Ask Design Mom: Christmas Morning

November 10, 2011

I’m stressed out thinking about Christmas gifts. How do you figure out what gifts are from Santa and what gifts are from the parents? I want Christmas morning to be so magical that I’m afraid I’m buying too much and it will backfire. You have so many kids that I figure you’ll have some advice. Can you help? — Abby

christmas ornaments

Great question, Abby! Every year around this time, I get similar questions, so I know this is something that many parents think about. I’ll answer in 3 parts.

1) As for buying too much, here’s what has worked for our family. I use a guideline I learned from my sister-in-law: Santa Claus brings something to read, something to wear and something to play with for each child. Just three things. They end up with other gifts too — from siblings and grandparents or other relatives, but Santa only leaves 3 under the tree.

Having a guideline in place makes it much easier to curb the amount of stuff coming into our house and to keep our holiday budget in check.

christmas ornaments

2) Regarding parent gifts, Ben Blair and I don’t give gifts to the kids (meaning there is nothing under the tree labeled “to Olive from Mom” or “to Betty from Dad”). In our case this has worked well. There are enough gifts on Christmas morning that the little ones don’t notice. And as the the kids grow older and get to know Santa, they feel loved anyway.

But. I know that wouldn’t work in every family. (You may have noticed, people have strong(!) and varied opinions surrounding Santa and parent gifts.) One of my friends has Santa bring one big thing and the rest of the presents are from Mom and Dad — which seems to work swimmingly for her family. So ask around until you hear something that would be a good fit at your house. I’m sure you’ll come up with just the thing.

3) I hear you on wanting Christmas morning to be magical. That’s my goal too. So I adopted something my mother would do. Before the kids run to the tree, I go in first and make sure the tree lights are on, some soft Christmas music is playing, and the gifts are displayed to their best advantage. If we have one that year, an electric train running around its track is a nice touch. I find the magic is less about the gifts and more about the presentation and mood.

What about you, Dear Readers? What advice would you give Abby? Do you have a gift guideline? How do you keep holiday gifts from getting out of hand? Any Christmas morning magic tricks?

P.S. — I forgot about the stockings! Santa also fills the stockings with inexpensive, practical stuff my family will use up, like socks and underwear, lib balm and body wash, or arts and crafts supplies.

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{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenni November 10, 2011 at 5:08 am

We do 1 gift from Santa and usually another 2 from mom and dad. To differentiate the giver especially for young children we have wrapping paper with Santas on it to wrap the Santa gifts and then hid or dispose of the leftovers and mom and dad use regular paper.


2 Lotte November 10, 2011 at 5:32 am

I love the ‘reading, wearing, playing’ principle! Always looking for good holiday traditions, and the gift giving part of it is definitely a work in progress tradition-wise at our house. Thanks for your ideas! Hope you enjoy Christmas in France :)


3 Jenny Jackson Kersting November 10, 2011 at 5:33 am

Thanks for the great advice. I’ve been thinking about how we’ll handle this in the future (our baby is only 9 months now) and it feels like its so easy to go overboard!


4 Kate November 10, 2011 at 6:42 am

I grew up as 1 of 6 kids and we’re now in our 30s and 40s and our only rule at christmas: show up. So we do. The 6 kids, spouses, partners, our kids all show up from different cities, different countries at my mom’s. Once in a while I’ll think I’d like to do our “own” christmas with just me/husband/children, but no. Christmas is only Christmas when you’re with your family.


5 Mary November 10, 2011 at 6:52 am

We’ve been doing just one gift from Santa, and stockings of course. We give them pajamas on Christmas Eve and maybe a new book. With gifts from aunts/uncles/grandparents, there is always plenty under the tree. I agree about the magic. We leave a plate of cookies for Santa, so that’s the first thing my son checks. Music and lights on, presents on display (Santa doesn’t wrap gifts in our house). Coffee made for the adults, everybody in their jammies. Magic.


6 stacey December 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Same here. Coffee a must.


7 Giulia November 10, 2011 at 7:00 am

Stockings are exactly like that for us as well, except that Santa adds a little gift there. Stockings are the first things to be opened and when I was a child we had to let my parents sleep in and were allowed to raid our stockings – I don’t recall what sleeping in really was, probably 7am if they were lucky.
We keep it to one gift from Santa to each child, one gift from us parents for the 2 kids to share and the rest is all family. We have a small gift opening at our house first and then move down the street to the great-grandparents for breakfast and more gifts.


8 Julia November 10, 2011 at 7:04 am

I love your three gift idea. I laid out a few of our kids presents yesterday and it seems I’m going that route…clothing, book + toy. I’m also hoping to encourage our kids to give/make gifts (even though they are young 4 + 2) early!


9 suzanne @ pretty swell November 10, 2011 at 7:07 am

Thank you for this! I love the system of 3s for Santa. Perfect.


10 Anne November 10, 2011 at 7:12 am

Growing up, Santa usually gave me a toy my parents had said “no” to earlier, and my parents gave boring things like sweaters! We’ve adopted that, and “play” comes from Santa, “read” and “wear” come from us. Santa is magical, and mom and dad are boring. ;-)


11 Angie November 10, 2011 at 7:13 am

At our house Santa puts the stockings at the foot of the bed after he fills them. It’s a mix of practical stocking stuffers and a fun little gift or two. It allows Mom and Dad a few extra minutes of and is instant fun for the kids. Also for gifts we like the something to do like a craft, something to read (especially a series) something to wear and something fun like a toy. Santa’s gifts are wrapped in special paper too.


12 Laura D November 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

The one thing I remember as a child is that Santa had his own special wrapping paper. one we never saw except for when we came down and saw what santa had left. it was always a little magical.


13 Design Mom November 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

Yes, special wrapping is totally magical!


14 Tracy November 10, 2011 at 7:19 am

I don’t remember if there was any pattern as we grew up with what came from Santa or the parents. However, I feel like we are such a budget, that I like the idea of limiting what comes from Santa and the parents. I have a friend who likes to make it a focus that they get one gift from the parents as a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. I think we might also just due three gifts from Santa (plus I would love to have a tradition of pajamas on Christmas Eve). Thanks for this post, it was good to see everyone’s ideas!


15 Melissa November 10, 2011 at 7:35 am

I don’t have kids yet but my family is big on Christmas…. My parents used to split the toys 50/50 from the them/Santa and have all other gifts (clothes, books, etc) from them. Also to make Christmas morning seem magical, my parents would efficiently stack the presents under the tree be and would then then reorganize them to take up as much space early Christmas morning. It is a good optical illusion.

Also, we have a different tradition for stockings. My parents are both from WI where a strong German heritage is still present. Up there the stockings there were filled by St Nichloas on December 6th. The stockings usually contain fruits, small sweets and one small item like a book or figurine. Kinda hard to explain to kids why St Nick come for them and not their friends, but they somehow managed (I grew up in New Orleans).

I’m interested to see what everyone else has to say!


16 Design Mom November 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

Love me some optical illusions. : )


17 Nikki November 10, 2011 at 7:38 am

In our house Santa fills the stockings with practical and sweet stuff (socks, art supplies, treats etc) and one gift a la toy store kind. The rest of the presents are under the tree and they are from mom and dad. However these too are usually clothes and more art and crafts with less toys. Even though mine are young (4 and 6) they really appreciate these sort of gifts.
There’s always Christmas music and of course tree lights and plenty of pictures. We take our time and enjoy our morning as a family then have a big breakfast together.
I have a tip for some…a few years ago my daughter asked for a Webkinz that was retired as her gift from Santa. Thankfully she ended up changing her mind on the day she went to visit Santa so I was not stuck over paying on ebay for one. We’ve now adopted the tradition of going to have their picture with Santa the first weekend of December and that is when they make their request to him. Once done, they can’t change their choice. However, we have also said that Santa is the one who makes all the toys you see in the stores so if you don’t see it, he can’t bring it.


18 RidgewoodMom November 10, 2011 at 7:59 am

The tradition in our house growing up was to celebrate Christmas Eve, then at midnight (or so it felt like midnight), Santa would come to the door (usually my uncle dressed up), and he would bring us presents. We always had to put on a little skit for him, and then each kid would sit on Santa’s lap and get presents. I don’t ever remember getting separate presents from my parents. This is year is the first year my daughter will be old enough to understand about Santa. We will be spending it with my in-laws, so I have already started thinking of things that I want to do. I think we will have Santa (or DH’s aunt), ring the doorbell, and leave the presents at the door. And as my daughter and nieces and nephews open the door, they can hear Santa say Ho Ho HO and jingle the bells as he rides away. I am so excited to see her reaction!! I can’t wait!
As for presents, I too like the idea of reading, playing and wearing. I know she will get lots of presents from my in-laws, so I’m not worried!


