I want to start this post off by saying that gift giving is not my primary love language. Christmas is very simple, present-wise, at our house, and I like it that way. My mom tells me that when we were kids, money was tight, so the budget was usually $20 per child, and I remember that our grandparents gave us things like socks or winter coats. Instead of lots of gifts, we enjoyed Christmas traditions like caroling, cinnamon rolls, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and reading the Christmas chapters from the Little House books aloud around the fire. My husband’s family is very different. Gift giving is their main love language, and they are very generous! We’ve had to learn to compromise as we create our own family traditions. And we give very few gifts ourselves to our kids, knowing that our families enjoy spoiling the kids themselves.
As far as our presents go, I love the tradition of having matching pajamas for Christmas morning, but I usually don’t wrap them because I want the kids to be wearing them. Maybe we’ll turn them into a Christmas Eve present one day. We don’t buy anything for our babies. Starting at toddlerhood, we always give books for Christmas and birthdays. I collect quality used books year-round at library book sales and keep them hidden in my closet to parcel out 2-3 books apiece for Christmas (and birthdays). The kids don’t care that they’re used as long as they are good stories. In their stockings, we put an orange in the toe and add stickers or candy. Then we either get them one larger joint gift (a quality, made-in-America wooden kitchen or, this year, a dollhouse) or one smaller useful/fun gift apiece—their own backpacks the first year we flew home for Christmas, color coded water bottles last year. That’s it—counting the stockings and the books, it’s about four things apiece to open from us.
Because I share Anna’s toy snobbery, I do try to give our families lots of suggestions of the kinds of gifts the kids would enjoy. I made it clear from the beginning that we will not keep battery-operated, noise-making toys in our home. If someone gives us one, I give it to goodwill. Our families have been pretty gracious about that. Because we live in a small house, we simply don’t have room for a lot of new stuff. I always encourage books and art supplies, which we go through at a crazy rate. I use amazon wishlists as a huge compendium of ideas, as well. Usually near the end of the summer, I send everyone a long email with the kids’ clothing and shoe sizes, favorite interests/activities, and what we’re getting them in case they want to participate in a theme. The year we got them the kitchen, the rest of the family bought dishes, play food, aprons, and a shopping cart. This year, we asked for doll furniture and Calico Critters families to go in the dollhouse we’re getting. In general, our families have struck a balance of getting some things that we’d like the kids to have and some things that they are inspired on their own to give—like my son’s first super soaker! As much as I’d like to be in control of everything that enters our home, I realize that grandparents and uncles often just enjoy giving what they want to give.
How have you worked out different family traditions in your Christmas celebrations?