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The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

We celebrate Christmas pretty simply at our place. We generally have a carolling party with the kids’ friends, and we have several events with extended family, and there’s all sorts of baking and food, but we try to avoid the whole craziness of buying gifts for everyone.

The rule for the past few years has been that parents buy for their own kids (because a few gifts are a good thing) and grandparents buy for grandkids (because nobody can stop them anyway), but the adults don’t buy each other anything. It’s worked wonderfully, taking away most of the Christmas stress and leaving more room for Christmas celebration.

This year, however, my wife has introduced something new to the system. She felt that the kids were only receiving gifts at Christmas, never giving anything, so they weren’t getting the full Christmas experience. Her solution was to tell our three kids that they should buy or make something for each other. This made them responsible for only two small gifts, which should be manageable for them, but still gave them a way to participate in the act of giving.

The results were a little unexpected.

First of all, they all wanted to go shopping together, and they made no attempt at all to keep their gifts a secret. They asked each other what they wanted, made suggestions when they saw something they liked, and even shared money to make it all happen. They seemed completely uninterested in keeping anything a surprise until the actual gift opening on Christmas morning. Despite what all the traditional Christmas stories tell us, the anticipation and surprise of the gift wasn’t important to them at all.

On the other hand, they still wanted their gifts wrapped and under the tree. There wasn’t a single suggestion that they would just keep the gifts out and use them right away. No, even without any surprise left in them, Christmas gifts were meant to go under the tree and be unwrapped on Christmas morning. There was no debate about it. Their wrapping didn’t even have to really conceal the present (my youngest would accept no parental wrapping assistance), but wrapping there must be.

Interestingly, the whole process accomplished exactly what my wife had hoped (despite my unspoken reservations). The kids really did seem to enjoy the opportunity to give something. In fact, they were more involved and excited about it than about any of our other Christmas activities this year. They seemed sincerely glad to go and find something for each other, to wrap it, to give it.


We always say that it’s better to give than to receive. It’s one of those parenting cliches. But it was a profound experience for me to see my kids actually demonstrate that.


If your kids don’t do something like it already, maybe give them the gift of giving this year. It might make their Christmas that much more meaningful.