four gifts for christmas

We’re doing gift-giving a little bit differently this year.

Usually, we call Christmas an excuse to buy our kids a whole load of things they want and things we want them to have. We don’t go completely overboard, but with four kids and a handful of gifts each, our tree is usually overflowing with festively-wrapped presents. Christmas morning is a whirl of torn paper and squeals of delight and new clothes tossed to the side – because, who am I kidding – no six year old boy cares about a new tshirt.

We have really great kids who are {mostly} kind and thoughtful.

But they are not always grateful.

I don’t blame them; it’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea what it means to do without.

Jami wrote about it so beautifully and convicting-ly last year after Christmas. I remember laying in bed reading her post and just crying because even though she was writing about her family, she was writing about mine, too.

We are spoiled beyond measure and yet we still want more.

So, we are changing things up this year with the hope that by reducing the number of gifts, we’ll be more grateful for ones we receive.

I saw this idea on Britt’s blog and love it. Each of the kids will be receiving four gifts:

It’s going to be different.

It’s going to be really hard {how many times have I wanted to buy a little something for one of the kids and then realize that if I buy it, it has to be one of the four items they receive.  It’s creating restrain in me, and hopefully will make our gifts more meaningful}.

But I think it’s going to be great.

Most importantly, I hope it will move our hearts a little closer towards gratitude during this season of overindulgence.

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82 Responses to four gifts for christmas

  1. stacey November 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    We’ve done this the last several years with our girls, with one addition….something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read and something to GIVE.

    Each Christmas, they choose someone who will not receive anything this Christmas (easier living here in Haiti, but lots of options with homeless shelters, Angel Tree, Samaritans Purse, etc…in the US, too) and shop for a gift specifically for that person. Not a hand-me-down, but a great gift that the recipient will LOVE. Our family works to make this fifth gift extra special to our kids as a blessing to GIVE during Christmas…helping the Spirit of Christmas be true in their hearts. On Christmas day, we take an hour out of our day and take the gifts to their recipients. Seeing their faces…Merry Christmas.

    • emily November 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      This is a great idea. i want our children to be generous and think of others so practicing this on christmas is a beautiful way to demonstrate generosity.

  2. Melissa Collier January 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Wondering how it went? Would love to know what you think of the four gifts approach upon reflection. I love this idea and would love to know how your kids reacted? Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kiwi Mum January 11, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    We have been doing this with our kids since they were quite young – although in our family we each receive three gifts (just as Jesus received three gifts from the wise men). Unfortunately my gifts were already wrapped and labelled but I have saved the file to use next year. Thanks so much!

  4. Laura@Ms Smartie Pants December 29, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    I too have 4 children and years ago decided to give each child 3 gifts, just like baby Jesus got. It was difficult at first but then really gave me so much freedom. It reduced all the making it even for everyone and helped me stay within a budget. They are grown now, I still do it and they love it. Many times one of their gifts is for another person or organization in their name. It has been a good change for all of us.

  5. Sue December 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea. My granddaughter lives with her dad (my son) and I always over buy for her. This year we did the Four and she had no problem with that considering her need/want was a computer for her online schooling.

  6. Sarah December 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I love this! We don’t have kids yet, but I think I already have my mom and husband convinced that this is how gift giving should work for future kiddos. Now if I can only convince our extended family to “draw names” or not give gifts at all, that would be great.

  7. Christy December 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    I have been doing this for years! Except I only give 3 gifts, something they need, want, wear and of course their stocking stuffers. It sure makes life simple especially for adult males!

  8. Danene December 10, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Wow, I don’t even know how I came to find your post, but I love it. A few years back we changed things up a little also. We do 5 gifts, 1-clothing, 1-pj, 1-book. and 2 wants. I could easily change it to 1 want though. We have 6 children, and they make their lists, knowing that we won’t be buying the most expensive and we will be the final judge on the “wants”. Just thinking about it , it makes my mind spin, under our tree alone, there are 40 gifts and that doesn’t include what we buy for others. It is crazy. Thanks so much for sharing. It was a blessing to me and really will get me thinking. I wish i would have found it sooner. :)

  9. Katy December 8, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    Emily, I have read this blog post about 15 times because I love it so much! This is our sons’ first Christmas, and I’m really wanting to start a tradition similar to this (although right now he is perfectly content with an empty water bottle…:). My main question is about the logistics of it all…. What about Santa?? Will Santa give your kids all 4 gifts? I’ve seriously been contemplating this issue :).

