What Gifts Are From Santa? What Gift Are From Parents?

christmas ornaments

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.

116 thoughts on “What Gifts Are From Santa? What Gift Are From Parents?”

  1. 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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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. ;-)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

    1. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

    1. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. 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).

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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…)

    1. 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.

  23. 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!

    1. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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….) ;)


  26. 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.

  27. 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. :)

  28. 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 :)

  29. 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!

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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!)

    1. 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 :)

  33. 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…

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

    1. 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. :-)

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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!

  40. 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.

  41. 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).

      1. 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.

  42. 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. :)


    1. 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.

  43. 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!

  44. 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.

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