Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas is a BIG deal {and that's okay}

I know the days of being able to wow our kids with a couple of thoughtfully-curated, $20 something Christmas gifts are numbered. Or are they?

I want to keep our family's focus on the real meaning of Christmas: Him. But I also want to really party it up, you know? And to me, party = presents. Not a ton of presents, necessarily, but a decent handful of brightly colored packages strewn under the (absolutely must be real) Christmas tree.

When I was growing up I remember one of the most magical moments of the season being that predawn treck down the stairs to the sight of a figurative ocean of Christmas presents spilling out from under the tree and filling the entry way of my parent's home. My parents knew how to go big.

But not necessarily bank-breaking big. With 7 kids (did you guys know I'm the oldest of 7?) times 3-4 presents each, plus grandparent gifts, we're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 packages under that tree.

And it.was.awesome.

There was something about the superabundance of gifts under the tree that communicated, to my childish heart, the significance of the event we were celebrating. And it didn't matter that some of them were from the dollar store, or that inevitably, grandma's gifts were going to be lame pajamas (that I would die of happiness to receive today. Go figure.)

It was the ridiculous too-much ness of Christmas morning that helped me realize that ... this is a pretty big deal.

Now this is not to say that you can't have a lovely, minimalist Christmas punctuated by handmade gifts and baked goods. This is simply my own alternative perspective on the whole "Christmas is too commercialized/we're not doing presents on principle!" line of reasoning that seeks, rightfully so, to reclaim the season for Christ.

I think it can be both/and, though.

I think you can have a meaningful, sacramental, beautiful Christmas filled with bright paper packages and hymns and carols.

And I think it's okay to want to fill the space under the tree with a couple - or more than a couple - thoughtfully chosen gifts for your kids and spouse, never forgetting for a moment that He is the gift par excellence.

Also, we believe wholeheartedly in Santa in this house. But that's another post for another time.

So, without further ado, I present to you our hundred-something dollar Christmas which I hope will wow the crowd appropriately. (And, in keeping to a 3 gift per child limit, I realize that the only way we can really up the number of packages under the tree is by upping the number of butts in the seats. Gulp.)

For Joey, age 4:

This camera, which I fully expect to blow his mind while at the same time preserving my ancient iPhone to live to snap another day.

This collection of Star Wars peeps. Because my little apple didn't fall far from the tree.

This watch. Because learning! And Lightening McQueen.

For John Paul, age 2.5:

This remote control car. He's going to sob with delight when he opens it. And it alleges to be easily controlled by fat little fingers.

This watch. Because Batman.

This liturgically significant catechetical toy. Which will be shared by the whole clan, and will be personally delivered by St. Nicholas himself on December 6th. (My kids write letters to St. Nicholas, aka Santa, and leave them in their shoes on the evening of December 5th. Little do they know they're getting more than gold coins this year.)

For Genevieve, age 11 months:

These sweet little shoes. She's still utterly uninterested in doing anything resembling standing, but I figured these might give her some motivation. Plus, John Paul had a pair of Pedipeds in Italy and I loved them so much.

These adorable knee socks, which I pray can summit her 3-inch long calves and secure themselves above her cankles, staying in the upright position like no sock has yet to do.

And finally, this cool looking thing, which will be her first official "new" toy, not counting a baby doll and a stuffed kitty cat (all my kids have been given a Jellycat stuffie from birth and they are the attachment object par excellence. Do yourself a favor and check them out.)

So that's it. And looking over it in a list like this, it looks like a lot! But it was less than $150 for everything, and it will make for a nice little pile of packages under the tree. 

We also adopt a family equal in size to our own each year at our church, and I have a sort of unwritten rule that whatever we spend on our kids, we spend on theirs. It helps temper my natural desire to BUY ALL THE THINGS, and will be, we hope, instructive to our kids as they grow up and see that whatever we do for them we will match in charitable giving. So they could technically get twice as many gifts, but then the other family would not get their Christmas. 

So that's it. An alternative perspective on the annual introspective about presents vs. Jesus. Maybe He's the big Present, and the smaller ones help little impressionable people connect with that on a heart-deep level. That's my hope, at least.

 Now, onward to Advent!


  1. YES! I am so glad to read this ... I feel like the sheer abundance of Christmas when I was growing up was one of the things that taught me its wonder and beauty. And it's not like the gifts *displaced* Baby Jesus ... he was there in his manger with the straw sacrifices we'd offered all Advent, born in the night while we slept.

  2. I was looking at that remote control car the other day and when I saw it played music I figured I might break the toy an hour after he opens it, lol.

  3. I was excited to see that camera for your Joey. My Joseph (age 3.5) is getting the exact same one (although I bought it used - luckily he doesn't know/care) and for very similar reasons :)
    I'm also curious - do you do stockings? If so, what are you putting in the stockings for your kids? I'm always looking for ideas for what to put in our kids' stockings. We've decided that Santa will bring stockings, but any gifts (from us) under the tree will be from mom and dad.

  4. just made me sigh a huge sigh of relief. Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting out there in the www land a beautiful perspective on a Christmas that is filled with thoughtful gifts and the beauty of a child seeing that tree! It's what I remember, too! Jesus, above all, but the big deal was what made it so special :) Thank you!

  5. I love it!! We've got 4 children to buy for plus some extended family and we're going pretty simple. We bought each child one stunner gift ($20 a piece and they're all pretty darn amazing, thank you K-mart!) and there'll be some stocking stuffer bits as well. We've pretty much kept it to about 100-150 and that's enough, I agree.
    HE is the reason and I love how you have incorporated God and fun into it all :) very much the same at Casa Grubb here!

  6. It makes sense to me that a God who is always giving should be celebrated with gifts. Also gifts are one of my love languages. Not necessarily expensive, just thoughtfully chosen.

  7. I LOVE the idea of spending the same amount on another family as you do on your own. I think we might have to adopt that as well. And my son (20 mos) got that Little People nativity for Christmas last year. He didn't care much then but really liked when I got it out this year!

  8. We found the little people nativity and bought one for each baby in the family (daughter and nieces!) it is so cute!

  9. Great take on life and Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

  10. This perspective is thoroughly refreshing! And I consider myself a minimalist.... Thank you!!!

  11. I had the same instincts when I had my first couple of kids, but the few Christmas mornings we spent as orgies of wrapping paper and twisty ties made us feel, well, dirty. Spiritually, it was akin to eating a vat of bacon grease, and I was not setting out to be a present-snot, I assure you. We've been paring down toys since then and are hoping to try a Christmas without toys some year soon. When you get up to five or six kids, it can be pretty overwhelming to have an avalanche of stuff every year, so I'm in a season where I need to find other ways of emphasizing the joy of Christmas.

    1. I'm certainly open to being proven wrong by time and experience. In our family it worked out that my parents kind of transitioned from giving the older kids much of anything in the way of gifts, and instead we gave (and still give) gifts to one another, and then everyone showered the youngest kids with gifts ... it really kept Christmas magical.


Is your email linked to your comment? I'd love to respond to you directly, but I can't if it's not!