Several years ago I attended a Relief Society that has changed how I look at Christmas“giving”. The speaker reminded us of the Three Wise Men who traveled from far off lands to give the Christ child a gift that they had each thought long and hard about before giving.
She expressed her concerns as a mother about how easy it was to get lost in the busyness of Christmas time, the cost of things, and still being able to find and experience the joys and 'spirit' of Christmas.
Run, run, run. Rush, rush, rush. We hurry to this event and that, run to several stores to find something that will jump out at us, race to the sales, run up those credit cards – most of this without much thought, more of something that has to be done. It is so easy to get 'caught up' in the sea of well-meaning efforts, tinsel and those blue-light specials! So what do we do to still cherish the moments, keep reality in check, and nourish believing in miracles?
We follow the example of the Three Wise Men – we give three gifts:
- One – practical
- One – fun
- One – from the heart
Each gift area is wrapped in its own wrapping paper/color. The wonderful thing about this concept is that you can use it in other gift giving throughout the year and just choose one area to give from. The speaker said her children have naturally done this in giving to their friends and their siblings.
We focus on one child at a time and really “think” about what we are giving. I have done this myself for several years now, and some of our grown children have followed what has now become tradition. It isn't as hard as it sounds and it actually makes “giving” easier. No more worrying about if we were 'even' on how many presents everybody got and how much we spent – it was about the person and their interests and passions.
Practical – The speaker mentioned one year a college-bound son needed tires for his car. It was both practical and a peace of mind for mom and dad to know he would be safe driving and able to travel home once in a while. This year one of my kids needs a new coat and another needs some things to go with her camera. It is a practical gift as she is our family “shutterbug” and keeps track of those special moments, takes all the pictures for Young Women's activities, as well as just loves taking pictures! Another child needs a watch. Dollars don't matter here – its needs. Only your budget should dictate your spending.
Fun – This is a 'fun' category. You have to ask yourself what does my child really enjoy? This gives you an opportunity to find out more about your child and be watchful all year long.
One son loves basketball and his old ones are quite worn. So guess what he is getting for Christmas this year! Yes and one that can be played both indoors and outdoors. Then I happened to come across a small gift card to the NBA store and thought how much fun he would have with that (he collects game hats).
Our daughter is at that age of blossoming from a young girl to a young woman so girly things are in desire this year – so she is getting a boxful of just that 'girly things'. I say a boxful but they are all little things, (that didn't cost very much), that will help make her feel pretty and they will be tucked inside a wall jewelry box that I bought this summer. One year a daughter got a few scrapbook supplies as that was what she was into and another got a small box of inexpensive 'office things' - Fun-shaped and colored paper clips & push pins, stapler, fun note cards, sticky notes, stamps, and I even got her her own address labels. She was thrilled. Who would have guessed?
Note: You can choose to have the fun gift from Santa Claus or as we do, since I still want my kids to know that mom and dad still can be fun :) We just choose something and leave by their stockings from Santa. This gift is not wrapped. And yes, we love our stockings best of all and 'Santa' fills them but we also add little surprises to each other's stockings.
Now from the heart: This is the most fun and perhaps the most challenging; but that's okay that's what endears the gift even more. What is the quote? “Long walk is part of the gift.” The speaker mentioned how she had taken a special necklace her mother (grandma) had wanted to pass down to her daughter – so she put it in a special frame with a special poem. It touched her daughter's heart and will be a gift to treasure forever.
This year I found a small plaque that has the quote from Pres. Monson on it from the Temple dedication that our daughter had a part in. I know how much that experience has meant to her.
One year my husband and I created what we called a Legacy Book. I wanted our kids to know where they came from both in spiritual legacy and in their family name. I found special pictures and thoughts – the books focused on the priesthood including their line of authority and the girls focused on being a righteous young women and mother including the Relief Society creed. While I did this my husband worked on some old family pictures and we added some family history sheets (4-generations) along with their patriarchal blessings and a few interesting family stories. We put it in a nice notebook and gave them to the kids on Christmas Eve. (Okay part of it was I was so excited to give them our labor of love and another was I didn't want it overshadowed by the other gifts.) This particular Christmas our kids were older – one back from a mission, 3 in high school, one in junior high, and a young one in elementary. It was amazing to watch them as they wandered through the pages of their 'legacy' for hours upon hours. These books are still their prize possessions. We chose notebooks on purpose so as time goes on we hope to add to their 'legacy' books and they can add to them as their families grow. This year we are giving 2 children still at home journals with their names on them and inside will be a handwritten testimony of our love for each of them and our love for the gospel.
I was really proud of a son-in-law that really caught the spirit and worked hard and created really neat Christmas scenes/snow globes for our daughter. (He had grown up very differently, but had seen how special our “from the heart” gifts were received by our daughter.) This year she has even had mom show her how to make pillowcases for her children as her gift in some of their favorite characters.
A son has also adopted this gift-giving and made this really special journal for his sweet wife. He knew she loves taking a journal with her everywhere to write down special quotes and notes from talks. So he found a lovely one and put in one picture of the Savior she loves, and he did his own artwork in it of some meaningful dreams they have talked about and left a note of love. She in turn made a cool memory shadow box of his mission in France. What a wonderful gift of love to give each other!
This kind of Christmas giving has brought me a real sense of peace and direction in our gift-giving process. It doesn't take away from the real Santa Claus (not the commercial one) and the true spirit of giving and believing in miracles. I will never take that away from our children. I believe that is part of the Christmas magic. We have been blessed many times by others through special Christmas magic and having our prayers answered. This is the time to talk about miracles of all kinds, and that they do happen in our modern days. Teach the children to be grateful, to think of others, to notice the “little things” along the way, to laugh and enjoy the journey.
Gift-giving this way allows you to be done early. (I will be done this week and it feels great!) This leaves you the rest of the month to focus on the Savior, put up the Christmas tree, send out cards, make Christmas goodies to share, make snow forts and snow ice cream, do the 12-days of Christmas to someone who might need a hug, sing Christmas carols and cuddle around the Christmas tree with a cup of hot cocoa and read those special Christmas stories... together.
The whole idea isn't stressing about what you are giving - it's about making family memories and doing it together. It's about putting the 'magic' back into Christmas and remembering the birth of the Savior.
I hope that your Christmas Season is full of warm hugs and memories.