A Simplified Christmas: Less is Truly More

When our 4 kids were much younger, long before we’d ever heard of minimalism or made any attempts at simplifying; my husband, Drew, began questioning the materialistic behaviors that were surrounding Christmas. He wasn’t convinced our kids needed all the gifts they were being given during the holiday.

I was still in the throws of living with extreme excess and loved showering my kids with plenty of gifts at Christmas. Perhaps, subconsciously, I linked my love for them with the many gifts I’d give them. Technically the gifts were from both Drew and me, but I was typically the planner, shopper, and wrapper. Therefore, I was the one more emotionally attached to the process.

Drew presented one simple truth I could not deny:  Our kids just didn’t need all the things they received at Christmas.  It was a waste of time and money. He suggested they each child get one gift and call it good.  I had a hard time agreeing to this and we compromised with one gift & a stocking.  Stockings would be filled with some basics like a pair of socks, a new toothbrush, and something to read.  In my mind, they needed to open more than one gift in order for Christmas morning to be truly filled with all it’s magic, even if that meant opening socks.

Drew was confident our kids would be fine and wouldn’t even notice the change. I couldn’t imagine that to be true and envisioned a Christmas morning filled with tears and comments like “where are all my gifts?” We called a family meeting and presented the changes that would be taking place that Christmas.  To my surprise, there was no mutiny or uproar amidst our kid crew.

I was still not convinced.  When Christmas arrived I was actually nervous for our morning tradition of gift opening.  I was confident the kids would open their one gift, Christmas would be over in two minutes and the tears would begin. As it turns out, my kids did not cry. Not one tear. My kids were extremely grateful for their one gift, AND Christmas continued. In fact, the gift opening was just the kick off to a great day of time together. That fresh approach to Christmas was the start of a deepening appreciation for time spent together, thoughtful gift giving, and intentional conversation.

Upon reflection of that first Simplified Christmas, I discovered my view of the holiday was extremely narrow.  Although if you’d have asked me, I would have told you the “true meaning of Christmas” and included the baby Jesus and all the things a nice Christian mom should say. Turns out, in the depths of my heart,  I had Christmas all wrapped up in consumerism. It was such a huge lesson for me that year. In addition, I realized my kids were more mature than I gave them credit for. They didn’t love Christmas for what they were going to get.  Sure, it was fun to receive something new, but it wasn’t what Christmas was all about for them.

We’ve stayed with the one gift tradition since that Christmas over 10 years ago, In the many years since, I’ve uncovered a few alternatives that families have adapted for their simplified Christmas. Here are just a few:

  1. Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh: Kids receive the same amount of gifts Jesus received from the wise men, three. Hey, it worked for Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
  2. The Rule of 4 Gift Giving: ONE want. ONE need. ONE to wear. ONE to read.
  3. Believers in Santa: One gift from Santa & one from Mom and Dad.
  4. Experiential Christmas: Give the gift of an experience. It’s the ultimate kabash on consumerism.

I’d love to hear how you celebrate Christmas.  If you’ve simplified the gift giving process in any way, share it in the comments below.

4 comments
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  • JacquelineWe give three gifts 1. A family gift from Mom & Dad (this year a basketball hoop) 2. The kiddos each get a Nike track suit from Santa. Typically we wouldn’t spend top dollar on a track suit, but it’s proved to be nice on the weekend when they want to be cozy and Mom wants them to look put together 3. They receive their one “wish” gift from SantaReplyCancel

  • A.WidemanLast year we started, want, need, wear, read. There was no complaint and i loved the simplicity of it. Plus it helped me when I’m shopping and get sucked in!ReplyCancel

  • christyI love this! We have done the 3 gifts thing too! I like one statement piece though… I’m trying to convince my boy of your tradition 🙂ReplyCancel

  • AngelaI have to ask, how old were your kids when you sat them down and explained this ‘one gift’ Christmas?  Did they still believe in Santa?  I love it but I feel like I’m just too scared until they are a little older.  I try to highlight Advent and giving of time and gifts for the season, but I can’t deny how much Daniel counts down every day until the ‘big day’.ReplyCancel