Re-post: Reconsidering Christmas, Part II: Too Many Presents?

by Camille on December 3, 2012

This post is originally from Jan. 1, 2012 and follows “Reconsidering Christmas, Part I.”  I’m happy to report that we’ve made further changes in the way we’re celebrating Christmas this year, such as drawing names for presents with my side of the family. Check back later this week for a discussion of those changes and some other ideas I’m trying out to change the way we do Christmas. :-) 

So I was telling my Mom about my last post, and she said, “Well, Santa wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to Ellie anyway; you buy her presents every day all year long.” Ha. Ha.

Yeah, I admit that Ellie does have a lot of toys for one child. This is her primary play area at the moment.

But I offer the following in my defense:

1. We have every intention of having a large family, so any toys I add now will be reused numerous times by later children.

2. Those of you with kiddos know that the ability and interest level of a child changes by the day! While a toy purchased for a three-year-old may remain age-appropriate for the entire year, what is fascinating to a three-month-old will often become old news a few weeks later. Some toys span the test of time (love me some Curious George)…

…but sitting, crawling, and walking–all occurring within the first 12 months–open up a world of possibility in the toy and accessory department.

3. While you may think I’ve spent hundreds on Ellie’s toys, I actually bought most of this stuff at the Everything for Kids Consignment Sale here in Memphis. I’ve been twice and found new or slightly used items for a steal! For example….this Fisher Price Laugh and Learn 2-in-1 Kitchen listed at $224.95 on Amazon…

I paid a mere $15 at the consignment, and Ellie doesn’t seem to know the difference. :)

But even without the justifications, I think it’s funny that my Mom would tease me about having too many toys since she spoiled my sister and me completely rotten. (Note to Mom: I’m not complaining! I mean, we were seriously cute kids. Just saying….we had some stuff!)  Our bedrooms, bathroom, and a massive playroom occupied the second floor of our house, and it was toy CENTRAL. I remember fondly the span of years in which half our playroom remained firmly devoted to hosting “Barbieville U.S.A”…complete with Barbie mansion, Hawaiian hut, news station, Burger King, swimming pool, Corvette, and RV. And on Christmas, we took the long-awaited Toy Book (from Sears?) and circled what we wanted with a marker. Now we didn’t get everything we wanted….but, yeah…umm, we were unwrapping experts early in life.

So before I go any further, I’d like to say…I’m not against stuff. Especially toy-like stuff. I feel a direct connection to childhood levels of excitement every time I present something new to Ellie.

But I guess I am against the steadily growing mass mentality that Christmas = STUFF. The holiday seems hijacked by commercialism. As I discussed in the last post, I’m trying to find ways for Christmas to be more simple, less materialistic, and more about the baby Jesus.

  • Something is wrong, when Toys R’ Us feels the need to be open 24-hours before Christmas Eve.
  • Something is wrong, when a child pitches a fit at one grandparents’ house because he only got two presents (as opposed to the dozens at previous stops on the Christmas journey).
  • Something is wrong, when people max out credit cards and go into debt to buy gifts.

So this year, I suggested to my side of the family that we limit our gift-giving as we normally go for a kinda “I’m gonna bury you in candy-cane covered boxes before you can wrap me in Rudolph paper” largesse of yuletide cheer. Hey…our Mom owned and operated a gift-shop for almost my entire life thus far. We like the presents, folks…(and you had better crease those corners, hide the tape, and make a Martha-Stewart-worthy bow if you don’t want your gift running in shame from the packages under my Mama’s tree, y’all.)

They did not go for the “draw names” solution. Hey, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a super fan of the idea of only one present too. (I mean, I’ve gotten some pretty awful presents! You need the security of knowing that at least one person knows your actual size.) It’s hard to change traditions; it takes time to alter expectations. Instead, we all agreed to set a limit of $25/person or $50/couple for gifts.

RESULTS

My mom kind of ignored the limit, especially in reference to her granddaughter, but she did say she spent less on everyone this year, so progress….right? I’m pretty sure the rest of us streeeeeetched the limit a bit as well, but trying to stick to a number helped me control impulse buying and forced me to put more thought and planning into each gift.

For example, for my newly-married sister and her husband, I put together a “How to Have a Happy Marriage (according to Charlie and Camille)” basket complete with a set of sheets (purchased at 50% off with free shipping on cyber Monday), a bottle of wine, Godiva truffles, a head massager, and a book. I wrote silly notes for each element of the gift to contribute to the theme; for instance, “Use every night…in bed” for the sheets. Hehehe…funny stuff.

