3 Gifts for Christmas

Growing up in my house at Christmas meant a tree surrounded by gifts. The only children in my family were my sister and I, but my mother LOVED gift giving. I think for her, growing up in the 1950’s, Christmas was simpler and she decided that ours would be big. Some years, it would take nearly an hour to open gifts, and we would stop to eat breakfast about half way through, to refuel.

Out of all those mounds of gifts over the years, I only remember two! I do remember getting a lot of clothing that I remember not liking - admittedly I was a picky kid. The two gifts that I can distinctly remember were an Easy Bake Oven and a portable CD player. I had dreamed of the Easy Bake Oven for months. It was all I wanted. I think that was the year that my sister and I decided we couldn’t wait to find out what we had gotten for Christmas. Each of us knew what the other way getting, and so we stood in the downstairs bathroom, turned on the ceiling fan and on the count of three, told each other what the big ticket item was. I remember being so relieved that I was getting the oven, but then realized we had just taken the fun out of opening the presents on Christmas Day. We left the bathroom, only to find my mother standing there looking confused and asking us what we were doing. To this day, I’m not sure she knew what had happened, but I’m sure her “mom radar,'“ clued her in. The second problem I ran into after the guilt, was trying to figure out how I was going to act surprised on Christmas day when I opened the gift. I spent weeks trying to tell myself to forget what I had heard, which only reminded me that I already knew! Christmas day came and I can’t remember how I pulled it off, or if I even did, but I do remember one thing. My mom’s friend had a niece who was visiting and she came over to play. She said she had an Easy Bake Oven and so she decided she would show me how to work it. We made the brownie mix, placed it in the oven and she went to push the power button, she pushed to hard and pierced the outside control panel and broke my Easy Bake Oven! All that work, and I never got to use it!

The second gift I remember getting was the portable CD player. I distinctly remember this one, because it came with two CD’s of my very own - Gloria Estefan Cuts Both Ways and Bryan Adams Waking Up the Neighbors. I’m clearly a product of the late 80’s/90’s!

I don’t know how much she spent over the years, although I know she loved doing it. But I think it’s strange that with all those gifts I only remember two. The other tradition she had was to buy us the big chocolate Santa from See’s Candy. I remember usually eating his head and bag of presents sometime during Christmas morning, but don’t really know what happened to Santa after that.

When I became a mother I didn’t know what to do about Christmas presents. My husband and I choose to live on a budget and as modestly as we can, so big Christmas’s didn’t seem to fit the budget. I started feeling conflicted, as I grew up with a standard of Christmas and didn’t know which part of that to pass on. How many gifts should I buy? Should I buy my kids clothing and toys or just toys? How much is a decent amount to spend, to make it special, but not overdo it?

A few years into my motherhood, I was a MOPS meeting (side note - if you’re looking for Christian mom fellowship group, I always enjoyed being a part of MOPS), anyways a woman came in a d did a presentation of Christmas and simplifying it so as to keep the focus on the miracle of Christ. Earlier this week, Diana talked about Keeping Christ in Christmas, and this was really the speaker’s point. The speaker that day changed my motherhood. She suggested getting 3 gifts for each child. Each of the gifts was to represent the gifts that were brought to Jesus by the Wise Men. The idea got even more particular. Since the gift emulated those of the Wise Men’s, they were also to be for distinct things. Here’s what she suggested:

·       Myrrh is embalming oil used for the body, so she suggested this be a gift for the body. Clothes, perfume, lotion etc. Over the years, we’ve gotten our kids - robes, blankets and rain boots.

·       Frankincense is incense used to represent a King and lift your mind to Heaven. We’ve used this gift as something to grow your mind. We usually give books but I’ve also thought about subscriptions to online learning or magazine subscriptions. And because I’m a deal seeker, I usually find the books at used bookstores or cheap places online.

·       Gold - finally the BIG gift! Since gold is so valuable, this becomes the biggest gift. One year my son got a little kid guitar and my daughter got an easel. The guitar came from CVS and the easel was from Ikea, so I only spent $20 each, but they were still the big gift and had everything else leading up to it. I usually hide the big gift too and they have to hunt to find it. Last year, we got each kid a bike and we created a whole scavenger map, which ended at my husband’s school where we had been storing the bikes in his office.

The three-gift idea had saved Christmas for me! It’s given me a formula to my shopping and has organically created a conversation about the Three Kings and Jesus as we’ve opened the gifts. The speaker made it sound like this was also an idea that she had gotten from someone else, so by no means am I claiming it as my own! Steal away, I did!

I do keep with one tradition from my childhood. My mother has since passed away and so each year I buy the small See’s Santa’s (I’m not crazy enough to give them all that sugar) and I put them in their stockings with a tag that says “From Grandma Sally.” My husband thinks it’s a little weird that the gift comes from her, but he knows to just go with me on that one.

How do you pick and choose Christmas presents? How do you decide how much to spend?

Copyright 2018 Courtney Vallejo. All Rights Reserved. 

Image Credit: 2018 Karen Padilla. All Right Reserved.