Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts of the Wise Men - A Way to Give Meaningfully at Christmas

Christmas 1987.  It was the first Christmas in our new house. Alex was 2 and a half, Sarah was a newborn, having arrived just 24 days earlier.  We were living in Florida, and decided not to make the trip to Massachusetts where our families were, but to celebrate at home.  These were the only grandchildren in my family, so boxes of wrapped gifts arrived from my parents, brothers and sister, as well as Mark's family.  Since Alex had now grown into the "fun" stage, Mark and I  loaded up more than one cart at Toys R Us, and on Christmas morning the gifts spread out from under the tree, taking up half the room.

I kid you not.

For two children, one of whom was less than 1 month old.

Silly child. He kept wanting to stop and play with each toy he unwrapped. Overcome with the holiday spirit, we urged him to keep unwrapping!  There were more toys to discover!  What did Grammy & Grampa send?  Look at this! Finally, he literally begged to stop, and we allowed him to play for a while and resume unwrapping after lunch.

It was the Christmas of extreme excess.  To be fair, we were just so excited to be parents and wanted our children to have lots of wonderful opportunities to grow and learn and explore and use their imaginations!  The gifts included a Little Tykes kitchen, a tricycle, a red wagon, a child's basketball hoop!  We probably could have/should have spread those acquisitions out through the year, but there is just something so magical about Christmas morning!  But we realized that we probably weren't setting a good precedent, and Christmas morning  became a bit more sane in the following years.  However, I still struggled sometimes with setting a limit and making our gift giving meaningful.    Why do we give gifts at Christmas?  How do we instill an attitude of giving and gratitude in our children and not of greed and selfishness?

Well, my kids are mostly grown, but we still all love the Christmas holiday and opening gifts on Christmas morning is a wonderful part of the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, the ultimate gift to all mankind.  Last year I read about and implemented a new tradition related to gift giving that I really liked, and plan to do again this year.  It is giving the Gifts of the Wise Men.   We don't give actual gold, frankincense, and myrrh,  but rather gifts that symbolize those 3 gifts to the Christ child.  Each person in the family received a Gold gift, a Frankincense gift, and a Myrrh gift.
GOLD =  something valuable, something greatly desired.  The big gift.  An ipod, or bike, or video game system or jewelry. 
FRANKINCENSE = an aromatic spice/incense used in the temple;  so a spiritual gift. A bible or Christian book or DVD, praise music, Christian message tshirt or jewelry, etc.
MYRRH =  a resin, used to prepare a body for burial;  rather strange, but an important and practical thing to have ready.  So a practical gift, particularly something for the body.  Clothes. Snow boots.  Perfume. Hair bows. 

This covered the bases.  I had wrapped each type of gift ( g, f, or m ) in different colored paper, so on Christmas morning I had the gifts separated into piles and explained what we were doing. Everyone appreciated it, understood it. There were other gifts as well -  a family board game, DVDs, gifts between siblings.  But it brought new meaning to the opening of the Christmas gifts.  I think that makes it a keeper and a new family tradition.

Merry Christmas !


Renee said...

Thanks for this idea Beth. I'm a little late in shopping this year. This is great! One another note. We will be homeschooling Mikayla (13 yr. old) she is coming home at end of the week. She said, "I will miss my friends but I get a much better education at home Mom".

Creech Family said...

Beth -
This is a great tradition!! Every year we say we will not get into the trap of giving more than one things and - you got it - before long it has taken over. The 3 gifts and wrapping them to designate their meanings is a GREAT idea and I think (if D concurs) that we will copy you next year! Hope you are doing well - I miss you and wish we could get together for some cookie baking with lots of little ones under our feet like years ago. Maybe in a few years with Grandchildren??!!