In Defense of Christmas Presents


Let’s talk about Christmas. Specifically? Let’s talk about Christmas with a kid old enough to get excited about Christmas. Because, y’all. I’ve waited nearly THREE DECADES for this!

Okay. That’s slight hyperbole considering I didn’t truly start thinking about what it would be like to watch my child’s face light up brighter than the fake pre-lit tree we got on clearance at Home Depot until those cozy quiet Christmas mornings spent sipping coffee as a newlywed. But still. I’ve waited 8 years for THIS CHRISTMAS. Christmas 2016—I’m looking at you!

This is our moment.

in defense of presents Christmas holidays Nashville Moms Blog

And let me tell you what we’re NOT doing: something my 3-year-old Wants, Needs, Wears, Reads. The big fat NOPE in this house would put Santa’s cookie-filled belly to shame.

I hear y’all back there with the fears of raising entitled children. Truly, I get it. And I absolutely don’t want to raise spoiled brats either. My husband and I work to teach our kids to understand the real meaning of Christmas and enjoy the holidays for more than the gifts they receive.

I simply think that — as parents — we’ve done some kind of drastic overcorrection from when we were kids. We’re so busy making sure our children don’t turn into raging consumeristic monsters that fill our homes with hundreds of toys (that we know will lose their appeal in six months or less). We push elf-based behavior reward systems and daily acts of kindness. We only have to give “the look” to get our kids to do the aforementioned kind act—with a smile on their face and gratitude in their hearts. (Or, in my toddler’s case, a little gratitude—but mostly the promise that there will be fruit snacks if he can just try really hard to BE COOL FOR TWO TINY MINUTES while we deliver cookies to the fire department.) And none of those things are bad or wrong! We should make memories and teach gratitude. I’m on board with those ideas 100% of the time.

But I don’t think we must do those things in lieu of enjoying presents.

In my little family, we don’t make a habit of treating our kids to things throughout the year. While we are certainly not lacking for anything, we do stick to a budget. We try to be wise with our purchases. As our children get older, they will be taught how to save, give, and spend within their means—just as we do.

So if our Christmas budget allows us to get our kids some fun things we normally wouldn’t buy, we’re going live it up! Yes, we may end up with some toys that will break a few months down the road. I may even raid the dollar store just to see my son light up at the sheer quantity of toys. At this age, I could get him $50 worth of Hot Wheels cars, and he would probably pass out from pure joy.

There will be plenty of time to buy him socks and jeans. These are the years of Legos and Nerf guns. And we are going to embrace them. One day, we will be buying our kids pullovers and Home Depot gift cards so they can buy pre-lit Christmas trees on clearance for their own young families. We have the rest of their lives to be practical. This Christmas, we’re going to teach gratitude and generosity and make non-gift-related memories. BUT we’re also going to have a little magic in the air and plenty of budget-friendly presents under the tree.

It’s going to be AWESOME!


  1. Whitney, I’m at contributor in Chattanooga, and recently did a Want/Need/Wear/Read post with gift ideas for each category. I have used this philosophy for years when shopping, but wanted to clarify that I don’t in any way feel that I am “anti-present.”

    I know some follow that philosophy religiously, with only 4 presents under the tree, but I’ve never only gotten four presents per kid. I use the categories as guides for gifting, because otherwise, I think I’d just buy tons of toys (which I AM against, considering they take up space we don’t have and don’t get played with for very long). I love trying to be creative about their gifts, so that there is a mix of some toys they’d like, along with things that would be useful to them, things they can wear (not always clothes – this year it’s a mermaid tail blanket), and books for them to read.

    And one other reason I tried to scale back how many gifts they received was the Christmas that my girls were around 3 and 2. There were TONS of gifts, and my oldest had opened maybe half. When we gave her another one to open, she refused, and asked if she could be done with presents. She just wanted to play with what she had already opened. It was like she was overwhelmed. I decided that if my 3yo was tired of opening presents, perhaps we’d gone overboard….

    Anywho – just my perspective. Like I said, I’m not anti-present by any means. I just try to be creative and intentional with what they are gifted.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kimberly! I will have to go check out your post.

      To be certain, there’s nothing wrong with want/need/wear/read for those who choose to handle the holidays that way. I do understand the appeal of it in ways. But since entering motherhood 3 years ago, it seems like the voices advocating for that approach and similar ones (3 gifts because 3 wise men, 1 gift from parents and 1 from Santa, etc) have gotten louder and louder while endorsing Christmas the way many of us experienced growing up has become almost shameful. I saw an article floating around this year that told of doing “needs” only gifts and another that endorsed not giving gifts at all, and that’s when I kind of thought, “Is anyone still doing traditional old-school gifts-galore Christmas? Is it impossible to think we can have our gifts and our advent too?” It’s like with so many current issues, when the pendulum swings so far one way that we know it has to be corrected, but then we collectively start to swing it too far the other way.

      I love Christmas and the incredible opportunities it provides to share the Gospel, show generosity, teach stewardship, give and receive kindness, and just plain have fun. We all do that in different ways, but in our house, we are doing less decor and extra activities, but keeping the presents. I’m sure our traditions will evolve over time, but this is what we are unashamedly doing for now. I just wanted to encourage any moms who feel pressure to do things the current trendy way but who are secretly longing to have the kind of Christmas they grew up with.

  2. I had the same kind of Christmases you had growing up. With four siblings, the living room had so many presents we couldn’t even walk around the tree! I expected to have the same Christmases with my kids. But an article I read made me see the benefit of scaling things down. It was an article about a woman who was down on her luck, and couldn’t afford a big Christmas. Her daughter came home from school asking why Santa Claus would bring her friends a lot of gifts, and she received so few. There, but for the grace of God, go I. We still do a good amount of presents, but I am mindful of which ones I say are from Santa Claus and which ones are from us. I’ve made the decision that Santa Claus will bring the four gifts, and the rest will be from mom and dad. I feel this will give us a better opportunity to explain what may result in a difference in distribution of gifts from household to household. And if something should ever happen that would change our financial situation, I feel it would make for an easier transition if we can’t afford a big Christmas.


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