19 Beth November 10, 2011 at 8:03 am

I heard this tip from my sister on gifts from Santa:
Something to wear
Something to read
Something I want
Something I need
I wish I could have done this and made Christmas less frantic. My kiddo is ten this year and too old to start any new traditions about Santa.

We do have traditions we love. To make Christmas Eve go faster, we go to an afternoon performance of the Nutcracker. (One year, a Santa look-alike was sitting near us and my kiddo watched him more than the stage.) We let her open a gift, which is always new PJs for the night. And of course there are cookies for Santa.

I also set out everything we need for the frantic gift opening – fully-charged camera, scissors to open packaging, a pen and paper to record gifts for thank you notes.


20 Design Mom November 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

So smart to set out the camera and scissors the night before. Genius!


21 Nicole K November 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

My husband is impossible to buy for and always give me a list right as I’m trying to get the Christmas Eve feast on the table. I am totally giving him this fill-in-the blanks list tonight! Awesome idea for grown-ups!


22 josie O. November 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

We live overseas, where Santa doesn’t exist, so that solves that! But, to give me some structure as I buy gifts, we aim for: “Something he wants, something he needs, something for all (i.e. something to share with the rest of the family) and something to read.” Actually, I’m pretty sure I read that idea on this site — but then adapted it to “something for all” when the lack of sharing started to get to me.


23 Design Mom November 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

I’m really LOVING everyone’s comments! So many great ideas. I’m taking notes!!


24 Annabelvita November 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

Growing up we’d have stockings from father Christmas (a mix of necessities like socks and small presents) that we all opened in one bed, taking it in turns. Then we had to wait until after Christmas dinner for the presents from mum and dad. My mun was really into delayed gratification and it helped keep the excitement up all day! I love the sound of your way too!


25 Michelle November 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

We do the rule of 3 as well, since that is what the Magi brought. Santa brings those… they are usually the bigger gifts. And he also fills his stocking. We give him a few from us… usually 3… if they are smaller, inexpensive gifts, we may give a few more. We have a budget for both, so it never gets out of hand. So far that is! He is only 3. I love your idea of something to wear, read and play!


26 Valerie November 10, 2011 at 8:44 am

I have a good friend who started her kids on the tradition of receiving only 3 gifts from Santa because this is what the 3 wise men brought to baby Jesus. She felt it helped link the celebration of Christ’s birth to the tradition of Christmas giving.

I don’t have kids … but always thought if I did, I would use that same rationale.


27 Tiffany November 10, 2011 at 8:37 am

Since our parents are big gift-givers (at least one side), we’ve felt it’s unnecessary to buy a lot of gifts (plus our children are still all under seven- and somewhat unawares). Santa gives them a gift they really want and then they get, from mom and dad, something we think they need and something we think they would like. Stockings, as previously said, loaded with goodies and dollar store fun stuff that entertain the children whilst we parents get another good 30 minutes of sleep! And books sometimes go in stockings too.

****Our kids love to read together and it’s part of bedtime routine, last year we started the tradition of unwrapping a Christmas book every day after Thanksgiving (I’ve heard of people doing this for the 12 days of Christmas too). It was a HIT. I spent about $80 dollars initially on cheap Scholastic books and plan on adding from there as needed or as appropriate. The books were unwrapped, read (and read again and again over the season) and then packed up for next year so they’re all new again. I LOVE this new tradition- and so do the children!


28 Maggie November 10, 2011 at 9:16 am

For me, the magical Christmas memories are all about waking up reeeeally early (probably 4ish) and sneaking into the living room, where the gifts from Santa (usually one “big” thing per child) would be oh-so artfully displayed around the fireplace, and the giant stockings that our great-aunt made would be ripe with chocolates, oranges, and useful things. I loved taking it all in by myself (including completely unloading my stocking and laying it all out on the floor so that I could reload it just as Santa had and no one would be the wiser). And if my sister’s present was unbelievably awesome, I’d go wake her up and take her to see it, too, before we’d go back to sleep with the biggest grins.


29 Erica November 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

This sounds just like what made Christmas magical for us. (Only we didn’t go back to bed…) Either my brother or I (usually me) would wake up super early (also 4ish) and head down to the tree. All the presents and the stockings were laid out under the lit tree. I’d go get my brother and we’d lay under the tree just staring up at the lights. Then we’d unpack the stockings and repack them before going to wake my parents up.

Other Christmas points…we never had gifts from our parents – Santa brought it all. I actually never even realized that other families did the Santa/parent thing until I was a parent myself…

And we also always had a gift-opening rotation. Both at our house and at grandma’s. Beginning youngest to oldest one person opened a single present while everyone watched, then the next ad nauseum until all the presents were opened. (My mom and grandma always made sure everyone had the same number of gifts – at least until we hit high-school age).


30 Mari November 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

One of the best traditions in my family is that Santa would leave our stocking at the end of our bed. This made it much easier to stay in our rooms until a decent hour so our parents could sleep a bit longer. I will definitely continue this tradition with my children. Hopefully they will continue to be heavy sleepers. Santa also left one larger fun gift by the tree for us and other gifts were from mom and dad.


31 Tanie November 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

In my family growing up we got one big present from our parents, a lot of little presents from the rest of our family members, and only our stockings were from Santa- filled with candy, small toys, a colouring book and new pencil crayons, and an orange. In my ex’s family the big present & stocking were from Santa and you’d get little presents from everyone else.

For the first five years of our daughter’s life she’s pretty much had her dad’s Christmas traditions, but for the last five I’ve been slowly shifting them to be more like the way Christmas was when I was growing up. On the one hand, both her father and I have an embarrassing tendency to get competitive with Christmas gifts, plus her grandparents love to spoil her, so she’d end up with three or four or even five big presents, so she wouldn’t really appreciate them. Now she gets a couple small-to-medium presents from her extended family and something bigger from her dad and stepmom and me and my husband. I’ve done away with the big Santa present and she just gets a stocking- usually bulging and overflowing, but it’s a start!


32 Ale November 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

Now I’m curious about the places where Santa (even under an other name) doesn’t exist… (I know if it’s not Santa, it will be Ded Moroz, Sinterklaas, Saint-Nicolas, Père Noël, Babbo Natale…)


33 Erica November 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I live in Liechtenstein (between Switzerland and Austria). No Santa here. Baby Jesus brings the presents…on the 24th. They do have Nikolaus who brings nuts, mandarins and chocolates on December 6th.


34 Nicole November 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

We do everything from Santa. Except for Christmas Eve PJs… Although, I have never been overwhelmed by Christmas. This year, I am wondering if I cut back on the number of gifts (and can possibly control myself on Black Friday), will it add more to our Christmas morning? I am not talking about being stingy and only giving 3 bad gifts per person. I am talking about 5 to 7 thoughtful gifts for each child. I think I have overwhelmed my kids in the past with so much. Also, since we are trying to be budget conscious (spending only $1000 for 7 adults, 3 big kids and 2 small children (only 3 adults, 1 big kid and 2 small children being present on Christmas morning); I wonder how my simplicity will benefit our small budget. It is just it is so much easier to not be strategic and to purchase everything that strikes my fancy…. Guess I am no help in dealing with the overwhelming part because I am overwhelmed myself!


35 Amy November 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Giving three gifts is far from stingy. I am all about teaching my children not to expect the world on Christmas morning. My kids do not NEED toys. They are fortunate to get a few gifts and with the number they get from others, there is no need for us to overwhelm them as well.


36 Sophie November 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

The one big gift from Santa works very well. Often for us that gift will be for the whole family, such as a Foosball table or a new tv. It gives parents an excuse to buy something expensive that everyone wants. If it isn’t a family Santa gift year then we have Santa bring things like ipods and bikes, one each child.


37 Cortnie November 10, 2011 at 10:03 am

These are all great ideas – I really love the 3 under the tree from Santa. My sister and I are also trying to figure out the gift situation for extended family. This year we’re going to try having the three grown and married children chipping in to get Ana & Papa a nice gift certificate and forgo getting nieces and nephews presents (they’re all under 3 so they won’t even notice….) ;)



38 Camilla November 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

Great advice. I will take it with me.
We open gifts on Christmas Eve in Norway, and we do it after dinner. Place out the Christmas cookies and start opening one by one. Everyone sees what the others get, before moving on to the next gift. We usually get a visit from Santa (“Julenissen”) sometime that evening and he has previously had a small gift for everyone, and one large for the whole set of kids/family; like a board game, or a Nintendo Wii. I think I might want to do it differently this year, but haven’t decided in what direction.


