A fresh approach to Christmas gift-giving
Has organising your family Christmas presents become a chore? Sarah Tennant unwraps some alternative ideas for the gift-giving process.
As a parent, what do you loathe about Christmas presents? Is it the expense? The wrapping? Parking at a mall in mid-December? Trying to make sure each kid has an equal number of presents, each of an equally perceived value and size? Coaching a child to be polite rather than candid about Nanna’s hand-knitted sweater? Arguing with grandparents about BPA/battery-operated toys or clothes made in sweatshops? Constantly discovering new ways on Pinterest to spend money (Elf on the Shelf! Personalised handmade Christmas crackers! Christmas-themed PJs to open on Christmas Eve!)?
Perhaps you’re a minimalist and simply don’t want to add a stockingful of junk to your kid’s room every year. Or perhaps you celebrate Christmas for Christ, and are uneasy with the mixing of religious observance and crass consumerism. Or perhaps you’re just plain run-of-the-mill broke; the average New Zealand household spent over $1000 on Christmas last year, which is a decent chunk of change.
There are, in short, dozens of reasons why parents think of gift-giving with a shudder. Fortunately, there are also dozens of ways to tweak the process.
Sweet Things in Small Packages
Originally, Christmas stockings were actual stockings (or shoes in some cultures), not the purpose-built monstrosities we have today. Forget about stuffing a mandarin or an orange in the toe – some modern stockings could comfortably hold a watermelon.
It’s perfectly reasonable to declare that your family has either tree presents or stocking presents, not both; but if you do want both, don’t choose enormous stockings on the off-chance you’ll buy a bulky present. You’ll feel obliged to fill them up every year so they don’t look pathetic. A bulging small stocking is far more festive than a saggy giant one – and it won’t take a whole paycheck to fill.
If your main beef with Christmas presents is the junk factor – and presents marketed as ‘stocking stuffers’ are notoriously gimmicky rubbish – consumable presents are the way to go. Decide that, in your house, stockings are for edible gifts only. For little kids, they don’t even have to be pure candy – think Le Snaks, Tiny Teddies, even those little boxes of ‘naughty’ cereal. My tip? Head to an Asian supermarket. You’ll find loads of cute, individually packaged treats.
Spread the Joy
Doing everything on December 25th can be overwhelming for small kids. We tell them Christmas is about family time, or celebrating Jesus’s birth, but what red-blooded preschooler is going to focus on that while a tempting pile of presents winks at them from the corner? One way around this is to embrace the notion of Christmas as a season, not a day. European countries are good at this: children open their presents on St Nicholas Day (December 6th), leaving Christmas Day free for concentrating on nobler, higher things (or if nothing else, food). Hamilton mum Rosemary Tennant opts for the other end of the season, giving presents on January 6th, which is Epiphany. This is to keep with Catholic tradition, but an added bonus is being able to pick up bargains at the post-Christmas and New Year sales!
A milder version, practised by several families I know, is to open some or all of the tree presents on the night of Christmas Eve. Even opening one present early can act as a release valve for impatient kids, and spacing out the presents encourages a more leisurely opening process.
Something Old, Something New...
No, wait, that’s for weddings, the Christmas-gift rhyme is slightly different – generally along the lines of “Something to play with, something to read, something they want and something they need”. You could overthink the categories here but the principle of a limited number of gifts, judiciously balanced between frivolous and practical, is sound.
Speaking of ‘something to read’, my favourite gift-buying tip comes from my friend Hannah van Ballegooy. She keeps an eye out for second-hand books her kids might like. Come Christmas, she wraps a whole pile, and the kids are thrilled!
Sarah Tennant is a freelance writer with four children – Rowan, Miles, Morris and baby Lochlan. Despite knowing better, she will still feel guilty if she doesn’t buy Lochie a Christmas present, even though he’s five months old and couldn’t care less.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 44 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW