. We are fortunate and for that we are grateful. Very grateful. There’s nothing wrong with wanting and receiving things as long as the gifts are appreciated, and of course that respect is given to the difference between those wants and needs. 

Each year, the boys participate with us in selecting two disadvantaged children to purchase Christmas gifts for. A tradition I began as a child with my parents, I’ll admit I get more joy in making these purchases and providing for the real needs of others than I do in satisfying the wants of my own family. We’ll always have joy on Christmas regardless of what is under the tree or in the stockings, but this does not ring true for everyone.   

Believe it or not, our boys truly appreciate their three gifts, don’t wonder why there isn’t more, spend a great deal of time processing what they’re asking for each year, are learning the difference between wants and a needs, recognize there are many less fortunate than they, appreciate what they have, think of others needs and have yet to even recognize that our tradition is any different from their friends.  

Our family has found a peaceful balance in this overly commercialized holiday and for that we are happy and grateful.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

15 thoughts on “Three Gifts

  1. Dear Jennifer- what a beautiful tradition! I wish I had started with my kids when they were younger. I think there would be quite a backlash now that they are 12 and 7. For years we did excessive amounts of gifts for the kids and extended family. When I lost my job in 2009 it forced me to take a hard look at how we were spending money, not just at Christmas but all of the time. Last year we cut back considerably on the material goods and really focused on preparing for Advent and reading the Bible. I was much less stressed and felt much better about the holiday. They really didn’t miss the gifts. This year we are doing the same thing. Of course we always take several tags off the giving tree at Church and the kids enjoy helping to select those gifts. I have always felt that returning to a simpler, streamlined Christmas is better for my family, and your story validates that. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. As a child who got more than three presents, I now look back on it and realize how spoiled I was. I think that my kids will definitely get less – not because I want to punish them somehow, but because I want it to be more realistic, more about the season, and family.

    • Sara:

      I hope you and your family have a great Christmas. Best to you and I hope you feel well and enjoy continued healing and good health.

  3. This is great! We’re doing this with my inlaws this year..just going out for dinner and enjoying everyone’s company instead of exchanging gifts. I tried suggesting this to my mom and it did not fly…maybe I will try again next year ;-).

  4. I love this. While my girlies do get more than three gifts, we think abot what they get and do the need vs want. We also do charities with the girls through out the year. They understand their are families less fortunate and we always t…ake them shopping with us to purchase items for these family. They get very excited to know that they are helping and will make comments like “I really hope they enjoy this or how special would it be to get that.” I think you are doing a wonderful job with establishing a tradition that will follow them through out their lives. Great Job Mom!!!!!

  5. Love it! Very good parenting in my opinion. I have not gotten that clever yet, but have decided to make a budget for each child and stick with it. I even went to toys r us and did not purchase one item!

  6. Was just talking with a girlfriend today about our worries this year in the abundance of gifts and traditions we were starting with our kids at this age. Wanting so desperately to capture the magic of Christmas but also wanting a balance. This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Thanks for sharing. I think I remember it from last year as well. Now I just have to figure out how to execute this year!


    • Courtney,
      Thanks for your comment. I hope you find a balance that works for your family and if course that you are all happy, healthy and have a wonderful Christmas. Cheers to you!

  7. My children have only received one gift from Santa on Christmas for most of their lives, and no gifts from us. One is an adult now and the other nearly there, and neither one of them feels like they got a bum deal, or were cheated.

    To piggy back on the idea of giving to others, my children have each picked two names off the giving tree every year, and we have always gone and bought things for these other kids. This year, with one child married, she and I went to the giving tree, and picked nine children, and we went and bought for those children.

    I know you said you don’t care what others think about the way you do business with your children, but I thought that you might hearing that an older mom chose the same for her children, and they are better for it. Actually, my oldest child is in college to become a pediatric oncologist, because she so enjoys giving to others.


    • Mary,

      Thank you for your encouragement and for sharing your story and traditions. I suppose I should have been clearer in the post, I care what people have to say and of course a dialoge, but should have been more specific. I don’t care what people think if you think we are nuts or crazy or awful parents. I appreciate your story and perspective and is wonderful to know others do the same. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

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