Is it Time for a New Gifting Tradition?

‘Tis the season for new goals, new memories and new toys!

Christmas can be an overwhelming time of year. Not only is the weather frigid here in the Black Hills, but the hustle, bustle and expense of the holiday season can really take a toll on our wallets.          

Keeping up with the Jones’s can be a constant struggle as expectations (and the cost of the latest and greatest toys!) grow alongside your children. So where do you draw the line? How many presents do Sally and Tommy need? And what can we do to make the season merry, but maintain a healthy perspective and a spirit of generosity, too?

Here are a few ideas to keep the family piggy bank intact while you make the holidays magical for your family.

3 Magical Gifts

Christmas is a time of celebration. Some celebrate the past year, and memories made; others are celebrating the birth of Jesus. No matter your views, three magical gifts is a meaningful idea honoring the history behind the holiday.


When Jesus was born, three wise men journeyed to bring him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The idea behind “Three Magical Gifts” is to represent each of these precious gifts in what you choose for your child(ren).

*Gold represents something highly desirable. This is something your child will treasure. Whether it is a giant remote control tarantula, a Shopkins play set or Barbie’s Dream House, remember to set a budget and stick to it. Helping children learn to be grateful for what they have (even if it isn’t the #1 toy of the season) is an important lesson for them. Consider asking grandparents to chip in on something extra special in lieu of an additional gift to help keep your budget in line.

*Frankincense was burned in the temple as an element of worship. This gift is something to help your child grow: spiritually, personally or in wisdom. Books are a ideal option for the second gift. Other ideas would be positive music, anything that inspires creativity like arts & crafts, or learning tools like blocks or science kits. A bible, journal or a guide to tracing your family tree make thoughtful gifts for older children.

*Myrrh was historically used as a medicinal item, so this gift is something for the body. Consider cuddly Christmas jammies (a matching set for the whole fam is fun), perfume, bath goodies or lotions, cozy slipper socks or a hip t-shirt for your teenage son or daughter.

TIP: If you want to keep the man in red in the loop, have one of the gifts come from Santa and the other two from you. You don’t want the big guy in the red suit to get all the credit for your awesome ideas!

A Little Riddle for 4

You’ve probably heard of this fun tradition. It goes like this:

Something you want

Something you need

Something to wear

Something to readfour-presents

The idea of buying four gifts draws a clear line for the quantity of presents your child receives. It is pretty straight forward, but here are some ideas to help you out:

Something you want: Is it a fancy Play-Doh play set? Or maybe it is a Hatchimal, Minecraft-themed Legos or a Monster High doll. This is a gift your child has been begging you for – something they really (really!) want.

Something you need: It’s not a pony. It’s not a new phone. This is something your child genuinely needs and will appreciate. Ideas include a blanket, new mittens or additional school supplies. This gift can be fun, but should also be practical in nature. Maybe your son lost his lunchbox last school year and you’ve been brown-bagging it, or maybe your daughter has just a few pages left in her current diary.

Something to wear: Kids of all ages always need something in this category, don’t they? Hair accessories, watches, sunglasses and clothes are practical gifts for children. Consider a head-to-toe outfit (don’t forget the socks!) featuring their favorite character. A bathrobe or new jammies also fall into this category.  

Something to read: Make sure to choose material at your child’s level of reading. Consider a magazine subscription to Ranger Rick or Nat Geo Kids to encourage your budding naturalist. Older kids might enjoy a series of books, like The Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter series. For kids who don’t naturally gravitate toward reading, a book about their favorite collectible or the history of their favorite sports team is sure to be a hit.

So why try something new this holiday season?

Because the true gift of Christmas can’t be bought at a store.


Embracing gifting traditions like this help us focus on the reason for the season (whether that reason is based on your religious beliefs or a general nod to peace on earth) by keeping spending in check. Reasonable giving instills values in our kids that will outlast any hit toy or hip t-shirt. Your family can make memories and achieve joy that outlasts the season, making Christmas something both kids and parents can look forward to: a special time to be truly present in each other’s lives.

Written by Jenna Carda and Liz Sagaser