Updated: Jan 19
There’s this notion that Christmas isn't Christmas without a Christmas tree… that you can barely see because of the mountain of presents surrounding it. Presents that, so the saying goes: once opened, will be played with twice before gathering dust in the corner.
Another perspective on this notion is much sadder.
The problem with having so many gifts is that, after opening 3-4 gifts and then seeing that there are so many more to open before they get to enjoy what they've been given, they start to lose that spark. It turns into a game of open and thank, open and thank, open and thank until they lose their patience, their temper, and eventually the true Christmas spirit that can only be found and fostered in children and those young at heart.
You know that look a kid gets when the Christmas spirit infects them like a good rhythm touching your soul? When you can literally see the excitement radiating from their twinkling eyes! My 2-year-old daughter felt that when I first brought out our Christmas decorations this year. While she was napping, my eldest and I set up a few of the Christmas trinkets we have - some wall/window stickers, dancing penguins, ceramic trees, garland, musical stuffies, festive books, etc. When my 2-year-old came down the stairs she couldn’t stop smiling. It was all “Wow momma! It’s Christmas!” followed by her going from item to item as it caught her eye, saying “I love this - Oh! I LOVE this!” - the big tree wasn’t even up yet.
There’s nothing better.
Through research and experience, I have discovered a few fun ways to keep the spirit alive without the pressure and crippling overwhelm of overabundance.
Here’s what I found:
The Fabulous Four
I'm sure you’ve seen it in recent years but I’m here to advocate for this method of gift-giving once again. The fabulous four are meant to limit wasteful purchases and focus on mindful giving during the holidays. It’s great for young families because it focuses on tradition and family over things. It reduces waste (& the chore of wrapping paper mountain clean up!) and - best of all - saves money!
The Fabulous Four is simple (and it rhymes!)
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
What’s fabulous about this method of giving is that it also instils a sense of appreciation in the children receiving these gifts. It teaches an understanding of values, worth, and priorities.
Remember that this is a framework; a guideline intended to provoke thoughtfulness that can be adapted as needed. For our family, we also include stockings and a single, family gift from Santa Clause. These Fabulous Four gifts are understood to be the ones gifted from Momma and Daddy.
In the coming weeks, I will cover, more thoroughly, the idea of gifting alternatives like:
Thrifting & buying used: Going zero-waste can be a great way to add adventure to your gift-giving. When hunting through the treasures of a local thrift or antique store becomes part of the celebration!
Re-gifting: A social taboo but it’s responsible and can become a super-fun tradition!
Consumables: This doesn’t always have to be food (but it totally can be)!
Supporting local businesses & charities: It’s important to remember the hard work and pride that goes into running a business. Big box stores and worldly companies don’t look at each sale the same way as a local business owner does - they may even do a little dance when no one is looking. Also, giving selflessly is proven to increase happiness, just sayin’.
Experiences over ‘things’: Life seems cluttered and disconnected as it is. Why not give the gift of your time to help with both of these modern dilemmas?
All of these things create fun family traditions that can transcend generations. My late grandfather always got my grandma Turtle chocolates for Christmas which, when he passed, was a tradition continued and enjoyed by everyone yearly.
Make the little things matter.
Nix the Gifts
Recently there has been an interesting trend in the news that promotes families who have nixed the consumer-focused gift-giving mentality altogether. Some families have intentionally made a no-gift rule and, instead, get creative with regifting and schedule a longer, more thorough celebratory time for everyone to come together with good friends, good food, and plenty of fun and frivolities.
Celebrate with Love
Thinking back on the look in my daughter’s eyes when she saw that we had brought out some of our decorations for Christmas, it truly was like Christmas morning had come early and we hadn’t even begun the season. No stockings, no gifts, not even a tree. If this much joy can come out of such simplicity then why can’t we make the entire holiday season simpler and more meaningful for everyone involved?
I am so excited to continue this tradition and to share it with you! Please share some of your experiences and ideas in the comments below.
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