39 Becky November 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

The stocking stuffers come from Santa, as does one gift – usually whatever the kids ask him for, within reason. The Santa gifts aren’t wrapped – he just pulls ‘em out of his sack and leaves them by the tree.
My kids always get some sort of sleepwear (slippers, pjs, or bathrobe) from Mom and Dad to open on Christmas eve, and then usually just one or two presents from Mom and Dad. They’re too young to give each other presents yet, but between aunts/uncles/cousins/godparents/godchildren the space under our tree is always packed.
When we’re at the in-laws for Christmas, all the gifts from people are opened on Christmas eve, and only Santa presents are left to be discovered on Christmas morning.
We draw names in the extended family to keep gift-buying from getting overwhelming. And I always try to remember that the kids get distracted by too much stuff under the tree. Having Santa bring just one special gift allows the kids to focus on and savor playing with that present. :)


40 Andrea November 10, 2011 at 10:28 am

I completely agree about the magic being in the mood. That’s why we still, as adults, stay the night at my parents’ house and get up when it’s still dark to open gifts. The darkness, tree lights, music, and hot chocolate makes Christmas mornings my absolute favorite family tradition and memory. I can’t wait to add my own kids into this mix.

For those who think this is crazy–we all doze off for awhile after breakfast to make up for the early morning :)


41 Kristin November 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

Gum always makes it into our stockings, with socks and undies and a fruit or two.


42 Leah November 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

My boys are still young (7 and 4 and one more coming) but we’ve kept things very simple and I’m so pleased with how that’s gone so far so we’re gonna keep that up… Santa typically brings the “bling”–the one big thing they’ve been wanting, wrapped in special Santa paper and signed with his (cursive) signature so the boys know it came from him. He also stuffs the stockings with small things–a pack of gum, a yo-yo, tub of play-doh, etc.–nothing fancy. Mama and Papa typically give one or two more gifts–clothes or books or another toy, depending on how big the Santa gift was. They also get gifts from Grandparents and Aunts, so they are thrilled and don’t spend hours unwrapping stuff. Our focus has been on quality vs. quantity–lots of Lego and Playmobil because they last and hold their attention throughout the year. They have typically made little treasures for us at school that have been wrapped and stuck under the tree–those are my favorites! This year I’d like to have them make or buy each other some small gifts because I want them to experience the spirit of giving as well. And I’m so pleased with myself because I picked up 2 sets of matching jammies that they will be given on Christmas Eve night–something I’ve wanted to do for years but never got organized enough to pull off!


43 Sallie Ferguson November 10, 2011 at 10:48 am

Christmas Morning was always magical at my house. Santa would leave a note tied to a ribbon blocking us from coming downstairs too early. It was always a note thanking us for the goodies we left him. I loved getting that note! Our Santa gifts were laid our around our family room in our own area with our stocking on top. We would usually get 1 significant gift, a doll, a bike, a guitar…the thing we asked for or something close to it. Then a book or some music. Stockings had practical things in it.


44 Sally November 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

We do 3 things as well, but Santa brings the “fun, must have item”, they get something homemade from me and they each get a new book. The stocking is stuffed with one or two fun things as well as practical things like deodorant or batteries for that fun item. They also get a little cereal box of a banned cereal in their stockings to eat for breakfast along with a packet of yummy hot chocolate an apple, orange and banana. Santa also usually leaves a fun family gift like a new game or movie.


45 Sarah November 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

Santa fills the stockings, eats the cookies and leaves a letter for the kids in their stockings telling them what a good job they did on being good (mentioning specific things) and thanking them for being like Jesus. All the other stuff is from us or the kids relatives. I NEVER thought I’d be like this, but…we are kinda downplaying Santa ! I mean we’re not telling the kids he’s not real, but we’re avoiding “Santa Mania” by not going to the mall (that cuts down on “stuff-itis” also!)


46 This girl loves to talk November 11, 2011 at 12:37 am

we dont do santa. when kids are one or two they dont really understand it, my first child by three just knew santa wasnt real and told me so! lol. So we followed that lead. We’ve chosen not to lie to our children and it still works. We still read santa books and watch santa movies etc, he just doesnt get the credit for gifts!!

So my third child who is now 5 who knows santa isnt real from how we discuss it, but has just chosen to believe and talks about it constantly, so I am finding we are incorporating a bit more santa this year for her :)


47 teresita November 10, 2011 at 11:03 am

Pretty good ideas here!! Keep them coming! You should make a summary list, Gabrielle. ;^)
We tell the kids Santa is delivering the gifts Baby Jesus sent for them, which is kind of true when you are religious, so when they grow up they don’t get that disappointed. ha! The night before we set the place and leave a glass of milk and ginger cookies for the old man and baby carrots for the reindeers. We have a Holy Family set, beside the tree, and there we put stockings and two presents each, a book and something simple but as awesome as we can, with special paper, glitter, ribbons,nice tags, written with curly shaky handmade letters. They glow opening them, and after that, but even before playing, they check if Santa had his milk and cookies, and took the carrots! We have to remember to leave a bit milk and a bitten piece of cookie, otherwise…


48 Sarah November 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

My mom rocked Christmas when I was a kid. Stockings filled with a little toy, pencils, lip balm, one piece of See’s chocolate, maybe a sucker. They were left on our beds to be opened when we woke up so parents could sleep longer. It totally worked and left lasting memories for my brother’s and I of mornings spent going over our loot, all cuddled in one bed. We each got new coordinating Pj’s on Xmas eve after our baths and we left out cookies for Santa and carrots for reindeer and those were usually chomped up and waiting for us to find in the morning. The tree was always lit, with carols playing, our big gift on display and ready to play with (my play kitchen had food in the freezer waiting for me). We also had new slippers for each of us waiting in front of the tree. They didn’t usually identify which were Santa gifts and which were not. I never cared.

For my own child I do the Pjs on Xmas eve, though mine have yet to be handmade as was my mom’s custom. We do the stocking on his bed, but at 3 he has yet to “get” it. His big gift has been left unwrapped, waiting for him. The biggest “issue” we have is that he really doesn’t care about gifts. Once he opens one, even if it is just his stocking, he is happy and couldn’t care less about the pile of wrapped stuff under the tree. I actually find it more stressful trying to get him to open then all and still enjoy *my* morning and special time with him. I’ve had to actively encourage people to *just* buy him the thing he wants and not buy any extra things (grandparents were all super guilty of over buying last year). I’ve resorted to really managing what he gets and sees, going to far as to open stuff from far away relatives in advance and exchange it or get a credit he can use months later when he wants something new and exciting. He really doesn’t want that much, doesn’t need that much and it would be nicer if he just got the few things he wanted and we didn’t have to deal with the excess.

Santa is fine and interesting but for now, he’s a bit player at our house and I’m okay with that.


49 Ellen November 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

A new toothbrush is in each stocking for all 6 kids and 2 adults (yes, I end up loading up my own stocking because Santa brings things to mommies too!). Usually cash or gift cards go into the stocking as well lip balm and small nicknacks. For the younger kids, a tiny beanie baby always peaks out of the top of the stocking and is always Christmas themed… reindeer, door mouse, snowman…. I always have luck finding these little beanie baby critters at Walgreens. Everything that goes into the stocking (except the beanie baby) is wrapped and that wrapping matches any santa gifts under the tree. Those gifts number 3 because that is how many gifts Jesus received from the Wise Men. And Santa always gets beer and cookie and the reindeer get carrots. I have to eat and drink some of each to make it look real, and I do that at the very end of loading all the stockings and putting all the gifts under the tree. By then, it is always about 1AM and I enjoy my snack in the peace and quiet of a most holy night.


50 Alea November 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I do toothbrushes too! It makes it easy to remember when to replace them again if they’re all new at christmas. And I can get the light-up ones and not feel guilty becuase it’s half-present!

I LOVE Santa getting a beer. I’ll have to mention that to my husband – we may have a tradition to change. :-)


51 Erin November 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

We go the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” route for gifts from us to our children (ages 8 & 9), and Santa brings a board game + a larger gift (if it’s the year for that…bike, skateboard, pogo stick) for each. We started this a few years ago and the kids love trying to guess what we got them in each category. We also do a Christmas book and PJs for Christmas Eve. Our daughter was born on Christmas Day, so we also have to work a birthday celebration into the day. We do Christmas in the morning and birthday in the afternoon/evening, with at least a few pictures of her opening gifts with no Christmas decorations in the background! She also gets to choose the menu for Christmas Day dinner as her birthday dinner…since she will probably never have a traditional b-day party with friends on her actual birthday.


