Three gifts on Christmas morning

When my husband and I reinvented our Christmas celebration a few years ago, we reconsidered gift giving. It was our daughters’ first Christmas after joining our family at ages three and four. We had a blank slate.

It was around this time that a good friend, JoLynn, had told me of her family’s Christmas tradition, which she had borrowed from another friend.

“We give each of our children three gifts at Christmas,” JoLynn informed me, “just as the Wise Men brought three gifts to Jesus.”

This "gift to wear" was a big hit in our house.

JoLynn explained that each gift held a specific purpose.

  • One gift to read
  • One gift to wear
  • One gift to play with

I thought that JoLynn had a very creative idea for celebrating Christmas differently and focusing on Jesus.

We borrowed JoLynn’s idea that year, and we’ve used it ever since. There are a few reasons why I love the three-gift idea.

1. Christmas is simplified.

The last thing I need during the holidays is one more activity to distract me from worshiping Jesus. With just three gifts to buy per child, I have six buying decisions to make. It’s freeing.

2. My kids value their gifts.

Now that they are ages eight and nine, Andrea and Linda remember that they’ll receive something to read, something to wear, and something to play with at Christmas. There’s still the wonder of guessing what’s in each box. I also think that they value each item more because it is one-of-a-kind on that morning.

3. Actually, my kids don’t notice the difference.

Andrea and Linda have never noticed that they receive fewer Christmas gifts than many of their friends. They’re grateful. On Christmas morning, after we find Baby Jesus, our whole family opens presents and enjoys the day together. Gift-giving has become part of our family’s Christmas traditions, but not the focus.

4. Shopping becomes an act of worship.

Even though the “Wise Men” reference seemed a little corny to me at first, I’ve been amazed at how much it sticks with me throughout the season. As I shop for my daughters, I’m reminded that the Wise Men came to worship Jesus. I think about my love and care for my kids, and realize that caring for my kids is an act of worship to Jesus too.

5. We give more.

Spending less on gifts means that we have more to spend on people who are vulnerable. A great family tradition is to select items from the Food for the Hungry gift catalog. The gift of chickens, seeds, deworming medication or a water well might not seem like the gift you’ve always dreamed about under the tree. However, for children and their families who live in vulnerable circumstances, having the chance to thrive is the best kind of Christmas morning.

For vulnerable children, having the chance to thrive is the best kind of Christmas morning.

What are some of your favorite traditions around Christmas giving?

About Wendy McMahan

Wendy McMahan is grateful for her front row seat in watching God “reconcile all things to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20) She still can’t believe that she gets to participate in His story every day. Wendy and her husband are proud parents to two daughters and have been foster parents to children of all ages. Wendy serves as Director of Church Engagement at Food for the Hungry. She hosts the Poverty Unlocked podcast.

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