    I’m also a bit…okay a lot, worried about the level of gift madness that the grandparents and other relatives will ensue! I know they mean well, but he’s 7 months old and they are spending a fortune on him…. Still trying to figure out a good way to convey that we are focusing on the true reason for Christmas–Christ’s birth–not all the frill.

    Thanks for letting me ramble! Merry Christmas!

    • emily December 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      Katy – great questions.

      1. we don’t really do santa – but we don’t really NOT do santa either. That makes no sense. Its not a big deal in our family but we are totally okay with the kids believing in the magic of it all so we play along. We leave out cookies christmas eve. When they open gifts they don’t really care whether they are from Santa or Mom & Dad. You know? So we’re doing 4 gifts for each of the kids which will include santa gifts but not stockings.

      2. As for grandparents, we just let them go crazy on the kids. They don’t go too crazy, but gift giving is fun and we don’t do it often, so why not? As long as the kids are grateful, I understand that gifts are part of American christmas.

  10. Heather December 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    We are doing the same thing! We are doing a Christmas book and pj’s the night before for each of our girls as their “something to wear” and “something to read”, but I am struggling to pick something for the need and want. Have you picked yours yet? My oldest daughter is just about Audrey’s age…would love some ideas!

  11. Liz Cheek December 4, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    what do you do in stockings then?

  12. Sarah December 3, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Would you consider posting those gift tags with each of the 4 labels? I was so inspired by this post…and feeling stressed about what to give each of my 9 children that would seem ‘fair’ and ‘even’ to each of them. This is such a perfect way to do gifts for families from year to year, and I’d love to have these specific tags to attach to the gift.

    Thanks for considering!

  13. Nicole J December 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    I’ve heard this idea before and I LOVE it! One day when my hubby and I have children, I hope we are wise enough to follow this rule. :)

  14. Emily W. December 3, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    We have decided to do something similar with our son. We got him one “big” gift and several small things to unwrap to go with the big gift. We draw names with our extended family so everyone has one gift to open when we celebrate with everyone. It’s really nice to focus on spending time with one another instead of creating the stress of having to purchase gifts for everyone!

  15. Julie H. December 3, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    We have done this and we LOVE it! We add “Something to watch” because we are a BIG movie family. Our focus for the month is on the Savior and giving service to others. Something else we’ve done to keep the meaning of the season is that “Santa” only bring our kids stockings. Therefore they learn to give and receive from each other and it means more than Santa just stuffing a bunch of gifts under the tree. Good luck, I hope it works out for your family.

  16. Niki December 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    I have been doing things a bit differently for the past 8 years or so. I read someone else’s idea and I took it to heart. We buy 3 gifts – a family gift, a want gift and a need gift. This reflects the 3 wise men and the gifts they brought baby Jesus. Gold is the family gift and the other two are frankincense and myrrh. (I don’t remember which is which) The gifts are much more meaningful!

  17. Kyla December 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I love this idea, even though we don’t have a young family of our own yet. This year my husband and I made a deal with all of our siblings, parents and grandparents that we will not be buying gifts for or accepting gifts from any of them. Instead, we are taking all the money we would have spent on all of them and using it to “adopt a family” and have asked that they take the money they wold have spent on us to donate in whichever way they choose. The family we are buying for now is a single mother with a 2.5 year old, 1.5 year old and a new baby due right before Christmas. We get to put together gifts (and I’m following the 4 gift rule you are) plus creating a food hamper and a supply of all kinds of daily essentials (diapers, toiletries, etc).
    I have had more fun and excitement in shopping for this hamper than any of the previous years where I’ve been stressed out about what to buy for our family members, who really don’t need anything. The hardest part about this kind of giving is figuring out where to stop, because there is just so much they need!

  18. Kristel December 1, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    I LOVE this idea! I grew up with very few things, and they usually came from the flea market, so needless to say, I want my kids to have everything I couldn’t, plus more, but you are absolutely right, I can see that they don’t truly appreciate things when there is just so much. I would love if my husband would agree to do this, but i know he will be hard to convince. Great idea though.

  19. Kelky December 1, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    I truly love this idea! Thank you for sharing this idea… I will spread the word.

  20. Darlene December 1, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I love this idea. I have been struggling with what to get my adult children this year and now I know. I wish I would have done this when they were small.

