Our No-Presents Christmas Celebration

This past Christmas we tried to experiment a little, in hopes of re-creating a meaningful, Christ-centered Christmas celebration. Because we are far from family this year, we had a little more flexibility in shaping our holiday season to be what we wanted- no more, no less. So, we decided to keep it simple.

When we woke up on Christmas morning, we waited to go downstairs until everyone was awake. Jake rushed down ahead of us to prepare. When the kids and I walked down the stairs, we heard a Christmas hymn playing. Sitting in the middle of our living room, we saw a baby, wrapped in a white cloth, lying in a “manger”. The room was still, except for the bouncing light from one lit candle placed near the manger. We quietly filed into the living room, kneeling around the baby. Words of “Emmanuel” and “Our King” filled the air. For a few minutes, all we could do was stare … my mind began drifting to what it would have been like to be there when Jesus was born. Our king came as a baby. A baby who relied completely on other people for his care. A helpless babe. Our king. Our Lord. What a strange way to come. What a beautiful way to come. After a few minutes, I read the Christmas story while we gazed at the babe.

While the family was lingering, I made cinnamon rolls. We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus (complete with candles in each of our buns), and then got ready for our church gathering.

After the Christmas worship service, we came home, ate lunch, took naps, and then spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching a Christmas movie and making Jesus ornaments out of a flour and salt dough.

It was a simple day, but filled with conversation about Jesus’ birth. Honestly, I was relieved at the end of the day because it wasn’t a let-down. The lack of presents didn’t take away from the day at all. In fact, it was fun and restful. The kids were so excited all day because it was Jesus’ birthday— not because they were going to get anything, but because they love Jesus and were excited it was a special day for Him.

Fast forward one week. New Years Day. Today was our day of presents and paper and bows and big surprises and lots of unpackaging of small playset parts. We were celebrating the new year in a way that looks forward to the hope of a new world, filled with fun and extravagance and gifts.

The kids did a great job of disconnecting presents from Christmas, even though everyone around them was doing presents on Christmas. They were happy to wait, because, as Asante said, “why would WE get presents on Jesus’ birthday?! It’s not our birthdays!”

Anyway, that was how our day went. We’re excited to be starting new traditions!

5 thoughts on “Our No-Presents Christmas Celebration

  1. Oh Tiffany! This is so encouraging to read. You really are teaching me new things and helping guide me through my faith. Love you and miss you very much!

  2. I am so happy you got to do this your way this Christmas. I was struck by jus t how present-centered our culture is and my family is, and I’m really working this out in my heart and head. Thank you for sharing about this because it really adds to the conversation about what things we will allow into our Christmas and how we can celebrate.

    On Christmas day, we did presents at 4 PM at my parents house. That was a pretty good time. Much of the rest of our day was the same as yours, and it felt good. I’d suggest something like this for you if you ever have to change things up.

  3. Thanks! It was nice. We started thinking about this back when Asante was one, and I think it has been brewing and churning in there for awhile. I think it really does take time to figure out what is best for each personal family. Godspeed as you guys figure that out too! I read your post about your Christmas– it is crazy with all those presents, isn’t it? Are ya’lls kids the only grandkids? If so, that makes it way harder because everyone just wants to spoil them :).

    It’s cool that you guys got to have some rest/down/focus time on Christmas morning. A good idea to do it in the evening– a way to top off a day and not start a day, i like it.

  4. Thanks Amanda. This year, since we spent the holidays apart from our extended families, they sent gifts/money to the kids, and they were happy to have us wait until New Years to give it to them.

    Next year (if we can manage to make the trip back for the holidays), I think it’ll still be okay. I think we’ll try and see if people are willing to wait until after Christmas to get together. My mom thinks it’s a great idea and wishes she would have done the same with us when we were kids, so I think she’d be supportive in moving the date back. It gets harder with Jake’s side because there are more celebrations to fit into such a short window of time. I think we’ll just be sure to mark off christmas eve and day as “no gift” time. It is hard to think through all the ramifications of this decision.

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