…on a Monday…didn’t quite get to this last week… I did a quick search, so maybe I’ve missed your discussions about Christmas gifts/Santa. I read the traditions post {I think back here}, but I’d love to hear how you combat the commercialization, excess and greed encouraged by society. Oh man, I think about and worry about this every single year.  Each year I scramble to try to find a way in the middle of all the hoopla to take off into the mountains and just give each child one single Polar Express “believing” bell and some family games and snuggle together talking about the true meaning of Christmas.  BUT, having said that, it is a wonderful thing to be able to give gifts.  There’s nothing like seeing the look on kid’s faces on Christmas morning if they get what they have been dreaming of.  2010-12-25 Christmas 23527 Although we in no way have all the answers to this question, here are some things we do to try to combat commercialism: 1) Because our big kids have to pay for a lot of what they have (see this system here and here) I think that makes Christmas that much more exciting. 2) If our kids ask for too much for Christmas we just laugh. I’m serious.  We just smile and remind the kids we don’t have a money tree in the back yard, and even if we did, we wouldn’t feel right about giving them everything they want.  3)  We try to incorporate service into the Christmas season.  Still working on figuring out a great idea for that this year…we are trying to figure out something to do actually on Christmas morning before we open gifts… 4) We make a really big deal about giving and how it makes you feel.  My very favorite part of Christmas is Christmas Eve is when the kids give each other their gifts they have saved up for.  We do it on Christmas Eve because we don’t want all the Santa stuff to take away from the joy of giving.  The kids always earn and pay for gifts for each other themselves and there is nothing better than their faces when they give something they have worked hard for away.  2010-12-24 Christmas 234292011-12-24 Christmas 42255 When the kids were little we went to the dollar store before Christmas and they bought each other presents there.  For the past few years though they draw names out of a hat and they buy something special for one of their siblings.  We use a money limit of $20.  I love Christmas Eve. A couple weeks ago I read this passage to my kids from this book I’m reading (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…it’s a gem by the way): “Christmas was a charmed time in Brooklyn.  It was in the air, long before it came…the first sure sign was the store windows. “You have to be a child to know how wonderful is a store window filled with dolls and sleds and other toys.  And this wonder came free to Francie.  It was nearly as good as actually having the toys to be permitted to look at them through the glass window.” Then it goes on to talk about how Francie drooled over the gorgeous dolls in the windows.  “Francie had never had a doll except a two-inch one that cost a nickel.”  “there were other marvelous things.  Francie couldn’t take them all in.  Her head spun and she was dizzy with the impact of all the seeing and all the making up of stories about the toys in the shop windows.” We talked about how amazing it is that we can actually buy some things, not just look at them in the store windows.  It makes me think that sometimes buying things and just having them isn’t nearly as pleasurable as yearning for them, or saving up for them. I’m not, in any shape or form, trying to say we don’t buy our kids stuff for Christmas (in fact, I’m working on a “favorite things” post for tomorrow because sometimes it’s hard to think of the perfect gift).  We buy them what they need (clothes, underwear…they’re very excited about that 🙂 and Santa usually brings them each one “big” thing. We get satisfaction from that because they look like this when they open their gifts on Christmas morning: Christmas-0008Christmas-1026 So excited for Christmas.

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  1. I love what you've got here, Shawni! Here's a post with a little more about giving our kids the gift of giving (fun photo of me and Shawni as kids with our other siblings): http://powerofmoms.com/2012/11/giving-our-kids-the-gift-of-giving/

    And here's a post that offers more ideas on where to draw the line on giving stuff to your kids and how keep Christmas giving a little simpler:

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the season but my family already has way too much stuff. This year my best friend and I (and our families) are adopting a family. We will provide the family with presents and Christmas dinner. My kids get something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. Even this seems like too much.

  3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my ALL TIME favorite book. If you ever find yourself in NYC the first thing you must do it head to the Tenement Museum. There you can tour a real-life tenement (the furnishings on the insides has been recreated). There are different tours to take, but because of the book (and my Irish ancestry) I did the Irish family tour. I could just SEE Francie in there and visualize better the kind of life these people led. It was a hot muggy day which made it all the more realistic as of course they had no air-conditioning. A fantastic tour and my favorite thing to do in the city.

  4. Oh I'm so excited for Christmas and Can't wait!! This year with help of friends we found a fabulous count down to Christmas. There is a website of 25daysofchrist.com but she wasn't offering any more this year. So several of us made the countdown ourselves. I can't wait to start! Also my kids really only get 1 big santa gift and their stocking but man sometimes there is a lot that can come in a stocking. In the past we've get several names from an "Angel" tree and help that way. And my kids "Make" gifts for each other. Part of our simplicity comes from a very tight budget so I hope that when money isn't so tight we still work on keeping it simple! But yes their faces on Christmas morning are so worth it!

  5. i can barely wait for the favourite things post… since some of my kids ages are the same as yours are they going to give their fav lists!, and you too… can u tell i'm grapsing at straws with some of my kiddo's!!