    • Collette December 20, 2012 at 11:02 am #

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      After seeing your idea of ‘four gifts for Christmas’ my family have decided to join you. It appeals to our sense of focusing on Christ at Christmas and not to worry endlessly about what’s under the tree. With such a demand for a consumer society it is so easy for us (not to mention our children!) to lose focus on why we celebrate His birth.

      In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to share it with friends who live here at Ripon College Cuddesdon. The college is a Theological College for Oxford University in England which trains people for ministry within the Church of England. The families who are here have taken to it with great enthusiasm to say the least.

      With much love and our Lord’s blessings from afar. God bless you and keep you well this Christmas and every day there after. xxx

  21. Melody November 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    I love this idea but it has been a challenge for me to stay on track. I find my self trying to find ways to make it work i.e. it will fit in their stocking or this would make a great Christmas Eve gift! Trying to stay Christ centered amongst all the sales and party planning is very difficult sometimes. Thank you for giving me a little boost in the right direction! By the way love the tags in your picture would they be coming to a Jones Design Company near me anytime soon?

  22. Stephanie November 30, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    We do what many of you do–three gifts which represent the three gifts the wisemen brought the baby Jesus. We started this when my son was not quite 2 and he is 19 this year. We don’t do need-want-read, but I love that idea! Now that the kids are older, they get things like tires for the car and stuff like that (Definitely needs!)

    Someone asked if it was going to be the Santa presents too. In our house, it WAS the Santa presents that were the three presents. They also got a stocking with candy and (very) small gifts. From us, they always get pajamas on Christmas Eve, even now.

    I guess there might’ve been a little bit of wanting as much as some of their friends got, but overall, they just accepted that it’s the way we do things in our family and that there’s a reason for it. That’s kind of the point, actually, to have a reason for traditions.

    I love everyone’s comments!

  23. LLH Designs November 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    We do something like this…and save the extras stuff for birthdays…the day that celebrates the day YOU were born instead of Jesus. I can only imagine what Jesus might feel about the way we’ve hijacked his birthday. Sigh. {Convicting!}

  24. Katie November 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I love this. I also really love the idea to have one of the gifts be “something you can share” (like a game to play with siblings or something… I think that’s a great idea too!) Love the cute little tags. Will be curious to see what you decide on (if you so choose to share!)

  25. Julie November 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    I first must say that for sure I agree with not being accessive at Christmas. We do something similar, but, to be a bit of a contrarian, I have found that having too many “guidelines” over the years (my kids are older) can, instead of adding joy, actually steal some joy, despite good intentions. Most of all, stealing my joy as I struggled to find gifts that fit in a catagory rather than fitting the kid. And my kids need clothes, but for them that’s like getting Brussels sprouts under the tree. No offense to Brussels sprouts. I know you’re not intending to make a set of “rules”, your heart is good and your motivation is to inspire! But no foul for those who like go hog wild, right? I am a recovering died-in-the-wool-rule-follower and when I finally told myself that all these three-gifts-like-Jesus ideas didn’t need to be elevated to the level of scripture, it was truly freeing. Just my humble $.02.

  26. Meghan November 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    This is a great idea! My husband and I have been (trying) to resist the urge to over buy for our 2 year old (since she literally would be content with a cardboard box). And with all the other relatives she can get very spoiled which essentially is just a disservice — teaching her to want too much rather than be grateful for what she had. And at age 2 she is naturally pretty grateful and content—who are we to spoil that? I feel like as adults we start receiving gifts that are more practical—on my wish list is a vacuum and my husband will be getting new bedding and curtains! So it becomes fun for us to buy the impractical and fun toys for our kids. This concept you share is a good way to remind the parents as well as teach the kids about what is truly important and how to be grateful! Thank you for sharing the idea and your own personal struggle with is because that keeps it real!

  27. julianna November 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    We do something similar, we do a need, want, gift from santa, a spiritual gift (usually a book or nativity of some kind), and then sibling swap. Plus stockings which is where I spend the most money!! One year my husband and I want to have them make a list and then ask if they are willing to give it all away. We want to shop for it, drop it off at Salvation army then surprise them with a trip. Maybe once they are older…

  28. Kimberly November 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    We have been doing something similar for so many years I can’t remember when we started it. Ours is only 3 things (because baby Jesus got 3 gifts from the wise men): a “need” and “want” and a “book”. Your list rhymes better – very cute :) I’m not sure I could do yours because their “need” is often an article of clothing – usually bigger stuff like coats or robes or something. You won’t regret it! Our 6 kids have never complained -even the ones old enough to remember when it wasn’t this way. I end up doing a little bit more for their birthdays than I used to, but at least the gift receiving is a little less the focus of Christmas.

