‘Three gift rule‘: How we’re teaching our kids a lot more about Christmas

When my first child was born a couple years ago, we were so busy taking care of him that we didn't think much about the upcoming holiday season. In fact, mid-December approached before it dawned on me that Christmas was near. Panicked, I called a close friend, asking "What on earth do you buy a newborn for Christmas?" and lamented my lack of shopping time.

My friend calmly told me about the 'Three Gift Rule,' and how this simple concept changed her entire way of thinking about the holidays. She described how her family enjoys Christmas a lot more now than before, when they were always in a frenzy, checking off everyone's wish lists, beating the rushes, spending loads of money, navigating sales, traffic and parking lots. They were now able to focus more on the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.

This is what I wanted, and what my family immediately adopted. Now, a couple years - and another child later - we still happily carry on this tradition.

So what is the 'Three Gift Rule'?

Simply stated, the 'Three Gift Rule' means that each of our children receive three presents on Christmas.

Why do we do this?

Every family's reasons are different: some simply want to cut expenses, some don't want their children too become materialistic or idolize "things", others point to the scripture verses that mention Jesus Christ receiving three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on the very first Christmas.

How do we only give three gifts?

Every family that adopts the 'Three Gift Rule' has their own philosophy. Some families go by the idea of one item to wear, one to read, and one to play. Other families adopt the notion of one gift for your body (like a coat), one for your mind (a game or toy), and one for your spirit (like a devotional).

Other families give one big 'wish list' gift, and two smaller 'needed' items. Some parents give their children three larger gifts, but also fill a stocking with smaller items. As our children are still young, our philosophy has been different each year: handmade gifts, keepsakes, etc. This season, we're giving our kids the gift of classes (gymnastics for one, swimming for the other), a bean bag chair, and sports equipment.

Aren't our children disappointed?

Understandably, children see things on TV, in their friend's houses, on store shelves, and they want, want, want. Our children, however, know what we value as a family, and that we value experiences and time with our loved ones more than "things."

Plus, there are always presents waiting to be given by grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. Our children's hands are never empty, and their hearts are never disappointed.

How we're teaching our kids a lot more about Christmas

But even if our children's hands were empty, our goal would be to teach them that this is okay, and to be joyful and content when doing without. For the past couple years, we've added a new tradition onto the 'Three Gift Rule' and also give three gifts to others. Last year, we gave food to a local family mission, gave toys to a needy family, and donated to a local children's hospital. This year, we're selecting new charities to help.

Through our adoption of the 'Three Gift Rule,' we're teaching our kids that there is a lot more to Christmas than just what's under the Christmas tree. We've turned the most commercial, materialistic season of the year into a time of joy, contentment, making memories, selflessness, and giving to others. And that's one of the best gifts they'll ever receive.

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