52 Jodi November 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

I love your something to read, play with, and wear. We also do 3 gifts, to remind us of the 3 gifts to Jesus from the Wisemen (so that we remember why we are getting gifts), as well as to limit the amount of stuff. As our family grows, I also plan to have all of these gifts come from Santa.


53 Kaila Lifferth November 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

this year, we decided as a family that Santa isn’t going to bring any gifts–the kids have so many toys, and they’ll get Christmas money from their grandparents to use for toys–instead, my husband and I are going to make the basement (aka playroom) into playground essentially. Plans are in the works! It’s not going to save us any money, but our hope is that it will be totally magical when the kids walk downstairs on Christmas morning and see the room for the first time.


54 SAM November 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for all the great ideas! Little L is two so now she will remember what we are doing so the traditions have to begin:)


55 Nicole K November 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm

We have advent angels come at the start of advent. The angels leave christmas jammies for everyone, advent calendars, the nativity sets and a basket with all of our christmas books and movies at the breakfast table. The kids get just as excited as they do at Christmas — it has helped me put the gift frenzy of christmas in perspective. Gabrielle is right — it is as much about the ambience and presentation as it is about the stuff.

I don’t know why, but we have a family tradition of always getting maple sugar candy in our stockings — I still make my mom put some in mine!


56 This girl loves to talk November 11, 2011 at 12:51 am

I love this idea! I love advent and we put out our nativities on the first of december. Kids really do get excited about other things if you spread the joy around.


57 sienna November 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Santa always hides his gift at our house. In your stocking there is a riddle or picture map (depending on your age) and you have to solve the puzzle to find out where your gift is hidden. It takes a little extra time, but the suspense builds and the payoff is always good.


58 Kristen W. November 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm

When we grew up santa’s presents were left unwrapped under the tree and our presents from mom and dad were wrapped. I have continued this with my daughter.


59 Martini Mom November 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm

It was always all about the display at my house when I was growing up. We had very little money, but my mom always managed to make it SO special. Everything from her was wrapped separately so that there was more to open. If she got me five pairs of socks, they were wrapped – always very creatively – as five different packages. The best things always came from Santa – the big things, the “too expensive” things, the things I didn’t ever think I’d get – and Santa never wrapped. His gifts were always displayed magically around the tree like the best window display you’ve ever seen. And stockings – Santa always stuffed stockings, usually with small trinkets, toys, nuts, and ALWAYS an orange stuffed into the toe. I’ve adopted basically the same approach with my own family. Santa always brings the “big” gift, and never wraps (so anything awkward that I can’t figure out how to wrap is also usually credited to Santa). And there’s still always an orange at the bottom of the sock!

I always set a budget BEFORE I start shopping, and I stick to it like a mad woman. It’s not even always that there’s a money issue, but I just don’t want Christmas to be all about nothing but presents, you know? My biggest challenge is that my oldest son has multiple Christmases: one with me, one with his dad, another with grandparents. Luckily his dad and I are able to coordinate together and have learned to share the magic across two households, rather than “double-up” and go all out at both houses. Does that make sense?

Still, we are lucky enough to have a lot of people in our extended family and so everyone receives far more than they need. So my absolute favorite Christmas tradition is the day AFTER Christmas when we head to our respective parts of the house and select gently used beloved treasures to donate to families in need. I’m always blown away by the generosity of my kids (and suspect that timing the activity to occur the day after everyone’s received new stuff helps take the sting out of parting with the old).


60 Marcia Francois November 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I love the idea of decluttering the day after Christmas – you are so clever!


61 danalynn November 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm

donating to families in need the day after is a great idea. I imagine the gesture is even more meaningful to the kids as well when they reflect upon what they received.


62 Alea November 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Wonderful after-Christmas idea – you’re right about good timing.


63 heidikins November 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm

We always got one gift and our stocking from Santa, everything else was from people we knew and loved. I like that, keep it simple and don’t be greedy with the Santa Claus. :)



64 Lee November 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm

We do the same thing and it has worked well. I keep hoping they don’t compare with their friends. The stockings are pretty elaborate .

We’ve also limited the grandparents to one gift each. No so popular but the kids have enjoyed their gifts so much more when a lot of thought has been put into them.


65 Helena November 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

My fiance’s mother does something I think is cute with the stockings (now that we are all adults – not sure how this would fly with kids!). She fills them with cold-care stuff she knows we will need as the winter season progresses – packs of kleenex, throat lozenges, nyquill. Very useful!


66 Dee November 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm

We used to do want/need/wear/read but this year, we are doing one gift from Santa (plus filled stocking from Santa) and one present from Mommy and Daddy. We have the only grandchildren in the family on both sides and we both come from large (generous) extended families, so there are usually gifts aplenty under the tree. Grandma also buys everyone matching PJs every year and we have a fun advent calendar with activities for us to do leading up to the holiday.


67 Chelle November 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm

We tend to get a LOT of books for Christmas, so now the books are our only stocking stuffers. I love that tradition, especially since it means that we don’t have to wrap the books :). Of course, I have to buy my own chapstick now, but it’s worth it!

I love my friend’s tradition: Santa brings the underwear and socks, and mom & dad give the fun toys. She can’t see why Santa should get the credit for the fun stuff! Another friend has each child choose an item for the family pantry/food storage, and it’s wrapped up for them under the tree as one of their gifts.


68 Bek November 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

We always go to the beach on the late afternoon of Christmas eve and roast hot dogs. We write the year in the sand and take a picture if the kids in front of it. When we get home, we shake the sand off, take a bath and get the PJ’s ( this year the theme for all the cousins is superheros– so not always tradiotional holiday ones). We don’t have a system in terms of who gets what, but we do make sure that only one or two things is going to stick around.. The rest needs to be disposable in nature ( art supplies that get used, or thi g’s that can disappear by Feb). It keeps the clutter down.

Lots of great ideas here.


69 jenn November 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm

So many good ideas! Our daughter is two, and last year we started the tradition that every Christmas morning we wake up in our house, just the three of us (and dog) and we stay in PJs for hours. I love the idea of new PJs for everyone on Christmas Eve, and the read, write, play gifts. Perfect.


70 Leasa November 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

In our house Santa only brings one fun gift (in Santa wrapping paper) and a stocking with some small fun stuff. The other gifts are from mom and dad and each other, and we play a game to open the gifts. This makes the gift opening take longer and more special. Although it makes the time to wrap take longer! What we do:

I use a few different wrapping papers and gather different ribbons and bows and adornments. I don’t necessarily stick to traditional Christmas colors and wrapping styles, almost anything goes!

Every gift is wrapped a little differently and I write up a short description of the wrapping of each gift along with the gift recipient’s name. Examples:
Sally – red and white Christmas words with a bright green bow
Bobby – jumping reindeer wound with red string
Jack – jingle bells topped with sparkly silver ribbon
Jill – jumping reindeer with pink and white curly ribbon

All of these descriptions are typed up in Word – one line for each description, then I cut each strip out, fold them up, and put them in some sort of Christmas container (bucket, stocking, mug). On Christmas morning the youngest picks out of the container and reads the slip. The person whose name is chosen then searches for his or her gift under the tree and opens it for all to see. When done, that person then picks a slip and the gift hunting/finding/unwrapping continues until all the slips and gifts are gone.

Some work up front, but we all so much enjoy this! And I wrap most every gift individually. My kids enjoy this activity as much as the gifts themselves! And unwrapping gifts at our house on Christmas morning takes quite a while.


71 Anita November 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm

We also do those same 3 gifts, but they’re “from” the 3 Wise Men because I don’t do Santa (never have–that’s a whole nother topic!). The “camels” also leave a couple family gifts on the back porch to open later in the day when more diversion is needed (usually a puzzle and a board game). Nothing extra from the parents, that’s it from us (plus pjs the night before, and stockings, which end up being way too full!). If not making gifts, my kids like to shop for each other at the dollar store or DI, which is perfect for their budgets.

We take turns opening one at a time, youngest to oldest. One thing we particularly like is that the first gift always opened on Christmas morning, even before running to stockings, is a beautiful gift box (the same one every year). This is where the first Monday of December we had all put our “gifts to the Christ child” (everyone’s notes where we had each written what we were going to do better that month), so that the kids remember what we’re really celebrating.

Joyeux Noel!


72 Joy November 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Our daughters are teenagers now, but we still have one big gift (unwrapped) from Santa plus the stockings are from him. Other gifts are from mom and dad and they get each other a gift. Usually each girl gets three gifts from us plus the one from her sister. At my parents house, they get gifts as well (only grandkids) but at my in-laws we all draw names because the family is so large.


