Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meaningful Gifts {5 Days of Preparing for the Holidays}


Of course we like to give (and get!) gifts for the holidays, but the challenge is to keep the focus from shifting to a "gimme" attitude.  And staying within budget.  DH and I really don't give each other gifts - instead we buy something for our home and call that our gift to each other.  As for the kids... we try to spread things out over the season, and make the gifts we do give as thoughtful and personalized as possible, even if we don't spend much money.  Having some insight as to everyone's love languages can help us choose gifts wisely.  My family is learning that I like Quality Time far more than Gifts, so doing something special together as a family is all the gift I need.  My kids that value Quality Time or Acts of Service are also delighted with gifts that may be less tangible but demonstrate our love for them more effectively than a gift bag containing a material thing.

When they were little we did a lot more with stockings, but now they are mostly part of the decorations. I try to remember to give the kids small "stocking type gifts" on St Nicholas Day.  Even this has often backfired depending on what day of the week St Nicholas Day falls on!  But, by offering some fun little gifts and treats that morning (IF they've put their shoes by the fireplace!) we can talk about the real St Nicholas and his example of generosity and concern for others above ourselves, and then be done with Santa for the year.  We have never encouraged a belief in Santa Claus by giving gifts labeled from Santa, by writing letters to Santa, or by invoking Santa in hopes of improving behavior.  And our kids have never felt hard done by.  They've been able to enjoy the Santa Claus themed Christmas specials for what they are - fun and imaginative stories based loosely on the legend that has sprung up around St Nicholas.
Kennady with Santa and Mrs Claus at EPCOT
For a number of years we used a three-gift rule when we chose gifts for our children.  They each got three gifts that represented gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the gifts brought to Jesus by the magi.  The gold gift is one that is of high value, the "big ticket" item on their wishlist, just as gold was a gift of very high value.  That doesn't necessarily mean it's something very expensive, because we do need practical limits on how much we spend.  But it is one of the things that they want most and is going to be very dear to them.  When they were young, it was often the toy they wanted most - for Kennady, it might be the Disney Princess Barbie; for the boys it might be a Lego set.  As they got older, those gifts tended to be DVDs or video games, and also got more creative.  For instance, one year we gave Harrison tickets to see his favorite college basketball team play in Washington DC.
Harrison and Landon playing DS on Christmas morning
Family favorite Christmas gifts - hockey cards!
The frankincense gift is something that will encourage growth in their relationship with God - usually a devotional type of book or a CD by a Christian artist. Frankincense was used in Israel's worship, as part of the incense burned that would be pleasing to God. Myrrh was one of the spices used to prepare a body for burial in ancient times, so it might seem a bit odd that the magi would give such a gift to a young child.  But myrrh was valuable, and in a sense it did look to the future, providing something that would be needed one day.  The myrrh gift we give is something practical or something that prepares for their future.  Clothing, personal care items like a shaver or package of things like soap and shampoo etc.  We've also given gifts that relate to a child's plans for a future career, although those gifts require more creative thinking than I can usually handle!
Kennady got a personalized Bible!
In an effort to reduce the amount of STUFF we accumulate, we sometimes decide on a family gift so that we get only one new THING in the house but it's something that all of us can benefit from.  Last year it was a new TV.  Or if the family vacation or a big family outing happens around the holidays, that might be the gift.  For example, the years we went to Florida for vacation in November or December - the trip itself, the Disney World tickets, and all of that was their gift - their "gold gift" and at home they would only expect one small thing under the tree from us. 

Operation Christmas Child
We also participate in Operation Christmas Child and pack shoeboxes.  This has become such a wonderful family tradition, and it's exciting to see my kids eagerly picking out gifts for children far less fortunate.  If you don't already take part in Operation Christmas Child, it's not too late!  If you're out of time to get your shoeboxes to a drop-off location, this year you can even Build-A-Box online.  

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Brandy Brockhausen said...

We are considering making tickets to a football game one of our gifts to the boys this year!

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