Giving Christmas gifts

We usually give a present to our kids’ teachers, leaders, etc. Most other families seem to do this too so it almost feels like we HAVE to give rather than do it because we want to.

This year we’re torn – there’s someone we don’t want to give a gift to but it feels rude and wrong to not give something.

Will the teacher feel insulted to not get anything? That isn’t our intent.

Is it giving the wrong message (to ourselves at least) to give a present we don’t want to give?

Simple gifts

Like many people, we’re trying to keep Christmas under control this year, financially speaking. I’d love to say money isn’t important, but we have a limited supply of it so we have to limit our gift giving accordingly. Our choice is to be as creative as we can so we still give gifts to please our loved ones.

Anyway, here’s a couple of our gift ideas in case they help others who are struggling with what to give this year:

  • buy cheap items and let the kids decorate them for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. For example, cheap photo frames, plant pots, candles and storage jars make unique and special gifts with some time and little money
  • buy a few bits and pieces and put them in a nice bag – it tends to be cheaper than buying the pretty hampers you see in big stores
  • buy some beads and elastic and let the kids make necklaces, etc for the girls in your family (and boys if they would like it!)
  • cut, sand and paint some offcuts of wood – an instant set of building blocks any toddler will appreciate knocking over! Put them in a bucket or bag and you’re done – much more environmentally friendly than plastic blocks, too
  • cut some cardboard into gift cards and fold in half. Get the kids or someone artistic to decorate the cards for multiple occasions and you have a set of cards to give as a gift – remember that people pay $15 or more for a few nice cards to store away

Not only are we saving money, we’re also having fun making things and teaching our kids it is the giving with love that counts, not the price tags. I bet we aren’t the only ones being creative and we’d love to hear other people’s ideas, too – please?

The Simple Pleasures

As a Foster Carer, Christmas has never been the same two years running. Luckily that’s just the way I like it! We have many lovely, touching memories of course but last Christamas really showed us that money spent and beatiful wrapping can be meaningless. Let me explain:

Christmas 2007 I had 3 children living with me, one of whom was a 5 year old with developmental delays, who had no memories nor understanding of Christmas. Her birth family life had been one of poverty and trauma, and she had no expectations as she had no reason to believe the magic of Christmas existed!

I had saved, bought and wrapped 6 gifts each for the 3 children and piled them beneath the decorated tree on Christmas Eve. The children had left cookies and lemonade out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and I sprinkled fake, plastic snow across the carpet from the front door (no chimney!) to the tree before going to bed.

Christmas morning at 5:30 my other 2 children were up, waking me and keen to unwrap, having carefully counted and inspected their labelled gifts. Keen to begin they roused the little girl and told her to run and see what Santa had brought. She came slowly out of her room, yawning and not in any hurry as she had no anticipation of goodies. Then she stopped and began to laugh and jump up and down with happiness. “Mama, Mama” she yelled “Oh look it, look it!”.  Had she seen her mountain of gifts at last? No, her delight was in the $2.50 packet of plastic snow that Santa had left behind.

That little girl sat and threw ‘snow’ over herself for almost an hour laughing and calling to us to see the miracle that had taken place. Yes, she did come later and opened her gifts, but she was drawn back to play in the ‘snow’ throughout the rest of the day.

Where’s the spirit gone?

For many years now, our family has done a Kris Kringle for the adults – each family still gives something to the kids.

My mother has suddenly decided that this is the last year – from now on we won’t give any presents. When everyone else argued against her decree, she muttered about ‘saving everyone the hassle of choosing a present to give’ – nice to know that’s what we mean to her. Especially as even the KK has shrunk as family members have moved away and can’t join us anyway…

In the end, we overruled her and Kris Kringle lives – and with a higher budget, too (yep, Mum’s idea to reduce it to $20 a few years ago. I mean the idea of introducing KK in our family is to get one decent present instead of many small ones – not so good with a $20 cap!)

But it just made we wonder – where is the spirit of giving? The ‘it is better to give than receive’?

Three wise women

The Christmas story talks about three wise men following a star for days to get to the stable.

Now, had there been three wise WOMEN, they would have stopped to get directions, arrived on time to help tidy the stable and deliver the baby, bought along some cold meats and salad, and brought gifts such as nappies, face washers and sheets!

memorable Christmas gifts

I love giving gifts that really mean something to the other person – it takes more time than buying a box of chocolates or a book voucher, but the look on their face and the knowledge that the present will last (in their memories at least) is well worth it to me.

I remember I once gave a babysitting voucher to my cousin who had a boisterous toddler – the look of joy on her face was priceless, and she treasured that voucher above her other gifts (by treasured I mean she kept it away from her toddler whereas he could look at her other gifts!) It was a simple gift and affordable as I had little money at the time, but meant a lot to her.

Another year I gave another cousin a calligraphy set because I remembered her saying she’d love to learn calligraphy. She had forgotten telling me that so her gift was a surprise but really suited her.

What presents have you given or received that are memorable for more than the price tag?

Individual Christmas cakes

Every year, my Mum would do something special for those around us – school teachers, guide leaders, postman, etc – and one year she made individual Christmas cakes.

She bought Christmas cakes from the supermarket, those square fruit cakes, and cut them into quarters to make 4 cakes. She put each cake on a piece of strong cardboard covered in foil. We then iced them with Royal icing (the white icing on wedding cakes). On some of them we decorated the icing with icing tools to put patterns around the top.

She then got us to roll out the scraps of icing and cut out holly leaves with mini cutters. These we painted green with food colouring. We also made little balls to be holly berries and painted these red.

We decorated the tops of the cakes with the holly berries and leaves and Mum piped “Merry Christmas” on the top in white icing. We then painted the letters with gold.

To complete the gifts, we wrapped them in clear cellophane tied up with red and green curling ribbon.

They looked fantastic and were well received by everyone.

Easy chocolate shortbread

Like most other people, our family is pretty busy. I love the idea of my kids leaving something for Santa (I think it shows respect and hospitality – not to mention gratitude for all those presents he leaves!)

But with school finishing so close to Christmas and my work commitments, we have limited cooking time. So I buy some shortbread – just plain basic stuff form the supermarket – and we decorate it. I melt some chocolate (white and brown) and put out 100s & 1000s, coconut and crushed nuts, and let the kids decorate shortbread biscuits.

We do enough for Santa and for gifts from the kids to their grandparents – and for us to eat all the broken ones 🙂

It’s easy, fun, messy and a family tradition for us now. Maybe this year we’ll bake the shortbread first – nah, probably not!

Christmas in a barrel

From 1983-1986 my parents were missionaries in Nepal. We would often receive barrels from Australia with all sorts of goodies in them. The most exciting time was around Christmas when the gifts would arrive from our grandparents and other family members, all wrapped and ready to go under the tree. It was always exciting to open the barrels and find the gifts. I don’t envy my parents the task of trying to keep 3 excited kids away from the gifts until Christmas day!

Scrunch Scrunch

Santa left our pressies in a pillowcase at the end of our beds.

In the morning, we would wiggle our toes like crazy to hear the scrunching noise of a pillowcase full of wrapped gifts. We had strict instuctions that presents could only be opened if the sun was up…so we would use our toes to feel the presents.

Aussie 12 Days of Christmas

Two koalas cuddling on the second day of christmasWe all know the 12 Days of Christmas, I was doing a Google search & came across the lyrics to the Aussie 12 Days of Christmas. As you obviously love Australia with your Aussie letters, I thought you might enjoy it 🙂



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