For my mom, I made a photo book at snapfish.com.

Charlie and I admittedly spent more than the limit on one another, but we tried to restrict purchases as compared to previous years. We did one big thing each: a phone upgrade for him to be offset by selling the older phone, and a Viking cooking class for me that we can enjoy together.

What’s funny, is I think the coolest gifts this year were the smaller items including…

This sweatshirt for Charlie.

In case you can’t see clearly, it says, “Guns Don’t Kill People. Dads With Pretty Daughters Do.” Hehehe….he loved it.

And the completion of my beloved Charlie Brown Christmas Band…because these little guys just make my heart happy.

 

We still have a LONG way to go, but I hope to find ways to improve every year. I found several great ideas I’m considering implementing with my own family in the future on this AMAZING POST by Jen Hatmaker I keep mentioning. She limits gifts for her kids to “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” She also added “something to give” in which each child gets a sum of money that he or she has to spend to help someone less fortunate. Maybe it’s the rhyming, but I just love this idea. It seems like a sensible but fun way to limit spending on each individual, and it teaches children to make giving a priority at a young age.

Another great resource for inspiring change can be found at the Advent Conspiracy, a group of five pastors who “decided to make Christmas a revolutionary event by encouraging their faith communities to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.”  They estimate America spends about $450 billion per year on Christmas, but they only ask us to give up ONE purchase. Check it out.

How do you decide what to buy your kids at Christmas? Do you set any limits? How do you keep the focus on Jesus? What gift meant the most to you this year?

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy December 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Well, we don’t ban Santa altogether (we have a couple Christmas ornaments that are Santas), but our kids don’t receive anything on Dec. 25 from him. Instead, they find out St. Nicholas has visited when they wake up on Dec. 6, and their stockings are filled. (I am Dutch-American, so this is something my family did growing up, though I didn’t become a Christian until I was 21.) In their stockings are always gold/chocolate coins, to help us remember St. Nick’s concern for the poor, as well as a few other small things. My kids have never noticed the “lack” of Santa presents on Christmas Day.

We fill our Advent season with a nativity Advent calendar, with my sons performing in a 9 lessons & carols concert (part of their secular boychoir, but featuring 9 Bible readings about the birth of Christ!), and our church’s Christmas musical (which is an outreach with the purpose of reaching non-Christians). For presents, we do three things + a book — the 3 presents symbolize the gifts the Wise Men gave to Jesus. And we give something — the kids don’t know it, but this year on Christmas morning, we will be choosing a Compassion child to sponsor as our gift to Jesus.

I love Jen Hatmaker’s blog, and I love that post! Thanks for bringing it to mind again.
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Camille December 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Cool tradition with the stockings. :-) We have Santa ornaments and figures as well; we just approach him as a character or an interesting story…not a truth. I like how you do Christmas presents; we plan to do something similar as she gets older and more aware. Thanks for sharing!

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Misty December 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Love your posts on Christmas and how you’re working to change tradition in your family to fit your goals :-)

My husband and I have been disenchanted with the overwhelming “season” for the past several years ourselves and have been working to change it. Our girls have birthdays in December (just turned 2) and January (will turn 10) so as you can imagine, there’s a lot of STUFF to deal with lol

So far, we’ve managed to get the kids into a routine of sorting gently used toys/stuff into giant bins to donate during the fall/spring each year which helps cut down the extra stuff (more out than in is our goal)

Also, for adults we generally try to talk them into playing “take away” or drawing names… if they won’t go for that we give them food lol usually anyway, I do a lot of holiday candy & cookies so those go over well for gifts most of the time.

This year was our biggest shift. Our girls are only receiving items that I lovingly handmade mostly from thrift store finds or our own closets hehehe we’ll see how it goes in a few days!

Best of luck with your new and improved holiday traditions!!

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Camille December 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Misty,
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. :-) I planned several more Christmas posts, but alas, I got the flu and got seriously behind. I hope to catch up in the next few days. It’s been a good season, and I feel good about a lot of changes we made this year and excited for even more possibilities for the future. I’d love to hear how your handmade presents turned out. I did some of that myself this year. :-) I pray that you’re enjoying a joyful holiday. Thanks again for stopping by.

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