73 Aimee November 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Such a great thread! I am all about the magic of the morning! Lights, music, coffee, hot chocolate and the smell of coffee cake or cinnamon buns baking in the oven. Santa leaves one “big” gift unwrapped and the rest are from mom/dad/family.

My twins have a fall birthday so they just got loads of new stuff and my youngest has his birthday in January right after Christmas. I need advice on how to get the parents and extended family to scale it back at Christmas. There is only so much stuff we can take in during a 4 month period. It honestly makes me a bit nuts. I am a “less is more” kind of person but that does not seem to be the prevailing philosophy of our parents, aunts and uncles. It all seems like overkill and wasteful. Any advice?


74 Alisha November 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm

On Gifts: We have started the habit of asking grandparents and aunts/uncles to give experience gifts for our kids in lieu of toys, etc. This could be a ticket to the zoo, aquairum, museum or theme park. Our closest friends have gotten into it as well. As much as our kids love toys, we have a small house and not enough room. We found that we were quickly running out of space and not loving all of the wonderful toys so much. I have found that my oldest daughter loves this idea the most. It means a movie trip with a favorite Aunt, a day at Six Flags that might not have happened (that place is so expensive) or a really cool journey to a special event at the aquarium. We are lucky to live in a big city with lots of activities within an hours driving distance. Maybe that will help? It gives us an opportunity to do more as a family b/c tickets/fees to some of these places get pretty pricey fairly quickly. Hope that helps!


75 This girl loves to talk November 11, 2011 at 12:49 am

oh us too! we live in a tiny house with seven people. I say they just cant have those ‘big’ toys that the stores love to get kids to want!


76 coffeemamma November 11, 2011 at 5:54 am

We had the only grandchildren for years, and with four kids the number of new things coming in between Nov- Dec (three Nov birthdays!) was nuts.

I started buying very few new fall/ winter clothes for the kids and asking the grandmas to help in that area, giving them book lists, ideas for craft supplies, and suggesting magazine subscriptions that were age/ interest appropriate. Both sets of grandparents now give the kids money for their birthdays and save the gifts for Christmas.

My kids are now 10- 22yo, and it has worked really well!


77 Cindy November 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

We went the experience route and the magazine route on the Christmas presents (family pass to the zoo, Nat Geo for kids, Cricket, etc.) from the grandparents and aunts/uncles, etc. One set of grandparents wasn’t thrilled with the idea so we asked them to split their budget in half and use half for a toy (their preferred gift) and either do a gift card or cash in an envelope with the rest to be used specifically for some toy or whatever in about June so the kids could get outdoor fun stuff since their birthdays are right after Christmas. The kids are happy since they can get things for summer, I’m happy because I’m not paying for them and the grandparents are happy because they get an excited phone call (and a nice thank-you note) when the money get spent telling just how it was used.


78 Beth C. November 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

We decided to do things a bit differently this year, because we have been tired of all the *stuff*. The kids are making a list of the things they want the most. Then they pick ONE gift out and pick the ONE person that they want to give them that gift. So they will ask us (mom and dad) for one thing, Nana and Grampy for one thing, etc. They have had to be more choosy about what is truly important to them, which we are hoping will emphasize the spirit of giving more than how much they get.

As for Santa, he’s on a drastically reduced budget this year (times are hard for everyone ;) and the wear/read/want/need thing is looking pretty good for the gifts. The stockings will have small things – lip balm, a few chocolates or small treats they aren’t usually allowed to have (LOVE the banned cereal idea!!)…

Oh, and they always get one new ornament to put on the tree. Mom and dad pick it out, based on interests from the past year. They are dated and hung on the tree Christmas Eve. We will probably adopt the new PJ’s idea this year that they can wear to open their new ornament, since they’ve grown so much :)


79 Emily November 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I read somewhere (internet brain fatigue!) that the small, stocking things (PJs, book, craft supplies, etc.) should be from Santa and the big Christmas items (eg. bike, trampoline, toy) should be from Mum & Dad. And that the decision to purchase expensive items like these should become part of the family’s conversation, so that kids become aware about the budgeting decisions that need to be made. And theoretically, will then grow up to be better money managers, and that lovely big expensive things won’t just turn up by magic, but via hard work on behalf of their parents. Mine are just 4 & 3, so we haven’t really gotten into the discussion about this yet, though. Still thinking it over!


80 Marianne November 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm

When my oldest, now 19, was a baby we put a limit on what we could spend. At that time it was $20 to fill his stocking. My husband and I each had $10 to spend. What we bought (or Made) was a surprise for each other… that was the real gift. Babies don’t know any different! We have continued with no presents under the tree. All the gifts come on Christmas morning, in and out of the stocking. Everything wrapped. It works for us. My kids are now 15, 17, 19. In the early years we didn’t get presents ourselves. We just preferred to give to the kids what ever we could. It became clear to us though that we were setting them up to become wee princes and princess. We then made sure there were gifts for Mom and Dad on Christmas morning too.


81 Jill Leever November 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm

I tend to go a little overboard at Christmas! We don’t buy the kids very many “things” throughout the year so I feel a little justified by spoiling them at Christmas. :) Santa gifts are not wrapped and include slippers, jammies and two or three toys. The stockings are filled to the hilt from Santa as well (usually a dvd, smalls games, candy, playing cards, lip gloss). The rest comes from mom and dad. I do the mood setting too. We only have two children so saving up for the holidays isn’t quite so daunting.
I really enjoy reading everyone’s traditions.



82 Ashley October 17, 2012 at 8:50 am

We are the same way. Our kids don’t get much throughout the year and they don’t ask for much either. They know to save it up for Christmas/Birthdays. We wanted to teach them that they don’t need a new toy on every trip we make to the store and it worked!


83 val November 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Growing up, my parents made Christmas magical by starting our celebration early in the month. We had a 15 piece Nativity set that we put out piece by piece one night at a time, starting with Mary & Joseph. Baby Jesus, however was saved until the very last night, and “Santa” always brought Him on Christmas Eve. My mother was much like you, Gabby, and made sure the lights were on and things were staged so that it really was a magical Christmas morning — no matter how many gifts we received. We’ve carried the Nativity tradition on with our own 6 children. This is the first year we’ll be doing a hard and fast 3-gift tradition, but all our children are excited about it (they range from 15-2). Here’s hoping for another magical Christmas season.


84 charlotte November 10, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Growing up my sister and I always found our presents from Father Christmas on the hearth as he had to come down the chimney to get into the house :) We’d have one main one each and then also our stockings that he’d leave on the end of our beds that included little useful things but always some gold coins and a satsuma in the toe. He always had time to eat the mince pie and drink the whisky we left out for him, too, and take the carrot and milk for Rudolph! Our parents would give us one main present each and a few small ones under the tree – all other presents from family, friends etc went under the tree, too – and then there were a couple of little ones on the tree for Boxing Day as they liked to spread it out a bit and not let us have too much at once.


85 This girl loves to talk November 11, 2011 at 12:46 am

I tell my kids that christmas is the whole month of december. I had fantastic christmas as a child, but I remember (probably around 12 years old) just often feeling underwelmed with the day (I mean all most people do is eat and sit around) so over the years we’ve developed a lot of traditions

We set out our nativity sets on the first of december

We set up our tree on the first FHE in december

We have wrapped christmas books and read one each night in december

We sleep under our tree one night in december (usually when school gets out which is 2nd week in december in australia – for the SUMMER holiday)

We do gingerbread houses

We watch christmas movies (maybe one a week)

We have a Grandparents Christmas Dinner (the Monday night before Christmas) where we invite both sets of grandparents over and do the whole baked dinner thing (unusual in very hot australia) so the kids can have the grandparents to themselves and not have to share with cousins

We usually have a few advents going on for the whole month (some years treat ones, some years have slips of paper with activities to do for each day) and I love paper lift the flap advents!

We sew a ‘christmas pillow case’ out of christmas fabric so the kids have ‘good christmas dreams’ each night in november/december
We do a service for a charity or person

We do Advent (the four candles, with a spiritual thought, sing a carol) which is each sunday leading up to Christmas day so this usually starts the last sunday in November

To me these things equal christmas not just the gifts given on christmas day and I try to constantly instill this in my children. I really do tell them all the time that Christmas is the whole month of December, not just the 25th :)

Oh and for presents.. all presents come from us, we dont really do santa. Our first child knew instinctively by 3 years old santa wasnt real and told us so, so we’ve never really bothered :)


86 Belky November 11, 2011 at 4:04 am

We learned from a family in NY to do three gifts for each child, just like Jesus received three gifts.
It give us a chance to talk about why we celebrate Christmas and how we want them to be just like Jesus.
They all come from us, our kids never really got into Santa (they are 6 and 4) but they find him fun and part of Christmas either way.
My husband is American and I am from South America so, when we go to visit my family we don’t do any presents, our present is to be able to go and see them, and the kids have never miss the “opening” of the presents.
I like it because we can think more of the Spiritual meaning of it all.


