Guest Contributor: Melanie Jewkes
USU Extension Associate Professor
When I was in college, I attended a community presentation on simplifying the holidays. One of the main ideas that stood out to me was spreading joy throughout the entire season (and not only on Christmas morning) and creating a gift-giving structure for children. I immediately fell in love with the ideas as a way to distribute the excitement of the season, to save money by sticking with my holiday spending plan, and to create an easy gift-giving system and tradition.
What I Do: After some adaptation, I base my gift-giving structure for my four kids off the tradition of the Wise Men gifts. There are numerous twists and takes of it, which I’ll discuss later. Basically, for 12 years now, I have planned the gifts I buy for my children around themes related to what the wise men, or as some refer to it --the Magi -- gave the Christ Child in the Bible—gold, frankincense and myrrh—and their application.*
Gold is a symbol of kingship or divinity—it signified the unique and special role of the Baby Jesus. In today’s gift world, I use this as my kids’ “want” gift—it symbolizes their uniqueness and their individuality.
Frankincense— this was used in many ways, but one way included religiously. Frankincense was an incense burned in the tabernacles or for religious ceremonies. My take on this gift is for their “spirit” or “brain” gift. Something that ties into their spirit or brain or helps them develop or strengthen a talent.
Myrrh-- often used as an embalming and/or anointing oil for the body. I use this theme for a gift that relates to the body or to encourage movement of their body.
*Note: there are many different theories on the meaning and use of the wise men gifts. This is how I have adapted and used the theme in my gift-giving and it may or may not be true to any biblical scholars’ perspectives.
At this point, I don’t actually tell my kids this is my structure, but you certainly could! And I do plan to as they get older or as they start to make humongous lists of wants. And perhaps this seems odd, but all of these gifts come from Santa in my house. Just part of our own tradition, but you could implement it however you want.
Examples of Wise Men-themed Gifts: Here is a quick list of some things I have purchased, or have considered purchasing, for each of these themes.
Gold or Want gift:
Do I only buy 3 gifts?
I know what you might be thinking -- do my kids wake up Christmas morning to only three little wrapped packages? Sometimes! But not necessarily. For example, my daughter wanted an umbrella last year, and since I found one for a great deal, I added in a mitten and hat set. One year my son got a new bike for his body gift and we included a new hefty bike lock, too.
There have been times with only three items, depending on the cost. And for my really young kiddos (babies and toddlers), I usually do one toy, and a book or puzzle. With black friday deals, I usually get a new family board game, picture book and DVD that goes to the whole family. I am not concerned about “only” three gifts, because they also have grandparents and other family parties for gift opportunities.
In addition, I also stuff stockings, but I’ve simplified it to basically the same things every year. Our stash of stocking stuffers include: a bag of pistachios, a unique bottle of root beer, sarsaparilla, or cream soda, one candy treat, one package of freeze dried fruit, a slinky (funny family tradition and we just do it every year!), a couple small containers of play dough to restock the stash that dried up all year long, and bath bombs with surprise mini toys inside.
Other Twists on the Idea: A simpler version I hear many of my friends use doesn’t focus on a symbolic meaning, per se, but includes:
What I Love About It: I love that my list is simplified and short. My Christmas list per kid looks a little like this: Want, brain, body. And the family list looks like: Stocking stuffers, game, DVD.
Another reason I like this is to help me limit my spending and keep my yearning to shop, shop, shop in check. It’s easy to know when I’m “done” shopping and I can walk away from ads, online shopping, and more last minute shopping trips.
I stick to my spending plan by adjusting the gifts I buy based on the most expensive want or find. I also wait to wrap until I am done shopping and have them all together. There have been times I bought a few too many good deals, or forgot about things I picked up earlier in the year, and didn’t notice until I had them all together. When that happens, I save extra items for Valentine’s, Easter or birthdays.
If there were ever a time when we had to cut back our spending, I can still use this plan and keep the tradition. If I always spent a large amount and all the wants of my children were filled each year, it could be difficult when a shift in spending had to happen. If we have a rough year and can’t afford as much, I can still creatively stick to the 3-gift theme.
What do you do that helps structure your gift-giving spending plan? Come tell us on Instagram or Facebook!
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