Taking the Focus Off of Gifts

When I was a girl Christmas was all about the gifts. At least in my mind it was. My parents and grandparents piled them on. By the time the day was over I had opened 20-30 presents. I am sure that my family was intending to show their love for me, but what was happening in my heart was selfishness and ungratefulness. There was always something that I was unsatisfied with, either the gifts themselves or the people that gave them. I was ROTTEN.

All of the focus on gifts had not been good for me. As an adult my husband could see how my heart attitude affected our marriage and we both wanted a different experience for our children. So we did something radical. At least it’s radical in today’s America.

We made the decision to only give ONE gift to each of our children for Christmas. And….this was even more difficult….we asked our parents to only get them one gift also. That meant a total of three gifts for Christmas. And since my husband’s parents have now passed away, that means my children receive TWO gifts for Christmas each year.

Now isn’t that picture nice without the piles of presents? See how much room there is for other things…..serving neighbors, helping friends in need, enjoying your family, baking, just being together!

Now that several of our kids are grown I can testify that it was a wonderful decision! My children are so much more grateful and caring than I was when I was their age. They don’t complain about their gifts or wish for something different. In fact, when I ask them what they want for Christmas most of them will tell me, “I don’t need anything! Let’s bless someone else instead.”

But I still get them their gift; I really enjoy finding that perfect present. When you only buy one per child it’s so much easier. Sometimes, because books are such a treasure around here, I will use a book instead of a tag. I’ll tuck the book under the ribbon and write their name on it. It’s a small thing to do that adds a personal touch to the wrapping and they love books so much that they are more excited about the book/tag than what’s inside the box!

Also I make no effort to keep it even between the children as far as the amount I spend. I just buy each child what I think is best for them. It’s not about being fair or even. It’s about doing a kindness for another person. My children know that I don’t OWE them a gift nor do they deserve to have exactly what their brother has.

Taking the focus off of gifts has not only created a loving, worshipful atmosphere in our home during the holidays, but it has worked to heal my selfish heart of thinking that what I receive is the most important part of Christmas.

By not indulging our children with piles of gifts each year we have given them something even greater…..an understanding of the Fruits of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

A great children’s book that teaches this important lesson is “The Perfect Christmas Gift” by Sheila Walsh. In this darling book, Gigi learns exactly what the Christmas gift is really meant to be.


Lisa Pennington lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years and their 9 children. She homeschools while trying to figure out how to run their little farm with no real knowledge of how to care for goats or grow a garden, turning her life into a comedy of errors. When she has a few extra minutes, she loves to help other women find their identity in Christ and have the courage to live their calling. She blogs about her family life at The Pennington Point and runs an etsy shop with her daughters, Shop 24. When people ask how she does it all she replies, “I’m not sure, but I know I need a nap!” You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @PenningtonPoint.