87 Cindy November 11, 2011 at 10:31 am

We did one big thing and a stocking from Santa when the kids were small. Both kids’ birthdays are right after Christmas (within 2 weeks) so each kid would get 1 present from us and then the rest of the fill was from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Their birthdays were the presents from us. We didn’t really promote Santa much and last year the youngest (6) informed us that he didn’t exist and her present came from us. I told her that Santa was more of an idea of doing something nice for someone else and since she now knew the secret she was officially old enough to become Santa for someone else. Both kids were quite taken with the idea and it’s become the focus now. (Yes, they still get one gift from Santa, but they pretty much pick it out now – they have a dollar limit)


88 debra peck November 11, 2011 at 10:41 am

i think that i’ve won out on most of the christmas traditions because my husband is so easy going. stockings are filled with the practical and from santa and we get credit for the few other gifts that we do give to our kids. they always get a book and then a couple little toys.

we are young and poor students, so that has dictated some of the frugality of christmas, but i am surprised at how much i enjoy the simplicity of it and we will be sticking with it throughout the years. i also feel like doing it that way makes it easier to justify buying things that they need throughout the year. especially because we have lots of winter birthdays in our family.

my first daughter was actually born on christmas, so that has added a couple of unexpected traditions to our christmas celebrations. she always has a bunch of balloons tied to her stocking from santa because he knows that it is her birthday. we do christmas in the morning and then after the christmas morning let down and an early christmas dinner, we switch into birthday mode. we may have to adjust as she gets older, but so far it has been great and she loves having her birthday on christmas. plus it makes the entire day a great celebration.

also, i agree with a previous commenter that i would rather put effort into doing fun activities throughout the christmas season that make the whole month special and remind us of the real meaning of christmas. then christmas day just becomes the cherry on top.


89 Lauren McW November 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm

We had gifts from Santa as well as our parents, as kids. As far back as I can remember, my mom and dad would hide one or two “big” gifts for us to search for after all the gifts under the tree were opened. “The Hunt” is what we call it. My dad would write little riddles to help us locate our gift (which were hidden somewhere in the house), we’d find it, bring it back and open it up.

At some point over the 30+ years we have done this, it has developed into a song riddle. Now my dad writes riddles “to the tune of…” (all Beach Boys songs, or Bob Dylan songs, or Christmas songs, etc.) and we have to sing the riddle in front of the family. It embarassing for us all, but so much fun. Us kids are all grown now with kids of our own, but it’s not Christmas without “The Hunt!”


90 Candice November 12, 2011 at 5:51 am

I realize that I probably sound totally out of it, but I had no idea that so many people give their kids gifts from “Santa”. It’s interesting to me! At our house, I try to keep the focus on the giving for the kids (they save allowance, choose or make a gift and get very excited about giving) and surprise them with something fun that they didn’t think they would get (plus books). I have a hard time limiting myself every time I think of something else I think they would love. :)


91 Jenelle November 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

We used to travel a lot when I was younger, and my mom would collect souvenirs along the way and then use those in our stockings from Santa. So we’d have pencils, erasers, wind-up toys, pins or little things from all the different places we’d been that year. That was always kind of neat for me, so I’ve started doing that with my boys now.

As we got older our stockings still had stuff from our travels, but we also started to get really nice stuff, like expensive make-up sets. Now, the stockings at my Mom’s house have just as nice presents as the ones under the tree!

Also, when we were younger, on Christmas morning, Santa would have left foot prints (just footprints cut out of black construction paper) and a little it of glitter all over the living room, leading back to the fireplace.

Another thing I do with my oldest son (he’s 5 this year) is make reindeer food to leave out with the milk and cookies for Santa. We usually just fill up a cellophane bag with dry cereal, random seasonings like oregano and parsley, baby carrots, rice and sometimes grass from outside. Then we attach a tag indicating that it’s for the reindeer. In the morning, my son loved seeing all the food that the “reindeer” dropped on the ground outside our house as they flew away with Santa.

For us the Advent season starts in the beginning of December, so we set up our Nativity set and I also started the tradition of opening a wrapped Christmas book each night. Each year I add to our collection when the Christmas books go on clearance after the holiday.


92 Bree November 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

We don’t “do” Santa Claus, but we did “read, wear, play, share” last year and this year we’ll be adding “watch” to the list as well. :) This has worked out wonderfully for us since our budget is very small. We try to do Christmas for the 4 of us for under $200 and then gifts for other family members around $150. Thankfully our families on either side are small, and our parents really love getting a calendar with photos of the kids! :)


93 Charisse November 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I think my favorite tradition from growing up was that Santa hid the stockings. It came from my mother’s family. Maybe Swedish? I’m not positive. We’d all go down as a family (so we had to wait until mom and dad got up) and go to a room (the one without the Christmas tree in it) and search for the stockings. Usually there were practical things, a book and a small toy along with some nuts and candy.

As far as Santa/parent gifts: Once we’d have our fill of our stockings we’d move together as a family to the room with the tree. There we’d have our “Santa present” which was one big thing. A bike, dollhouse, technology or something; whatever was applicable to that child. then we’d have one or two gifts from mom and dad that were usually clothes under the tree. Worked fine for us.

In general “Santa” wasn’t really a big deal. By the time we were all 5-7 years old we knew that “Santa” was mom and dad anyway even if we still call them Santa gifts. You knew who to thank and who put whatever it was under the tree.


94 Frances November 13, 2011 at 9:44 am

Change of subject ! What adorable ornaments .


95 Lexie November 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I’ll preface this by saying I have no children and that to me, Santa was just one of the loveliest part of Christmas. I was a very dreamy child and still honestly believed in Santa in my teens simply because my parents would never, ever buy me such extravagant. I never acknowledged that Santa didn’t exist. It simply faded from view and I knew that the gift tags my mother jokingly signed “Santa” were the very special holiday gifts. A lot of people find this strange, but I love that Christmas for me was as magical at 13 and 14 as it was when I was 6 and 7.

I say this because I never really considered how Santa Claus affects a child beyond the lovely idea until I came in contact with our neighbours. I’m loathe to judge anyone for their parenting techniques, especially when – like I said – I don’t have children or the pressures of being a parent, but this family chose not to use the Santa myth at all with their young children. It’s simply a Christmas story. Totally their choice. But their children are very demanding and entitled all year around, since they know they’ll get presents from their parents – and are genuinely ungrateful when they receive any sort of gift. It’s from seeing this that I realised the idea of Santa helped me develop a conscience and sort of a code of ethics as a child. Mum might not be watching but Santa certainly was; that I was owed nothing from my parents, but earned them with continued good behaviour no matter where I was. It’s quite strange to see Santa as a teaching device, but I really think he is.

My family’s Christmas is still quite large and magical despite the fact that my sister and I are university students. We get several items that we desperately want (such as consoles and games, electronics etc) and many things we need (stationary for university, socks and underwear, hairbrushes, even textbooks). My mother was very strict when I was younger and the only things I received outside of my birthday and Christmas was books I bought with my own pocket money, and this added to the magic of Christmas. It’s absolutely something I plan to use in the distant future when I do have children because I think that the world has lost a lot of its magic. And if I can recapture that by individually wrapping half a dozen pair of underwear or notebooks for school and label them ‘Love Santa’, I’d do it in a heart-beat :)

On a different note, what are you opinions on electronics? Do your older kids ask for iPods, phones and DS consoles? And you must be SO excited for a French Christmas. It would just be a dream come true :)


96 Karen D. December 14, 2011 at 5:14 am

My husband and I are not HUGE on Santa, but wanted the kids to enjoy the childhood magic of the season. We are Christians and wanted more of a focus on the real meaning of Christmas and on giving and thankfulness. In our house, Santa fills stockings. My mother in law made them and they are gorgeous and large. Santa brings good dark chocolate (the only kind my kids like, but also what my husband loves so it will be used gradually over the next few months), new toothbrushes, lip balm, dvds (amazon has all kinds of specials this time of year and I also buy them throughout the year so each child has one – Veggie tales, Disney, science, etc.) practical small toys – lego minifigures, etc. All other presents are from Mom and Dad or grandparents, relatives, etc. I wanted the children to appreciate who the gifts were coming from. I didn’t want all presents arriving from a mysterious person they could not thank in person. In my husband’s family, every present came from Santa – but I wanted my kids to enjoy giving and being thankful. It took a little explaining with my mother in law, but she now sees it my way. It works for us.


