3 Gifts of Christmas

3 GIFTS OF CHRSTMAS {www.thevintagemother.com}

Through the years I’ve  had several friends ask about our tradition of giving 3 gifts for Christmas.   First, I wish I could take credit for the idea because it has been so neat for our family.  I attended a women’s church meeting the very year Bill and I were first married. We were anticipating spending our first Christmas as a married couple, and this idea was shared.  That was 15 years ago today and we’ve done this every Christmas.

We all know Christmas isn’t Christmas without gifts.  We give gifts as a symbol of God’s greatest gift sent to the world, Jesus Christ.  We give gifts to symbolize the gifts that the wise men gave to the Infant Jesus.  And we give gifts to show love to our families and fellowmen.

But sadly, Christmas has become a season of present purchasing, equalizing the present piles for Christmas Eve, and spending too much money on meaningless things.

Christmas, to me, is a matter of the heart.  How we view and do Christmas is determined by whether or not we are allowing gift giving as an action that  “leads us to Bethlehem”.  And we know that as mothers, even from that first Christmas night, that it was a matter of the heart.   In Luke 2:51 it reads, “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Such ponderings lead a woman, a mother of eight, who I don’t know (but wish I did) to ponder on her Christmas, and most specifically her Christmas giving.  I was at a small church event one evening with only about 20 in attendance when she shared her story. It’s a story now when I look back, that I will be forever grateful for.

Her story went something close to this:

It was Christmas Eve, and after wrapping present after present for her 8 children through the month of December, she had both the exhaustion and the eagerness of Christmas morning in front of her.  As she surveyed each of her children’s piles, she could tell from the shapes and sizes what each child had requested that year.  When she got to one of her son’s piles, she noticed there weren’t as many gifts as the other children.  It looked alarmingly small compared to the others.  In her mind, she ran through what he had wanted…and it was just one special toy he’d been asking for for months.  It was there.  In the pile.  Along with a few other things: like some socks, some new books, and another small toy.  But it looked so wimpy compared to the other kids piles…This lead her to a quick late night trip to the local Wal-Mart to fill her cart with other things that would help his pile look the same in comparison to the others.  She got home, wrapped the gifts, surveyed the piles…and this mother of eight went to bed with the satisfaction and joy that Christmas morning brings to mothers everywhere when they know they’ve done a good job with presents for Christmas.

That morning was like the other Christmas mornings they’d experienced together as a family.  Everyone seemed happy and pleasantly surprised with the gifts they were given, and happy that they’d received even more than they’d anticipated.  Later that morning as she looked around the room, she saw the boy whose pile she’d  completed just a few hours before, only interested and playing with the one toy he requested.  Later she would find that he only played with that same toy for weeks after.  A sick feeling came over her.  And she vowed that next Christmas, she would change things.

She prayed.  She pondered.  She researched.  And listened to her heart.  And came up with the idea of giving THREE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS, reminiscent of the gifts of the 3 Wise Men.

In the Bible, is says in Matthew 2:11 “When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and…presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

What do we know about the gifts that were given to Baby Jesus?  We know that they were symbolic, that they were meaningful because they were rare, that they had been well thought through, for each signified something important.  Gold symbolized Jesus’ royalty, frankincense, an incense used in the temple–his divinity, and myrrh, his suffering and death as it was a substance used for cleaning and burial.

This mother’s gifts would also have power and meaning. And she thought too, that she could offer three gifts with purpose.

GOLD gift of wonder {www.thevintagemother.com}GOLD {The Gift of Wonder} wrapped in GOLD

These are gifts that tickle and delight. They are the gifts that are really wanted or desired–The gift that the receiver just can’t go without! A wanted toy, a planned outing, a season pass… something they just HAVE to have.

FRANKINCENSE the gift of meaning {www.thevintagemother.com}

FRANKINSENCE {The Gift of Meaning} wrapped in RED

These are gifts that have meaning and express affection. These might include: a scrapbook, a quilt, a special doll, an heirloom, a childhood memento, a piece of jewelry,  a treasure box, a framed photograph, or letters from the heart. This gift is extremely worthwhile and something that shows love.
MYRRH the gift of usefulness {www.thevintagemother.com}
MYRRH {The Gift of Usefulness} wrapped in GREEN

These are gifts that are truly needed. Look at your loved one’s needs and choose a gift that would be truly useful. These might include a new coat, a down comforter, or a new pair of shoes and socks. Use this gift for something practical yet worthwhile.

I’ve had many people ask me when I tell them we do this in our family, “Do you really give JUST THREE gifts?”  And the answer is, for the most part, yes.  Some gifts end up being “package deals” of sort, but the point is that with these three gifts our children know we thought specifically about each one.

It is hard to narrow it down to three.  It takes time, and energy and thought.  And Santa brings a little something as well—so the tradition of Santa can be preserved, but the focus is on the special wrapped gifts from Mom and Dad—symbolizing those special three gifts given to the Savior long ago.

I hope this inspires you to consider how you give gifts as future Christmases come and go, and the purpose behind them.

If you are interested in receiving a sheet of information regarding the 3 Gifts of Christmas, please email me katie {at} thevintagemother {dot} com

6 Replies to “3 Gifts of Christmas”

  1. Katie,

    I think this is a great way to gift during the season. I have heard a few friends mention the “piles” and one looking less then the other because one asked for a more expensive item, thus less items to equal the money allotment for each. I only have Shea so it’s a bit easier not having the equal challenge, monetary or in numbers.

    My husband and I usually give a hint of something we might like, a wish item, but traditionally we don’t exchange gifts because we buy along the years way, and gifting, just to gift, because that’s what the commercials say is silly.

    Your wrapping is beautiful! Merry Merry!!

  2. hi katie!
    i don’t know if you remember me but i was in that same ward and meeting when the three gifts idea was presented. we have done it in our family too and it has been such a blessing both in helping me remember and organize what gifts they will receive and also it allows my children to see how simple christmas can be and how they don’t need crazy piles of gifts to have a meaningful and happy christmas. i have also shared this idea with friends and it seems like most people are very interested in adapting this idea to their own family. anyway just had to share.

    your blog is so beautiful and has great ideas. thank you. best wishes to you and your family this season.

    p.s. we live in midway now too. love your posts on your parents place.

    1. Ali,
      I totally remember you! Your comment made me so happy! That was a special meeting. I’m so glad you were there too and can attest to the blessing this is for families. How fun that you live in Midway! I’m quite certain it’s the best place in all the world. Thanks for stopping by and for saying hello. I hope I run into you sometime when we’re up there!

  3. I grew up with this tradition, and we have carried it on in our family (except Santa brings the three and mom and dad a present) but my parents never color coded them, and I hadn’t thought of that either…what a wonderful idea. Same meanings though, and it truly helps us remember the reason for the season as we discuss through the holidays why we choose to celebrate this way. Love it so much! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you! This is a great idea. I’ve been reflecting on how I would like to celebrate Christmas next year to make it a more Christ oriented time. Something we don’t do in our family is Christmas lists or asking our children what they want for Christmas. It eliminates the “expectation” they might otherwise feel, makes it more of a surprise, and helps the kids appreciate the time and thoughtfulness put into the gifts.

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