In an effort to make Christmas more Christ-centered, our family is trying to incorporate Him into the very act of gift giving. Here are three traditions that help us focus on the reason we give gifts in the first place.
1) 13th Article of Faith Stockings
Much of my parenting has been driven by this admonition in the 13th article of faith: “. . . if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I want to intentionally seek after and show my kids the beautiful and inspiring things of this world—especially when it comes to media. Instead of only steering them away from the negative and saying "no no no," I want to say, “Look at this! See here!" This is why I came up with our “13th Article of Faith Stockings.” (For the record, I only call them this in my head. I’m afraid my genius would go unappreciated by my family). Along with yummy goodies, Santa fills each stocking with a good book and some good music. Last year my husband raided the Walmart Black Friday $2 movie bin, so we added movies as well. Media can be expensive, but because I know this is what I’m doing every year I can look for deals in advance. And honestly, I would rather spend my stocking bucks introducing my family to uplifting media than on toys or devices that aren’t as meaningful. I've found that the more we seek after and SHOW our kids the good, the more proficiently they will judge the good from the bad for themselves (see Moses 1:15).
2) Extended Family Experience vs. Gift Exchange
We started doing this in our family a few years ago and I LOVE how it affects my December. Instead of spending money on a cousin/sibling gift exchange, we pool that money together for an experience. One year we rented out a gymnastics facility for a few hours, complete with a rock climbing wall, trampolines, and a foam pit. We played, ate pizza, and took hilarious videos of the grownups attempting tricks (picture Uncle Paul's belly flop into the foam pit or Grandpa’s comb-over flapping on the trampoline). My kids still talk about this day. Instead of buying several cheap gifts for an exchange, creating a memory with your extended family is a fantastic use of your holiday time and money. It brings family closer together, strengthens important relationships, and in a way, is a gift to the Savior Himself.
3) Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Gifts
I adapted this idea from Emily Freeman’s book, A Christ-Centered Christmas (which is a huge part of our holiday traditions). Each person in our family gets three gifts for Christmas as a nod to the three gifts of the Wise Men. Before Christmas arrives, we review the symbolism of each gift (taught beautifully in the less familiar verses of “We Three Kings”). Our gifts are inspired by the same pattern, which keeps my gift giving simple, organized, and symbolic.
Gold: The Joyful Gift
Wrapping Paper: gold
Represents: His royalty
Gold was joyfully given to celebrate the royalty of baby Jesus, so this is the “fun” present. In our home, it is the gift brought by Santa Claus. It's the exciting toy, the new bike, the hot electronic device, or whatever sparks joy for the receiver.
Frankincense: The Meaningful Gift
Wrapping Paper: red
Represents: His divinity
Because frankincense was a sacred oil used in the temple, this is the meaningful or “spiritual” gift. It is something that brings the receiver closer to Christ. For example, a new journal, a scripture case, a priesthood line of authority plaque, a beautifully framed picture of Christ, a temple bag or recommend holder, items to prepare for a baptism/ordination/mission, etc. Last year I bought giant eight-generation family history charts ($1.50 each) and a boat-load of colorful markers. The kids LOVED decorating and filling out their own charts as far as they could go from memory, and then with help. It was interesting to see the holes we needed to fill and our hearts were turned toward temple work. I always love dreaming up the frankincense gifts!
Myrrh: The Needful Gift
Wrapping Paper: green
Represents: His humanity
Myrrh was a useful oil for common household tasks (think of it as the multipurpose cleaner of Jesus’ day). It was also useful in burial. Myrrh reminds us that Jesus lived as we lived, with similar physical needs and cares. For this reason, myrrh is our “needful” gift. It could be a new pair of shoes, a duffle bag for basketball season, or a winter coat—whatever that family member is in need of.
Last of all, before we dive into presents on Christmas morning, we kneel as a family and offer thanks for the greatest gift of all—the gift of our Savior. That tradition plus those above have brought purpose and order to my gift giving. In each example, my intentions are focused on Christ. And even in the very act of opening our gifts, we are remembering Him.