97 Rachel Wilkerson December 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I love the idea that Santa just brings three gifts! When I have kids, I’m totally doing this, because, frankly, I don’t want to raise materialistic little shits like myself.

Also, my mom did (and still does) the same thing with stockings and I LOVE the practical stuff. Shaving cream and socks are so good to have handy during the year to come!


98 Emme August 9, 2012 at 5:05 am

Each night from Thanksgiving – Christmas the kids get a festive story that I read to them before bed. On Christmas Eve we do the pajamas tradition. Me and my Husband wake up at 6(on Christmas morn.) to make festive hot chocolate (complete with whipped cream, a candy cane and shaved chocolate), turn on all the holiday lights around the house and retrieve both the still photo and video camera’s as to capture our every move(not literally) on the most wonderful day of the year, and turn on soft festive melody’s. Also, because the day is being captured by cams, we normally(still in our pjs of course :) make sure our hair is at its best (me especially…lol) and our faces are washed and ready to roll (we don’t shower on Christmas morning….but instead we shower/bathe the littlees on Christmas Eve). At around 6:58ish we turn on the cams preparing for the stampede of kids rushing downstairs (they aren’t allowed to come down until 7). We take pics/videos of them running to the family room with their stockings in hand (we put the stockings at the foot of their beds to give us some extra time to get things ready)and then our famous Christmas on the stairs photo(which we use as our Christmas card pic the next year), we hand all 4 of our girls (plus ourselves) hot chocolate’s (the hotcho’s are good because it gives the kids enough sugar/energy to get through the morning without breakfast)and tell/show eachother the gifts we got in our stockings (unwrapped gifts from fun characters like Rudolph, frosty the snowman and Mrs Clause…we tell the kids that Santa told Mommy to tell them not to tell there friends about Rudolph etc filling their stockings as it disrupts his toy workshop…I know it’s not true but the kids enjoy saying things like “Daddy guess what, Mr Gingerbread man got me a yo-yo”….they find it fun so as long as they’re happy I’m happy…btw we have 4 girls: 21, 16, 10 & 5 ). The kids each open their (main) gift that year(the thing they asked Santa for) and that satisfy’s them until after lunch. Lunch is served at mid-day and consists of Chicken or Turkey, Glazed Ham, Sweet Potato, Potato(cooked so that they’re beautiful and crunchy), Stuffing and gravy oh and peas! Dessert consists of Pomegranate, Strawberry and Passionfruit topped Pavlova with cream, Fruit Mince Tart-lets, Brandy Snaps and Eggnog…delish! By this time it’s normally pushing 2. Then we gather around the tree and the kids open 3 gifts from us (also to represent the 3 wise men giving baby Jesus 3 gifts) and all the gifts from friends and relatives…and their siblings! We take turns opening gifts and (we each get a new journal in our stocking’s every year) we each jot down the gifts we received and who they are from.
I hope you enjoyed reading about me and my Family’s Christmas day traditions…I know the question above isn’t ‘What are your Family’s Christmas day traditions’ …lol…but I figured there would be some people who would’ve loved reading this :)


99 Emme August 9, 2012 at 5:25 am

Also: Santa leaves 1 gift for the whole family to open on the 26th (usually a boardgame etc ;).


100 Kimberly Beaty August 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

How refreshing to see other countries’ traditions. :)

I am completely against lying to my children as I was absolutely devastated when Santa “died” from my life. For us, the birth of Jesus Christ is the purpose for celebrating and Christmas is precious to me.

I’m brokenhearted to see how greedy, demanding, and ungrateful children have become so I fight this with everything in me. I am trying to open my children’s eyes to the world around them and encourage them to give gifts to Jesus by our giving to children in other countries – poor and orphaned or those persecuted because of their faith in Jesus. We give Christmas away all year round. :) I love it.

This year we will have a book to open and read each night in December as well as follow our Advent reading using the Jesse Tree/ornaments. We also paint Nativity scene ornaments we make each year for the regular tree.

We have stockings for each child to get toothbrushes, socks, undies, oranges, gum, and little plastic toys – dinos or trucks,etc. from big sisters (we have 10 with 8 at home).

Then we have one main together gift – i.e, this year will be one big set of legos – for my four little boys/2 year old girl (I got at a garage sale for $15 – HUGE set.) One family game to play Christmas Day. A homemade Noah’s Ark pull toy (made by Daddy) and cute felt animals (made by big sisters) for the toddler sister. I’m still working on what to do for my three teen girls – a book or art supply for each, likely. That’s it.

I tied strings to their toes that they followed inside and outside to find their gifts last year to bring back to the tree to open. I have had them follow clues, too – I always try to find creative ways like this and they NEVER miss the Santa “magic” because I work hard to give them “mama magic”. I have found the special spirit of joy and love and fun together as a family is SO much more important than fake Santa and material junk to throw away later, get bored with, or fight over later, anyhow. :)

We have a special breakfast by candlelight and a Christmas Eve dinner together, too, with carols by candlelight each night in December before bed. Each week during Advent, on Sunday, I’m having them draw each other’s names and they will give a gift of service that week to whomever they draw and try to do it without the receiver discovering who it was. (make a bed, do an assigned chore, clean something,etc.) The goal is to give these “secret gifts” to each other each week and make it to Christmas without anyone figuring out their givers and then Christmas Day discover who they all were. With 8 children and Mama and Daddy – 10 people spending a month sneaking around with little acts of kindness up our sleeves, looking for the just right time to give it . . . it just doesn’t get much better. :)

I’m telling you – get brave and take the plunge to change your focus. Jesus Christ makes all the difference in the world and in our home. We carry that love all year long in the midst of the normal buzz of activity in a family our size. :)

I put all I’ve got into making this the “most wonderful time of the year” and spending money on stuff is the least special part of it, honestly. Making and giving has become their focus with gifts and, let me tell you, it is priceless in this country consumed with “stuff” overflowing houses with empty, broken hearts and lives often barely tolerating each other the rest of the year.

They are never lied to, and they are embracing the gift of compassion as we shop and fill shoe boxes for poor children through Operation Christmas Child, send gifts to orphans we support all year,etc.


101 Emme August 20, 2012 at 1:05 am

Thanks for the reply :)
I absolutely agree on Jesus being the true meaning of Christmas(make that the true meaning of life), so I am sorry for the wrong impression. I am praying about my worldliness and am gradually improving on that holiday aspect!


102 Ashley October 17, 2012 at 7:38 am

We give 1 gift from us on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and our house is ALL Santa. I am not allowed to buy ANY clothes for my step daughter as a gift, because at her mom’s house.. it seems her little brother is the favorite and he gets tons of toys but she is stuck with a few outfits. I made a promise to myself that I would never do that. She’s only 7 and a really outstanding kid. It breaks my heart to see her so sad, not getting what she asked for there every year. Last year it was an innotab.. I bought one and her mom told me she bought one too so I took mine back. On Christmas day.. Lo and behold.. no innotab. This year will be different!!!! We have full custody now and Christmas WILL be amazing for that little girl! Lots of love and holiday spirit here!


103 Ashley October 17, 2012 at 7:40 am

However, we will be doing Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve for everyone as a gift from Santa’s reindeer. :)


104 Laurie Bell December 13, 2012 at 11:34 am

I just Love Christmas & Santa! We keep our Christmas pretty small & simple, but what works for us is this: Christmas Eve they get to open one present which already labeled for EVE from mom & is ALWAYS new PJ’s. (I pre-wash them because they want to wear them for Santa). Santa fills the stockings & leaves their “fun” gift. I have 2 girls 20 months apart so usually it is gifts that can be used together or shared well with a note from Santa with how proud he is that they share & play together (baby dolls with furniture/stroller…one year it was paints & markers with easel) Santa is ALL fun with one special outfit or those boots they have been begging for! Mommy & daddy get them the always needed socks/undies & maybe a new book. We keep it pretty simple. Our GREATEST part of Christmas morning (for me anyway) is the tradition of my homemade ooey gooey cinnamon rolls for breakfast & reading about the birth of Jesus Christ out of the Bible! My girls are 3 & 5 but already “Know” this tradition & look forward to it. Don’t stress it & DON’T Over due or you will find yourself having to outdo you each year as they grow!! errrrr, Santa I mean!


105 Laurie Bell December 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

I forgot to add that we always make a birthday cake for Jesus & sing him Happy Birthday on Christmas Morning, my husband & I make Santa about the kids (& CHRISTmas about Jesus’ Birthday). We tell them that Santa is for boys & girls not big people. We don’t really exchange gifts as we are tight on budget as well as so many other families. My husband & I get our joy watching the girls. We might get each other 1 small gift, last year I gave him a parallel bible to help in his bible studies & I got got my favorite new book to read!


