Simplify Your Holiday With This Christmas Gift Rule

Let’s face it: We have a lot of stuff. Dare I say, too much stuff? There’s a reason Marie Kondo and The Minimalists have soared in popularity.

I don’t remember how old my kids were when I had my own personal, “Does this spark joy?” moment, but I do know that it happened while I was stressing about what to get them for Christmas.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts. In my family, we’ve never done wish lists, because for me, that took all of the excitement out of it! There’s nothing more fun than seeing my kids’ faces light up with surprise after unwrapping the perfect present, reveling in their joy of feeling seen.

But at some point, doesn’t it start to feel like they already have enough? I struggled with the thought that I could be unwittingly fostering a sense of entitlement in my kids. I was stumped.

I wanted to change the way I handled Christmas gift giving, but I wasn’t sure what that could look like. Then one day, I heard a friend talking about a Christmas gift rule she and her family were going to put into practice, and yay! It was my answer.

Chrstmas gift giving

The Christmas Gift Rule:

Something they WANT

The secret to finding just the right gift for this category without a wish list? Listening. Whenever one of my kiddos mentions something that they like at any time during the year, I make note of it. By the time Christmas rolls around, I actually have a few options to choose from so the gift can still be a surprise even though they technically “asked” for it.

Something they NEED

When I was a high school teacher, whenever I’d tell my students that a class activity was going to be tons of fun, they’d always ask, “Teacher fun or student fun?” My reply? “BOTH, of course!” In this category, the same applies. If you think they need it, get it for them. Like knowledge, they’ll realize how important it is once they start using it.

Something to WEAR

This gift doesn’t have to be boring. You know your kids’ personal styles, so there’s a lot of room for creativity in this category. Clothing, makeup, shoes, a hat and gloves, slippers, funky pj’s, a coat, hair accessories, the list goes on!

Something to READ

I’m all for the classics, but you can also think “outside the book” and gift magazine subscriptions, comics, graphic novels, coloring books, art or writing journals, smash books, etc. Listography books are fun, too. You can find one for everything from literature and music to travel and friends.

And then I add my own family tradition passed down from Grandma H, the pièce de résistance: STOCKINGS! She showed me how fun it is to get super creative with random stocking stuffers. Unique candy treats from Mom and Popcorn candy shop in Downtown McKinney are always a hit with my kids. They stock gummies in random shapes like pizza, hamburgers, and sushi, as well as Harry Potter-themed candies, barrels filled with sweet delights, and all the vintage items that double as an excuse for you to share stories of what you enjoyed when you were a kid.

For my girls, I add nail polishes specially chosen for color names that reflect things I love about them or what they’re into that year. My son loves gag gifts, like the time I gave him soap for “Uranus.” I fill the stockings with things that make my kids laugh or recall a treasured memory, as well as things that are practical and helpful.

Christmas morning beautiful mess, Christmas gift ruleOn Christmas morning, the kid who finds the hidden pickle ornament in the tree starts the fun. They take turns, one at a time, opening stockings first, then their four wrapped gifts. We ooh and ahh and laugh and have a fashion show. We tear the wrapping paper and throw it in the air. We revel in the beautiful mess. We watch A Christmas Story, and sometimes we nap.

Then we clean up and host Christmas dinner for friends who couldn’t—or didn’t—spend the day with extended family, always sure to invite my single friends.

Want, need, wear, read….and stockings! It’s practical. It’s simple. It’s personal. It’s a perfect Christmas gift rule for our little bubble.

What gift-giving traditions does your family practice?

Alisa’s 15 minutes of fame was as a news reporter just after college. These days, she embraces multiple roles – a mom of three (two teenagers and one who is #adulting), a graduate student at UT Dallas Jindal School of Management, and a freelance writer, editor, and tutor. When she’s not hiding out in the library, you can find her next to a chiminea fire on her back patio. She loves indie movies, eclectic music, random road trips, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, her kids, and her cat Jack Jack (although not necessarily in that order). She grew up as a military brat, residing in four countries and eleven states before settling in the Dallas area. After 20 years here, and with the help of her Aggie daughter, she can seamlessly use “y’all” and “howdy” in a sentence like a true native Texan.


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