Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, you are faced with the yearly dilemma of deciding how much is too much to spend on your children. A recent study revealed that parents spend an average of $100-$200 on each child, with some spending as much as $500. If you have more than one child, your Christmas bills could be quite hefty with that kind of payout.
Hearing these statistics made me wonder: In a country where most of us live better than the entire rest of the world, is it necessary or even proper to spend a lot of cash on holiday giving? Does it detract from the true meaning? Or is it important to blend in with American culture and give our kids all that we can afford?
My family has always had a policy of moderation when it comes to gifts. I was struck in a crystal clear moment when my children were very young with the following thought – if I start giving my kids piles of presents at Christmas, they will come to expect that year after year. But if I give them just a few well-chosen items, that’s all they’ll ever expect. God must have been smiling down on me that day, because it was one of the greatest realizations I’ve ever had: Don’t start something with your kids that you don’t want to continue doing forever. This applies to virtually everything, including how you respond to temper tantrums, what you allow your children to do, and what kind of behavior you accept. It’s so much harder to change those behaviors long after they first began than to nip them in the bud early on or prevent them all together. That’s what we did with Christmas. And our kids have never questioned it.
Now that my children aren’t children anymore, we usually exchange one nice present on Christmas Eve from each other, and one nice present on Christmas morning from Santa. There’s usually a couple of small things just to have a few packages to open up, but that’s it, and we’re all thrilled with this system. No one goes into hock to buy presents for family members; no one greedily rips open packages, barely acknowledging them; and most of the focus of the holiday stays where it should – on the reason for the season. We worship at a candlelight service, we eat traditional holiday meals, and we spend time together as a family.
What are your thoughts on holiday gift giving? Do you love to indulge your kids as much as possible, or do you prefer a toned-down Christmas or Hanukkah? I’d love to hear about your family traditions.