106 Marianne March 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I have put a lot of thought into this and decided to focus on Saint Nicholas on December 6th – his feast day so that Christmas can just be about Jesus. On the eve of St. Nicholas day we gather old clothes or toys for the goodwill. Then that night, the kids put out their shoes and in the morning they find chocolate and candycanes and a new book – usually about Christmas. Then we take our items to the goodwill and that evening have popcorn, st. Nicholas cookies and hot cocoa and watch a movie. The giving away helps keep with the spirit of St. Nicholas and it makes room for the things they will get for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, after mass, everyone comes home to the adorned and lit up tree (for the first time that month – since the light of the world has come.) We put baby Jesus in the crib. The next morning the gifts are under the tree when the kids wake up and over the next twelve days – we slowly open them and do fun family events. it concludes with Epiphany when the wiseman brought their gifts to baby Jesus with a final gift. Also, on each of the twelve days of Christmas kids may open a gift like – art supplies, a new book, a toy, but there aren’t twelve gifts like that! Some days they open a coupon to go ice skating or a coupon to make Christmas cookies or a coupon to go on a hike.


107 jessi October 30, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I have always done every gift being from santa. Christmas presents for our family weren’t from parents, only santa. On christmas eve the kids see presents from other people and a few from parents and they open one but every Gift on Christmas was dropped off by santa around midnight. And usually I have a bear with the year on it as a collectors from mommy on christamas eve and santa moves it somewhere silly in the house and he leaves letters for the kids with each being different and showing some of each personailty in it and a joke or two. A lot of times santa complains that the milk was a little warm lol and his boot prints are left on the carpet. Simply made with a paper cut out with a sole and a flat part with carpet fresh put in the fridge and sprinkled over the cut out leaving santas prints. And if you don’t have a fireplace cut a piece of red cloth and stick it in the window and mention in a note that santa accidentally cut ripped his suit on the window.


108 sandra November 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

In our household santa brings christmas eve pjs and a colouring book and pens (was the same when I was growing up), my son is bathed at 6.30pm on christmas eve then dressed into his fresh new pjs we then eat a little christmas eve feast of cookies, sandwiches and fries leaving a cookie and glass of milk for santa and a carrot for each reindeer, we have our feast while watching a christmas movie, we then do some colouring by the christmas tree, at 9pm my son hops into bed and goes to sleep, then santa arrives at 1am, first he visits my sons bedroom to hang his stocking on the outside of his bedroom door, inside the stocking there is socks, undies, bath bombs, soap, a toothbrush, a small toy, a 3ds game or a dvd, a satsuma, and some coloured tissue paper, glitter, and a hand writen note from santa. Santa’s elves leave one present on the top of the stairs for my son signed Santa’s Elves, this is usually a toy car , down stairs the christmas lights glisten, soft christmas songs play in the background, the table is filled with breakfast and a hand written note from santa is left by the cookie crumbs and empty glass thanking us for leaving him a special key to enter our home (breakfast Is from santa as a gift to thank us for our hospitality), then at 8am a special letter stamped ‘the north pole” drops through the letter box my son gets so excited by this, this letter leaves him little clues on where to find his first present (usually clothing) once he’s found his first present there’s a knock at the door and an ho ho ho can be heard from the other side, once the door is opened in steps santa, he sits my son on his lap and give him his second present from his sack this will be one of the gifts my son wants the most, then santa will tell him he’s left some presents at other family members households for my son, we then visit the in laws for dinner and my son finds more presents from santa there same with other family members, then at 7pm we make sure we are back home my son is taken up stairs for a bath and put in yet more new fresh pjs that are left waiting on the bathroom cabinet, then he’s taken downstairs and met by the ultimate gift (one he really really really wants) this year it will be a bike, then we watch a christmas film or play a family board game, then my son goes to bed to find his stocking refilled with fruit and cookies for midnight snacks, he abso loves it and almost every present he gets including off relatives are signed ‘santa’ or ‘elves’


109 stephanie November 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I celebrate christmas a little different to when I was a child, on the evening of 30th november (my daughter’s birthday) we put our tree up while playing christmas music, then my daughters put to bed, on 1st december there is an advent calender, a letter to santa set for her to write her letter to santa, and there’s a small toy and a letter from the advent angels reminding her that santa is watching and to be a good girl etc, on christmas eve the elves deliver a present which is left by the fire in glittery wrapping paper signed ‘elves’ inside is a pair of pyjamas and a letter reminding her to leave a cookie and glass of milk for santa and a carrot for each reindeer, then she’s bathed and put to bed, at 12pn her stocking is filled with head bands, princess tiara, a little make up set, fruit, some chocolate, a dvd, a cheap toy, and a pound, then I organise the room to look as magical as possible and tip toe to bed leaving her stocking at the bottom of her bed, I set my alarm for 6am and sneak down the stairs to put some soft christmas musc on, turn the tree lights on, warm the fire and make the breakfast, my daughter is woken up at 8am to open her stocking then I take her downstairs were we admire the footsteps santa has left and find the half eaten cookie and half drank milk and nibbled carrots, then we eat breakfast and then she digs into her sack which is left under the tree :)


110 Teresa November 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I grew up as one of 6 kids and we had many yearly traditions that contributed to the magic of Christmas. On Christmas Eve we always decorated the tree and then had the same supper – a roast ham with pineapple slices, scalloped potatoes, corn, and maybe some other vegetable, and it was the one day a year we were allowed to eat supper in front of the TV. We would spread an old sleeping bag on the floor and all sit on it with our plates and watch “A Christmas Carol” with Alistair Sim. Then my dad would read the Nativity and say a prayer of blessing over the tree and we would plug in the lights for the first time! Then we went to church where we were all choirgirls/boys and that was always a huge part of the “magic” for me, especially when the lights would go out and we sang “Silent Night” by candlelight.
When we woke up on Christmas morning, our stockings had appeared on our beds by our feet and they were always full of chocolates and little things like hair clips/lip balms/socks etc with an enormous orange in the toe of the stocking and a red delicious apple at the top. The stockings were the only things from Santa Claus, and then we usually got a gift from parents, and gifts from grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings etc. My dad always had to sing another church service on Christmas morning that was men’s choir only (and later my brothers joined him when their voices had broken) so we were never allowed to open presents until after lunch (usually sandwiches with the leftover ham from Christmas Eve). We would sit at home and watch It’s a Wonderful Life (one of my absolute favourite movies!) in the meantime. Sometimes this felt like torture, to have the presents sitting there under the tree and not be allowed to touch them, but one has to be patient to participate in present opening in my family! Even when the time came, we would open the presents one by one, each member of the family taking turns so that we can all see and admire each others’ gifts (and thank the gift-giver, if he/she is present!). This tradition comes from my mum’s family. She was apparently appalled the first time she spent Christmas with my dad’s family and they all tore into their gifts at once! I think our way makes gift-giving extra special and we’re always talking and laughing with each other throughout!


111 stacey December 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm

What do you folks do regarding breakfast? When we were kids our parents let us eat the oranges and treats from our stocking until we were ill! With us, we haven’t figured out if we just serve pastries for its ease or wait until later to have more of a brunch? But, then it’s almost turkey time…A good problem to have but it would be good to have a simple tradition that gets everyone fed while enjoying the unwrapping ;)


112 Ivy December 17, 2013 at 12:11 am

My LO is 2.5 and we haven’t quite established any traditions yet but I like the read, wear, play. I tend to go way overboard on gift buying. She is an only child so I figure why not let santa spoil her rotten while she is too young to know the difference. The first two or three Christmases are more for us parents anyways. this will be the first year she grasps the concept of Santa so I’m trying to find some good ideas of how to set up Santa’s gifts. As a kid my dad always left them unwrapped strewn all across the living room but with her being so young I’d like to do something kind of creative and fun. Any ideas?


113 Shelly December 19, 2013 at 6:45 am

I have a 9 year old and an 8 year old. At our house each child gets 10 presents. Each present has a number on it so they have fun digging through and finding their number 1, number 2…..etc with their name on it. They take turns opening one present at a time so everyone watches the others open their presents. Everything comes from mom and dad except the one present from Santa that is the one thing they asked him for. They open that one last. We always have Christmas music playing and make cookies for Santa the night before. We don’t have any family close by so all the presents come from us.


114 Shelly December 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

We also have a tradition on Christmas Eve of watching the Santa tracker on NORAD so they can see where he’s at and make sure they’re in bed on time. The night before Christmas we also read the Christmas story in the bible, set out the nativity scene and say a prayer together.


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