  29. Jessica November 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I love this idea! I would like to do this next year, since I’ve already started shopping and gave our son his gift. (a bearded dragon) I feel like our kids are becoming somewhat ungrateful.. What bothers me is how much they rely on their electronics, and always want more. I hate that. Thanks for sharing! :)

  30. Andrea Swenson November 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    We have done this for ten years now. It proves to be so wonderful. The kids have expectations and so do you. You won’t be sorry.

  31. Amy November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    My sister has always done three gifts for each child. She figures that baby Jesus received three things from 3 wise men, and that should be good enough for her kids as well. We are adopting the same thing this year. Loved your post.

  32. Meg November 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Growing up, my family always followed the “Three Gifts of the Wisemen” Rule (Plus stockings). Of course there was always more when you counted gifts from other relatives, but it kept the 3 gifts to items that were really meaningful. Now that I have a young child who is very excited for Santa’s arrival it does make it difficult to restrain (because it is so much fun to watch the awe and excitment); but, it is something I think about this time of year.

    Love this idea, thank you for sharing!!

  33. Jessica @ Dear Emmeline November 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    i’ve seen thisidea before and I love it! we pretty much do this for our kids anyways because they are little and our finances are few! but I like the idea to be intentional even if this wasn’t the case.

  34. Teresa November 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    I think this is a wonderful idea. Two years ago was the first time my children complained about what they received for Christmas. They are good kids, but it was the first time ungratefulness came to the surface. The following year I did 3 gifts each for the 3 gifts Jesus received, it was a little better but still I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of their attitudes, something just wasn’t clicking. I don’t know if receiving so many gifts from aunts and extended family members lessened the effect, but my kids were still not satisfied. This year I told them one gift each, and I was pleasantly surprised to see no complaining crying or moaning. I might have found my magic number.

  35. Tania November 30, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    This is a great idea. I have pretty much finished all my shopping for this year but might look into this next year. I have two kiddos with a birthday on Sunday and then again in January. Making this time a year even more overloaded with gifts. Thanks for this idea. :) We are also participating in the Advent Conspiracy this year at our church. Looking forward to worshipping more and spending less. Merry Chrismas!

  36. Sandy November 30, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Love this! Going to pass it along!

  37. Natalie November 30, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    That just spoke to my heart. It is true that we have become a society who wants and wants. Perhaps it really is nothing new, but it has gotten out of hand. It reminds me of how Christmas is the season of giving, not receiving, and It’s about helping the less fortunate.

  38. Jamie November 30, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    We began a version of this when our first child was young. Our three kids get “3 gifts” just like “Baby Jesus”. I have never specified a monetary limit or what type of gift, though, I like the four gift idea of directing their wishes. It is interesting, last year, my middle child who was 10, asked for a techie game that was pricey, but her other two gifts were a stuffed animal and something else that was so minor I cannot remember! This year, I have yet to get a list from any of them! Truly, they want for nothing. I have been questioning if they have so much that there is nothing left to get OR are they beginning to get the message of Christmas?? That all remains to be seen, but in this society of having too much – I think the direction you are going in is wonderful!
    Also, I do fill their stockings with trinkets – artsy items, a dvd, etc. and Santa brings one gift each, separate from their three gifts. I still have one believer!
    Merry Christmas and thank you for sharing your creativity and your reflective thoughts – you are a sweetheart!

  39. Ashley @ Dirt Stains and Paint November 30, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    We’re wading into similar territory this year – just looking for a way to negate the excessive feeling that Christmas can have these days. We also started reading a book called “The ADVENTures of Christmas” which has been a great way to bring meaning back to them through the “regular” Christmas things and events!

  40. Tanya H November 30, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    That’s what we do too, but sometimes we swap out the “to wear” for “to do”. And we always shop with a plan – what do we want this child to do this coming year? be more creative? active? etc.

