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Moms Talk: Santa’s Big Plan For Getting Rid Of The ‘Gimmes’

Using the “rule of three” to limit holiday excess.

Between the advent calendar treats, the stocking stuffers, the grandparent booty, the assorted neighborhood and friend gift exchanges and the obscene load of swag Santa has taken to dumping under our tree, Christmas is out of control at our house.

That’s why my boys will each receive just three presents from Santa this year.

Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Just? Three is a lot, you revolting first-world consumer-whore.”

And yes: It is a lot, when you consider that there are plenty of children in the world who will get nothing. And when you consider that my children DO NOT NEED ANYTHING. But I’m ashamed to say that my boys are accustomed to receiving two or twelve more gifts than three from the bearded big guy.

And I’m sure they’re not alone. In fact, Americans are predicted to spend an outrageous $586 billion this holiday season, the bulk of it on gifts.

So this new rule is both for my kids (they need to better understand that you don’t get everything you want) and me (I’m disgusted by all the STUFF we’ve accumulated).

Plus, it’s exhausting being a revolting first-world consumer-whore. (Back off, online retailers with your stressful “TICK TICK TICK” messages.)

I stole the “just three” idea from blogger Glennon Melton of Momastery.com, who stole the idea from Jesus.

She writes: “Three gifts for Jesus, three for each kid. We haven’t gotten any complaints about the number of gifts yet, but if we do, we’re prepared with our ‘SO YOU THINK YOU DESERVE MORE GIFTS THAN GOD?’ speech.”

I believe she’s referring to the gold, frankincense and myrhh presented to Jesus by the three wise men in the Bible story, though (as I've mentioned here before) the lessons of my Catholic upbringing are rusty. (In fact, my 4-year-old, Lucas, who was enrolled in a Jewish preschool this fall, is the most religious person in our house right now. “Do you know that there’s this thing called God at my school?” he asked me the other day. “And LOOK! He’s right behind you!”).

Glennon, who says the three-gift rule has been successful with her kids, points out that the strategy could work for any family, despite your level of familiarity with J.C. and/or the ever-elusive (and oddly spelled) myrhh.

“I don’t know any spiritual tradition that teaches that more crap from Toys R Us will bring lasting joy,” she writes.

As Glennon advises, the earlier in the season the kids make lists, the better, “because the barrage of ads hasn’t started so they haven’t been TOLD yet what they want and need. They actually have to think about it. … The kids don’t react with the GIMMES to the barrage of December advertisements, because they know Santa already has their list and that’s that.”

Because there are fewer items on the list, it’s easier to select three. Extended family members can be alerted about the remaining items.

Simplifying the gift process makes room for the more important stuff, Glennon says:

“I don’t feel stressed and exhausted and bitter by Christmas morning. We focus a little more on what we already have—each other—than what we don’t have and don’t need—anything else.”

Mariah Straayer November 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Love. Yes, indeed...the three gift giving has gone over superbly with our five kiddos! We try to give a nod to the meaning behind the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as well. Gold being the present of great importance to suggest how valuable the child is to our family. It's the "big" one! It's the one that tries to reflect we know you, we see you as special, and we know this is your interest or passion. The second, frankincense was a highly valued commodity and rare...so we give the gift a time. Perhaps some fun cookie cutters with a note to bake cookies. Or a little toy arrow with a note to go to the archery ranch for Caleb, for example. And then for Myrrh, which is a valuable perfume used in burials. The maji presented this gift to Jesus as a representation that though divine he was born to die. We try to give a gift that would encourage their faith or one that would care for the child individually, personally, and spiritually. For Abigail, for example, that may be a bushel of books..or creating a cozy place to snuggle up and read (a bean bag chair or a warm throw or blanket). It takes some time and effort to be deliberate, mindful, and thoughtful. But well worth it!

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