Have you ever had this experience on Christmas Day?
Your kids run to the Christmas tree. You wait until the whole family is present, most likely dressed in pajamas. You give the anticipated GO signal! Wrapping paper flies everywhere. Kids jump up and down.
And in 15 minutes, it’s all over.
All your hours of planning and preparing. Wrapping and cutting after everyone’s asleep. Curling ribbons and online ordering. The patience required to find a parking spot at the mall.
Whoosh – in a flash, it’s done.
This year, we are planning to do something different with handing out our Christmas presents. I heard Barbara Rainey share this idea earlier this month on FamilyLife Today and I absolutely love it.
It’s going to help you slow down and savor the opening of gifts – but not only that. It will help you put the exclamation mark in the right place.
Instead of having your children find a gift to open under the Christmas tree, they find a gift to give. In other words, instead of my oldest son Ethan gathering up all his gifts to devour, he looks for gifts under the tree that he has prepared to give to his siblings and parents.
Ethan will pick out a gift for his sister and present it to her. Guess where the focus is now? Not on receiving the gift, but on the wonderful feeling you get when you give a gift. The action is in the giving.
And the more you have prepared under the tree to give, the more you get to do!
I love this idea of putting the emphasis on the giving of gifts, instead of putting the emphasis on how many gifts are labeled for you. This fights against the “her pile is bigger than mine!” syndrome.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have siblings compete for who was going to GIVE the most?
This small twist illustrates the meaning of Christmas – that God GAVE His Son so whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
As you put the spotlight on giving, your children will have an easier time connecting the dots that Christmas is about the gift of Jesus.
What if your children don’t have the money to buy presents for their siblings or for you? You can help your children make gifts for each other:
Something from the art table. Your older kids can write notes of appreciation to their siblings or draw a picture. They can make something creative out of construction paper or look online for easy Christmas crafts to complete.
Recycle toys from older kids to younger kids. My oldest son has been putting away stuffed animals and Hot Wheel cars he is done with, but that he knows his younger sisters would enjoy. He’s been keeping them in his closet for months. I was so surprised to see him wrap up those toys and put them under the tree on his own! (Pinch me!)
Head for the nearest dollar store. Your kids probably have a few dollars they can spend for their siblings. If you can, take each child individually to the dollar store to keep their presents a secret. If your family is too large to accomplish this Herculean errand, split your kids into teams. One team can buy gifts for the other team and vice versa. This way, you only have to make two trips to the dollar store!
Once my girls saw their older brother putting things under the tree for them, guess what happened? They wanted to find presents for him and asked me to help them wrap up “recycled” gifts. I love this focus on gift giving instead of gift receiving.
The truth is all my kids will still receive gifts. But this year, it’s going to be a little more fun because they won’t only enjoy their new toys. They will enjoy the thrill of making someone else in the family smile. The action is in the giving.
What have you done to put more emphasis on giving in your family? We’d love to hear your ideas!