  41. Laura November 30, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    We do something very similar. We do one Christmas Eve gift, which is always new PJs and slippers (they really can’t play with a toy then, anyway!). Then stockings, which always has a nicer (usually battery-powered) toothbrush, toothpaste, a $5-10 gift card, a couple small gifts (like earrings or minifig packet), and a small amount of candy.

    Finally, on Christmas morning we do one gift from Santa for all four to share (this always points to Jesus – this year it’s the Lego Old and New Testament picture bibles) and three gifts to each child. They reflect each kid’s interests. Maybe clothes, maybe toys, maybe educational items – whatever they’re into at the time. Sometimes one of the gifts is a shared gift. And they do get a few more from extended family. We love it – and surprisingly, the kids really like the predictability of the PJs and slippers, and the new toothbrushes! It always feels abundant, even with the limits.

  42. Susan Isaacson November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Well stated and very timely Emily! Though its difficult to do, his will be a great investment in your children lives. I applaud you for these steps you are taking!

  43. jami nato November 30, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    i look forward to hearing about how it’s different for you this year!

  44. Lori November 30, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Jeana, you are so right. It is more me than the kids. I’ve said the same to my own mother. We started doing four gifts a few years ago. The guidlines make gifting easier.

  45. Dina November 30, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    This is basically how we’ve done Christmas for our little guy each year-it’s usually 3-4 gifts, and very low key, no biggies. I’m not a big fan of tons of toys, they just don’t need them. I stock up at Homegoods, TJ, Marshalls, Costco all year long and keep them in a rainy day box and bring them out on an as-needed basis, so he gets some little by little.

  46. Jeana November 30, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve heard this idea before and have never followed it, because, just like you said, it requires restraint, which I’m not very good at during Christmas. There’s also the thoughts I have of “What’s the fun in 4 measly gifts?” But honestly, my kids have even said, mom, if I only get “blah blah blah” I’ll be so happy! So it’s more me than my kids, which is pretty sad! Thank you for reminding me that it’s ok to not go overboard, and I also need to remember that I’m the one teaching my kids what the season is really all about, so I need to practice what I preach! :-)

  47. Jayena November 30, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I’m such a fan of your blog and just love it! And Thankyou for posting this today. I have a 14 year and 6 year old daughters and its hard not to get them so much but I don’t want them growing up thinking that’s what it is all about. . .and me knowing its okay and everyone will still have wonderful memories.

  48. Elizabeth November 30, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    We are sticking to something similar. We have two (soon to be three) boys and they get one thing from us, one thing from Santa, and then a little something in their stockings…maybe a few books and a new little stuffed animal. This year Santa is bringing a play kitchen with a few cooking and food accessories as a joint gift. Our boys still get presents from grandparents and their aunts and uncles, so I don’t feel pressure that we need to get them anything.

  49. Lindsay at Life of Splendor November 30, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    I remember seeing that four gift idea last year and it got to me! We do not have kids yet, but I come from a family where Christmas was very important and magical, but a part of that was gifts, gifts, gifts. I find myself even as a mature adult, wanting certain things and then I realize that as soon as I have it, I want something else. Why can’t we just be content? Thank you for sharing this today. It’s always so good to focus our attention on the reason for the season and thankfulness instead of stuff.

  50. Meg Mc November 30, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    First, I love your about me section b/c EVERY time I read a post from you I think to myself, “we should be friends.” :o)

    We started this last year. Partly b/c of ungrateful children in years past and partly b/c of budget (we have 5 kiddos). We took it a step further and combined the something they need and something to wear, since typically they are the same. We introduced the change to them by explaining how Jesus received 3 gifts from the wise men to celebrate his birth, so to help us remember who the day is about, we will receive 3 gifts, too. Last year was our best Christmas ever. And this year the Christmas lists were small and pointed, not lengthy and greedy. I am very happy with this new approach.

  51. Amanda Medford November 30, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Love your post! We started doing this last year, but with three gifts representing the 3 gifts Christ received. One is a toy, one a practical item/need, and the last an educational/spiritual gift like book, Bible, devotional etc. Problem is I always feel like one book is so small that I end up getting several for that category and just wrap as one present :). We also do a stocking with a few small things.

