Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three Gifts

If you feel financially and mentally overwhelmed with the frenzy of gift giving during the holidays, here is an idea that may help you refocus your time and attention to the spirit of Christmas. About nine years ago I was reading a book about holiday traditions and learned of children receiving three simple gifts on Christmas, just as Jesus received three gifts from the Wise Men. We gathered together and talked about starting this tradition in our own family. Everyone agreed this would help us focus on more important aspects and free up time and money for the entire family.

It is hard to explain the peace that comes with this tradition. Life has been simplified!!! I no longer walk through the aisles of stores throwing items in the cart because I am afraid my kids do not have enough to open on Christmas morning. My husband and I plan what items will be selected for the three gifts and work together as a team to purchase these presents. Just so you know, these three gifts are not typically expensive gifts.

If you decide to try this idea remember there is still flexibility for other traditions such as stockings filled with basic items like socks, batteries, and new toothbrushes. On Christmas Eve you may still decide to give pajamas, a new Christmas book, or a family game. You could even have a surprise family gift that is discovered through a treasure hunt. The idea is to keep it simple! Keep only the traditions that add to the holiday.

I have to admit that almost every year I look at the assembly of three gifts sitting out in the living room and it looks painfully inadequate. I wonder if my kids will be disappointed or wish they had more. But every Christmas morning the girls run into the living room and laugh with delight.

If you are wondering if your kids will miss opening piles of gifts on Christmas morning, rest assured. It is surprising to see how many gifts still end up under the tree from grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors. The three gifts has definitely become one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions. We love the simplicity of our gift giving and the peace that has filled our home. We often hear our kids telling others how they receive three gifts at Christmas, just like Jesus.

If you have a favorite holiday tradition, I would love to hear from you.


  1. Thanks for this idea! We did this last year (after talking to you) and it worked out great! In fact, I can't remember details, so it must have been a simple change. Thanks for another Great idea!!;)

  2. We write letters to Jesus. It's usually a letter about things that we want to accomplish throughout the next year that will bring us closer to Him. We write it on Christmas Eve and stick it under the tree and that's the first thing we open on Christmas morning.

  3. Wow I remember the year you did that for the first time, your experience had a huge impact on me and my family as well. Thanks!!!! Shannon Gardner

  4. It is nice to have Christmas simple. We always had one bigger gift and then stocking stuffers. I sometimes worried about my kids not getting as much as their friends, but it did not seem to affect them and we refused to go into debt for Christmas. It made it much less stressful for all of us.

    Darolene Brown

  5. We've been doing this for the past 18 years now and we too have found it to be a wonderful tradition that allows you to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We just wrote about it on our blog ( You can read the comments from our children (ages 3-20). It is interesting how their perspective on it has changed! At times they did feel that their friends were getting much more than they were (because their friends were!!!) but they have really come to appreciate the tradition.
    Tracey Dugan

  6. Just wondering how it works out with Santa gifts and parent gifts. Do you just give 3 all together or three from Santa and 3 from parents?


  7. This idea is very flexible and can change depending on the year. The three gifts are from parents and Santa. We don't wrap these gifts, but some parents do. Our kids love to run into the living room and find there spot and play with what they have received. We try not to put too much emphasis on Santa so we have made him our helper. Our kids know that mom, dad, and Santa all work together. Any presents from family, friends and neighbors go under the tree and we unwrap these together. In the beginning I would worry that the kids would be disappointed with only three gifts. Their pile looks so small compared to what their friends are getting. But, it turns out that I am the only one who doubts the joy that comes from simplifying with three gifts. My kids are always excited. By the time we get through opening all the other presents under the tree I am glad that we kept our end simple. :)