When I was a young, Christmas was a big deal. This was back in the days when you got gifts on two occassions: your birthday and Christmas. My birthday is in November. The year was a long one for me. Christmas was also when you got needed things like socks, shoes, or a coat along with a couple of toys and a stocking with candy, nuts, and an orange.
By the time I had children, times had indeed changed … my kids have more toys, more clothing, more everything I did when I was their age. Backyard birthday parties gave way to Chuck E. Cheese, Pump-It-Up, and other “theme” parties. Invited guests these days choose which party they attend based on where it’s being held and what kind of “goodie-bags” they might gleen upon their exit.
Sadly, Christmas shopping became a chore. Having seven children to buy for became a physical and mental pain. I’d wander down aisles of Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us laboring over each child’s “Santa letter,” trying to find the right gift for each child. Because I have four daughters and three sons, I’d often end up buying the same items in different colors; like sweaters or Barbies … ugh. I was neither original nor happy, yet always broke in the end. Spending way too much money on gifts that became kind of “fillers” trying to create Christmas memories like my own childhood. The fact is, my kids didn’t need socks or shoes or a coat at Christmas, because financially, I could afford to buy those things whenever the need came up for the most part. So in an effort to “buy” a happy memory, I spent more money every year with nothing but a semi-satisfied feeling in the end. Something needed to change.
Then I happened upon a new concept of Christmas giving and it changed my life. It changed the way we celebrate Christmas and has been very successful. We call it, “The Four Gifts of Christmas” or “Gold, Frankincense, Myrhh, and Santa Claus.” It is a more personal way to buy gifts for each member of the family, cuts down shopping time, and is making our Christmases more meaningful and memorable.
Each child receives four gifts from us. That’s it. Their Gold gift (which I wrap in gold paper) is something they truly want or need, something “worth gold” to them. Their Frankincense gift is something to support their spiritual faith … it can be new scriptures, music, books, jewelry, artwork, anything that is spiritual. Myrhh addresses their individual talents/interests/hobbies, whatever they might be—music, sports, art, stamp collecting. It could be tickets to an opera, a sporting event, or even artwork you can order from a museum. And finally, Santa Claus (usually wrapped in Santa paper)—something whimsical, fun, unexpected that suits the receiver’s personality.
We’ve been doing this for several years now and it works. Each gift is personal, none are alike, and yes, there have been shrieks of delight and surprise, and even tender tears on Christmas morning. All of my children love this tradition, and there have been absolutely no complaints about the number of gifts—they still receive numerous gifts from other relatives and friends, and my older, now-married kids have carried this to their families, incorporating our tradition with their new spouse’s traditions, too.
This year can be different. It can be a merry Christmas, indeed.