  52. Jenny November 30, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! I was JUST talking to my husband about this the other day… it is hard to teach your children about WANTING when they don’t really HAVE to want they just receive. After that conversation I wrote to our local domestic violence shelter and asked for a family to adopt for the holidays. They list things in order from 1-6, 1 being the highest priority down… the mom’s list consisted of formula, diapers and clothes for her baby on the way — her other 2 kids were clothes, shoes then toys for the youngest and school supplies for the oldest. THEY know what it means to NEED and ask for necessities first, that is humbling. We are going to let our 3.5 year old help us shop for this family and deliver the gifts. He is starting to understand that there are people out there who don’t eat and go without and he wants to help, it makes my heart happy. It’s never to young OR old to understand what we have to be grateful for and to help others who aren’t as fortunate!

  53. Judy November 30, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    I love this idea…but how do you logistically organize that? I’m thinking you automatically get one present from the parents, one from maternal grandparents, one from paternal grandparents…how do you make it so that they only receive one other gift? And how do you go about telling the other 3 people who will be giving the gifts that they need to stay within whichever “type” of gift? My kids are young, but with our friends giving them gifts and aunts and uncles and their friends, they literally have too many gifts. We store most in the closet and we honestly still have toys from last Christmas that haven’t been taken out of storage to play with yet. It’d be great to limit it to 4 gifts…but how do you tell everyone else that we are doing that so that they don’t end up with a million gifts??

  54. Susan C. November 30, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    This idea totally transformed our Family’s Christmas 14 years ago. We do a Gift of Love —something they want. A Gift of Encouragement — a letter we write to each family member. And a GIft of Growth —something to encourage our children’s spiritual growth. The children would give A Gift of Service instead of the Gift of Growth — a little card with an act of sacrificial service they would do for each family member. We began this when our children were in elementary school and they are now grown and two are married. They have decided to continue these traditions in their homes. *Note: We have two boys and so the letter writing was not always…okay almost never…an easy task to accomplish, but it was a great lesson in perseverance…for us all! The letters are actually everyone’s favorite part (even when they were little) and we have now added a son-in-law and daughter-in-law to our letter writing celebration.

  55. heather cloudt November 30, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    we are doing the same thing with our four. Only one exception – the fifth gift. The fifth gift is a gift they buy for someone else. This year, we are picking a name from the giving tree at their public school. Good for you!

    • Heather November 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

      We have four kids, ages 9-17, and every Christmas they each pick a sibling they get to spend $20 on. In addition to that, my husband and I give each kid three gifts- one thing they want (example: guitar), one thing that is an “accessory” to what they want(example: guitar picks), and one thing religious (example: book about a favorite saint). They also get stocking stuff from Santa, and then one family gift from Santa (example: board games, an ice cream maker). My husband and I get each other one gift and then the kids get each of us a gift from the lot of them. My husband is not always with us on Christmas (he is an officer in the Marines) so when he is deployed we are aware that we pray extra hard for peace on earth; the idea that peace is a much greater gift than packages beneath the tree has a whole new meaning when he is gone.

  56. Soraya Mazloomi November 30, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    We are doing this same thing this year… my son, Otto, is only 1 this year, but we thought we would start early. I mean at this age he is happy with pots and pans and empty yogurt cups… what more does a kid need?

  57. Natalie November 30, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I saw this idea on pinterest awhile back and my husband and I are adopting it for ourselves this year. I like the idea because for me I am a compulsive giver, I would buy tons of gifts and after awhile it starts to lose something, lose specialness. This really forces you to consider carefully what you give rather than having endless opportunities.

    We are not including stockings in the four gifts, so there is a little bit of flexibility but our stockings usually just have food-based treats and maybe a small toys (yes I give my husband toys) or a low-value gift card $10-$20.

  58. andrea November 30, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    we did this for the first time last year, after seeing it on ‘august fields’ blog. LOVE it – makes buying much more specific and narrows down the bazillion choices out there. i think you’re gonna love it!

  59. leanne November 30, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I’ve heard of the “4 item” Christmas and I love this idea. Hoping when I have kids someday to do the same.

  60. Katy November 30, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Also, if I’ve reached my limit for what I will give Christmas morning BUT I find a great deal on something they’d like – – – I save it for their birthday or other special occasion! That way I feel like I can take advantage of good deals or items that may be hard to find, but don’t feel that I have to give it to them for Christmas.

    The way I see it: Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birth, not ours. It’s fun to give gifts to celebrate Christ’s birth, but it’s not *our* birthday. If I’m going to pick a time to go hog wild with gifts, it will more likely be the child’s birthday since it is a celebration of *them*. But at Christmas, it’s not about “us” so while gift giving is fun and great, we should also heavily focus on teaching our children to give gifts to Jesus by serving/donating/helping those in need around us or whatever cause we want to support.