    This year we really decided not to go overboard, i tend to at Christmas, and then last year, one i noticed it was too overwhelming for them, and 2, it's easy to buy lots when they are young, but those gifts get ALOT more expensive as they get older, so we decided to nip it in the bud now!
    great post Shawni!

  6. We have decided a wonderful way to incorporate service this Christmas is to have a service advent calendar. Each day one of us will be able to choose a service off the calendar and if we do the service by the evening we will get the candy. I am thinking simple things like giving someone a big hug, making a bed for someone, reading a book to a younger sibling or writing a kind note to someone etc..

    Thanks for your wonderful blog and all of your great advice!!

  7. I have an idea for you- when your kids draw names, rather than have them buy a gift for their parent/sibling, have them do some kind of act of service on behalf of that person. For example, if one of your children loved animals, then whoever drew their name could go to the animal shelter and volunteer for a few hours. If you drew your older daughter, you could pick an angel from the angel tree that’s about her same age and buy gifts for her. These acts of service can all be done in secret, and on Christmas morning your family can exchange letters (with photos even!) explaining the act of service they did on behalf of their person.

    I did a post over at Mormon Mommy Writers today (http://mormonmommywriters.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-different-kind-of-christmas.html) explaining how I have done something similar, and how it’s a great way to serve others less fortunate and to really remember the reason for the season. Plus, it still has all the best elements of gift giving- thinking of what someone would like, preparing it for them, and seeing their reaction. Plus the person who receives it feels the joy of it too. 🙂

    Just an idea! It looks like you already have everyone’s hearts in the right place!

  8. i have another idea about service. in my family growing up, we had this tradition called "pixies." i have no idea why it was called that, but i think it came from my grandma. anyway, we drew names the first of december and up until christmas, we did little acts of service for the person whose name we drew. we tried to keep it a secret, and then on christmas eve, we would tell who we had and give them their big gift that we bought for them. it was one of my favorite traditions growing up. it does require help from parents for the smaller kids, but it's so much fun. especially if a sibling has forgotten to do a job for the day, the secret pixie can sweep in and do it for them without them knowing. i love big acts of service and serving outside of family, but i think it's also a great reminder that sometimes, we bless the people closest to us the most!

  9. One tradition that we started when our daughter was born is for each gift she gets for Christmas, she has to donate one of her older toys. We've continued this now with all three of our girls and I love doing it. Not only does it cut down on having WAY too much, it also helps them see the benefit of giving of their things to those less fortunate. We try to do it the week after Christmas. If Ava gets ten toys, she has to go through her things and pick out ten to donate. It's amazing how excited they get too, knowing that their old toys are going to kids who will continue to play with them! We do this for birthdays as well.

  10. Something that really helps me and that I will remind my kids as they get older is that even though Christmas is a time for giving gifts, it's not *your* birthday – it's the celebration of Christ's birthday! I very purposefully limit what we give our kids on Christmas and not go wild over everything I see that they might like. On THEIR birthday – fine. It's a celebration of *them*, but at Christmas, we need to be focusing more on family time together, serving those in need, and remembering Jesus Christ more than getting everything on our Christmas list.

    What you don't get for Christmas you might get for your birthday;)

  11. And I like what someone posted above about nipping it the bud early – – when your kids are young and don't care about the exact number or how much you spent, THAT is the time to go easy and scale back. You can always increase presents later in their life if you really want to, but if you start out giving dozens and dozens of gifts, especially if some are quite expensive, they'll only grow to expect it more as they get older. When they are young is the time to set the stage for how you want Christmas to go – I know the things they will want in 8-10 years will be more expensive, so hopefully now I will get them used to not asking for a bajillion things and expecting us to get it.

    I liked that you laugh if they ask for too much – that will totally be me! I'm not worried that I'll ruin their childhoods if they get "only" 5 presents instead of their hoped for 9 or whatever – kids in our first-world country are so very blessed and privaliged in so many ways. We don't have to go hog wild at Christmas out of worry that we will be denying them unduly in their childhood or anything! 😉

  12. oh, i had to add, i was talking to my friend about this post today, and she does something that i love, she said she makes the Christmas season fun.. like something fun every day, elf on a shelf, taking cookies to neighbours, secret family, driving look at lights etc, etc, so when her kids are older, they look forward to the whole season, and they do not just focus on gifts.. love that!

  13. I remember one year a family came to our house Christmas morning and made us a huge breakfast. They prepared everything and cleaned it up. We just got to eat a wonderful meal. I remembered this idea when you said you were looking for a service idea to do Christmas morning. Just an idea.


  14. Hi Shawni, I hope you can answer my question. I'm just so interested in learning more about your faith. How do Mormons view divorce? I ask because the divorce rate is so high in our country but I've never met or heard of a Mormon couple who have gotten one. Thanks!

  15. What, you don't have a money tree either??? I talk about our lack of a money tree quite a few times when explaining things to the kids-too funny. I love our Christmas Eve tradition too the best-we do the same thing. And the kids get so excited about it.

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