For many, many years I was in charge of ALL the Christmas gifts in our family. I painstakingly chose gifts for my husband, children, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, coaches, etc. And while I didn’t really mind it, it was a lot of work. A lot. Keeping it all organized was a feat of spreadsheets and sticky notes. But I realized that my children were missing out on the most beautiful, important part of Christmas presents. The actual choosing, anticipating, and giving.
When I was a child, I remember lying in bed unable to sleep while excitedly waiting for the early light to dawn so I could spring out of bed, rush down the stairs, and dive in to those presents. When my daughter, Nina, was about four or five, I remember catching her sneaking down the stairs on Christmas Eve night to peek at the presents. Having just recently gone to bed myself, I pulled her into bed next to me to try catch a couple more hours before the rest of the house woke up. And I held her close, her body fully shaking in anticipation of Christmas morning.
As an adult, my joy, my Christmas cheer, and my excitement comes from seeing the people I love open gifts on Christmas morning. I didn’t want my children to miss out on this.
I feel like I should mention that we don’t just focus on presents for Christmas. We spend weeks in Advent preparation talking and remembering how The King of The World was born that day and how He is the reason we are celebrating. And that every gift we give or receive is a reminder of the greatest gift the world ever received. But we do give and get presents, and if we were going to have presents I wanted them to understand the beauty in giving.
So we started giving them Christmas money to spend on others. In our house we gave them ten dollars per person they were buying for, but it could be done with any amount. The dollar store has tons of fun gifts so even a dollar per person is great. Or craft supplies could be laid out and the kids could be given the chance to create free gifts to wrap up for their loved ones.
I put the money (ten, ten dollar bills) in an envelope with each person they were buying for listed on the front. And then I took them shopping. And it did several things. It blessed the person they were buying for to receive a thoughtful gift, hand selected for them. It blessed each of them to get to be in charge of buying the gifts they were giving. And it blessed me in a huge way. Sure, it took some of the weight off my shoulders when they took over part of the gift buying. But it was so much more than that. Getting to watch them carefully consider what each person would like, proudly pull money out of the envelope and stand at the register to pay for it, wrap their gifts and attach pretty bows (and sometimes a bonus note), and then excitedly wait to watch them open it. I noticed a shift in my children. They were less concerned with what they were getting and more focused on what they were giving.
We still do this today. Kids old enough to have a checking account just get their money transferred in a lump sum. And as always if anyone finds a gift they want to buy but can’t afford, they can do extra chores for the money to do so. They also pool their money to buy bigger items. And they can drive themselves (and younger siblings) to the mall to shop together. And we continue to be blessed by remembering that it is better to give than to receive.