  61. Elise November 30, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    This is really inspiring, but I’m so curious: does this count towards presents that Santa brings as well? Or is this what you’ll be giving from mom and dad, and then Santa will bring others? Regardless – a really great approach. Thanks for sharing!

  62. Rachel M. November 30, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    We are planning on doing that this year, too. I was trying to decide if this should include stockings, too. I’m wondering, how are you planning to do that and do you have any good stocking stuffer ideas for kids?

  63. madcat2002 November 30, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I think you mentioned this concept last year (just after Christmas, maybe?) and the words have been ringing in my head since then. We use it for birthdays now too and it’s been wonderful. Nobody is missing out on any joy, either. I love it!

  64. Tonya November 30, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    One of my friends has done this idea for her family for years and it works great. Love it.

  65. Melony November 30, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    There must be an epidemic of spoiled kids (and adults) in the world right now or something because this is a theme that I’m seeing pop up on everyone’s blog lately (including my own)! I think it’s great! We are doing this same thing at our house, only we are also including “something homemade” as one of the kids’ gifts. But, I have TOTALLY found myself wanting to buy little things for my babies lately and have had to reign it in because that “something” wasn’t worthy of being one of their only 4 gifts. Great post!


  66. Sarah Barksdale Design November 30, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    That is a great idea Emily! I am interested to see how it works out for your family. It is so easy to get caught up in the christmas shopping/giving/getting that we easily forget the reason for Christmas and the ultimate gift we have all received in Jesus

  67. Denise November 30, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Emily, I cannot agree more with you. We have always done 3 gifts but as our girls got older we indulged them of course. Now they are 20 and 18 and our circumstances have drastically changed. My husband was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Leaukemia on July 1st and spent 2 months at MD Anderson hospital. My 20 yr old is in college(part-time) and working full-time, my 18 yr is a sr in high school and is working her first part-time job while I am working 2 jobs. We cannot afford to do Christmas this yr and they both know it. We have discussed in length that we have alot to be thankful for. We dont know for sure how much time we have with their Dad but we are going to be thankful and count our blessings for the time that we Do have with him. Time is our gift this year!!!!

  68. Tonia November 30, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Perfect post. Aren’t we all just incredibly spoiled when we actually stop to think about it? I cannot say that we have ever truly known what it’s like to do without. And just this morning I was hoping we’d gotten Landon and my niece ENOUGH for Christmas. I LOVE, LOVE the idea of four gifts. Thank you!

  69. Danielle November 30, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    We do something similar only it’s 3 gifts plus the stocking. Three gifts to represent the gifts of the wise men and I break it up into something to wear, something to read, and a toy. I love that it sets the expectations with our kids and doesn’t allow them to ask endlessly for things.

    • Katy November 30, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      I like that too! Very similar idea. (as I just mentioned in my FB comment for this post) kids also get presents from Grandma/friends/family, so I definately don’t feel the need to go crazy or it’s just too much. And the younger they are, the more they just want to start playing with their new stuff after opening like 2 presents anyway! I also want to start early to set the expectation that their are some reasonable limits to what they can ask for and how many to expect – especially as they get older and the things they want just get more and more pricey!;)

    • Meg Mc November 30, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      We do the exact same thing. I love it!

    • Nina December 1, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      We also do the “three gifts were enough for baby Jesus, they are enough for our children as well”. They do receive so much from others that I am not sure that they have ever realized that we do not buy them as much. We also usually do one Santa gift that is for them both like a movie or a game. My kids are 13 and 11 and I think one of their favorite parts of Christmas Day is going to the movies with the whole extended family (aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins) in the late afternoon. Love this post and Merry Christmas!

  70. Jen November 30, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    THIS came at the perfect time…I was literally five minutes earlier going through in my head whether we’ve gotten the kids ENOUGH for Christmas…give me a break. I went back and read Jamis post and a comment was made that had one woman specifically not bought her child any gifts he would still have ENOUGH. Exactly, we have enough, the kids have enough, the orange, pjs and board game my THREE year old is getting is ENOUGH. But I was feeling guilty, no more, nope! Christmas is far more than gifts and I thank you for the reminder.


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