How to Simplify Gift-Giving and Have a Meaningful Christmas

Gifting 1‘Tis the season for toys! Your kids have sent their letters to Santa, wish lists have been made, and commercials have thoroughly bombarded everyone with new
ideas for stuff we didn’t know we needed. Whether you exchange gifts on one night, eight, or literally every time you see a family member or friend between Halloween and New Year’s, you’ll have to make a choice. What kind of gifts will you give your children?

It’s a complicated decision. As a parent, we want to give our children the desires of their hearts. We want to provide for them, bring magic to their lives, and see their faces light up. On the other hand, we long for a holiday that is meaningful, beyond the gifts given and received. A simple, joyful, wholesome celebration can seem like the complete opposite of what the stores are offering.

How can we purchase family memories?
What kind of gift fills the heart instead of feeding the greed?
How do we express our love for our children without burying them in consumerism?

I grew up in a family filled to the brim with love, but severely lacking in money. It would have been simply impossible for my parents to offer my siblings and me whatever we claimed we wanted. Despite that, every single Christmas seemed to be the most magical, blessed one of all. Presents were always stacked high and wide under our Christmas tree, and the gifts received were always deeply treasured. By the time I’d entered adulthood, I came to realize that there was a discrepancy between the money that my family had and the amazing Christmases we always seemed to enjoy. What were my parents’ secrets?

I’ll share them with you here, though this list is not prescriptive. Every family will hold different values and desires for their holidays together. Here, I share with you some ideas for keeping your gift-giving meaningful, your wish lists simple, and your holidays magical.

Gifting 2

Three Ways to Simplify Gift-Giving

1)  Generic Wish Lists

Part of me would rather do away with wish lists altogether and just let the gift givers have some creative freedom. However, I don’t want to steal the fun away from the kids who love to make a list, sit on Santa’s lap, and have a heart full of hope that their wishes come true. Instead, our family had a rule that wish lists couldn’t be specific. For example, we could ask for a doll house, but not the Super Dreamy Barbie Beachhouse with Private Jet. We could ask for Legos, art supplies, puzzles, or a certain style of clothing, but our lists had to remain generic. This allowed my parents to look for bargains, shop secondhand, and find creative ways to fulfill our desires without feeling hamstrung to a list of specific demands. An immensely helpful part of making this possible? Turning off the T.V. and avoiding gift catalogs.

2)  The Three Gift Rule

This one is Christmas-specific, a way to connect our gift-giving back to the religious meaning behind this particular holiday. Because Jesus, when he was born, was given gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, we each receive three gifts that represent the three that he received:

  • A Gold gift: Something of value to the recipient, highly desired or prized
  • A Frankincense gift: Something for the mind or spirit, to cultivate the intellect or nurture spirituality
  • A Myrrh gift: Something for the body, such as clothing, perfume, or an activity

We also do the tradition of stockings with small gifts in them on Christmas morning, as well as a special tree ornament and new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Once you factor in gifts from grandparents and extended family, if I’m being totally honest, we all end up with way more than three gifts. But the Three Gift Rule helps us focus and simplify our piles of presents.

3)  Gifts of Doing, instead of Getting

Instead of finding gifts in a store, consider what you might do—for or with—the gift recipient. As children, we often made coupons for doing our siblings’ chores for them. We were given “Special Times” alone with a parent, such as a walk to the park or a trip to a friend’s farm to pet the animals. These ideas aren’t just for kids; a spouse or friend would likely enjoy time with you more than an object anyway. When you take money out the equation entirely, you might find the most creative and meaningful gifts of all.

Happy gift-giving to all! May we all experience joy, simplicity, and magic this holiday season!

Have you ever tried to simplify your holiday celebrations? Do you have any special gift-giving traditions? 


Lianna is a homesteading mama of three: a sparkly seven-year-old daughter, a joyful five-year-old boy, and a confident three-year-old boy. After graduating from the University of Iowa’s college of education, she started Wondergarten Early Enrichment Home, a multi-age, play-based early childhood program. A self-proclaimed Queen Dabbler, she has a long list of hobbies (from gardening and canning to sewing and painting), and doesn’t mind being only mediocre at all of them. She lives with her husband, mother, three kiddos, dog, cat, rabbits, dwarf goats, and chickens on an acreage in the country. The Cornally family spends their time talking about education, learning how to grow and preserve their own food, and romping around in their woods.



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