Why I’m NOT Giving Up on Presents this Christmas

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While some families are "skipping Christmas" by forgoing gift-giving, here's why I'll be keeping presents as part of the holiday!

Some families are skipping Christmas gift-giving this year. 

Tired of “rampant consumerism,” “materialistic gain,” and “unnecessary stress” they decide it would be best to veto presents rather than take part in this dark part of our culture.

It sounds like they’re on the right track, right? No one likes those nasty buzz phrases I put in quotation marks. Many of us could talk heatedly about the greedy turn our culture is taking, about how kids these days are too entitled, about how all of the STUFF has made us lose track of the true meaning of the holiday.

Every year brings new examples of families who aren’t doing gifts. It’s not a new trend. Growing up in our homeschool community, there was always a family or two who made the brave, commendable decision to give their kids only “practical” presents, or to volunteer at the soup kitchen every weekend in December as a gift-giving replacement.

When I was little, these stories of an alternate Christmas made me nervous. Because I really liked getting presents! Lately, I’ve been able to put my finger on it–gifts are one of my love languages.

And I can’t help but wonder: if we demonize gift-giving in favor of one of the other love languages, what happens to those of us who feel loved–or show love–with presents?

Here’s the thing: there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong, consumerist, materialist, or greedy about giving and receiving presents at Christmas time! Sometimes when we see something bad in ourselves, or in the culture, we react too strongly. We’d rather give up altogether than try to redeem the good parts.

But there’s a lot of good to redeem about present giving and receiving!

Think about why we started the gift-giving tradition in the first place. The magi brought gifts to Jesus–amazing, expensive gifts! But even more than that, God gave the lavish gift of His son coming to earth to be with us.

I treasure the symbolism of gift-giving at Christmastime, and I want my future children to enjoy a reflection of their generous heavenly Father by the gifts that we give them.

Christmas Stockings

So here’s my thought for you this month: Stop associating presents with materialism.

If you want to show love to your family by lavishing them with good things, do it.

If you receive a beautiful present from someone, accept it graciously, guilt-free.

If you see someone spending more than you think is appropriate on a loved one, don’t judge them.

A present-filled Christmas can still be a simple Christmas!

Just as house size doesn’t determine whether or not you live a simple life, presents–or lack of presents–doesn’t determine the stress levels of your holiday season.

You can keep things simple, with the presents, by budgeting a certain dollar amount that you’ll spend for each person on your list (this is what my parents did with us!). You could also draw names with extended family and get one gift rather than 25 (this is what I’m doing with my siblings and siblings-in-law this Christmas!). You can keep the present wrapping simple by skipping the elaborate bows and labels and just using brown kraft paper and red ribbon!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think gift-giving has a place in Christmas? Can we have a simple and non-materialistic holiday and still enjoy presents?

Please understand that I’m not saying that families who are forgoing presents this year are evil or are killjoys. My goal is to remind us that gift giving CAN be a beautiful and meaningful part of celebrating Christmas.


  1. I loved this aspect of why you are not giving up on presents. I have to say I agree and for me, doing away with presents is a bit extreme. A child that never got to experience Christmas with one or two presents done with the right heart may grow up to either go crazy wanting presents or resent the holiday completely. My parents never made it all about the gifts under the tree but the gift of the Savior and I carry that attitude with me today. I do not want to withhold presents from my daughter I want to teach her the right attitude behind the gift and how giving can mean so much. Thank you for a great post and a refreshing perspective! I would love to link to this article on my site (https://whatsoeverislovelyliving.com/) for a post later this month if that would be okay? I just love it so much I want to share it with my readers.

  2. I love the heart of this post, Elsie, because Jesus is very concerned about the condition of our hearts. He wasn’t impressed by the religiousness of the Pharisees because He didn’t like the motive behind their actions. I think that giving gifts or not giving gifts isn’t the real issue. The real issue is the heart behind why we do what we do, or why we don’t. I think that Christmas should be Christ centered and in that, there certainly is a place for gift-giving if your heart is in the right place. Thank you so much for making that distinction – I agree completely.

  3. I totally see your heart behind this, and I love it! I agree that gift-giving has it’s place at Christmas time, absolutely. My husband and I have decided for a multitude of reasons that we will not give up presents at Christmas, but we will not give our son (who’s currently only 7 months old) MANY gifts. Partly it’s because we don’t have the money, partly it’s because we don’t have the room in our apartment, and partly it’s because we do want to lavish Jesus with gifts during this season. This is simply how we have been convicted in our lives in regards to Christmas gift-giving; we feel so strongly about minimizing gifts at Christmas due to the fact that both of us grew up in non-Christian homes that focused on works and on presents ONLY. We grew up feeling entitled to extraordinary gifts and there was more than once when I was a child where I threw huge tantrums because I didn’t get one present I wanted (despite getting dozens of others as well).

    Thank you for posting this and sharing your heart! It is so great to hear different perspectives on gift-giving.

    P.S. Please don’t think I’m a Scrooge because my family limits presents at Christmas-time! We love our son and want to lavish him with love and be sensitive to his love language. But he’s only seven months old so he really only cares about the wrapping paper anyway. (:

  4. I believe this, like so many other things in our Christian walks, is about balance — a balance we each need to find for ourselves. What we have found is that the stress we once associated with gift-giving was largely (totally?) because of the expectation. If you have to give gifts to just so many people, it is just not fun anymore — especially if you are tight on funds.

    In our family, none of us are expecting to receive gifts… but many of us are secretly hunting for a perfect little something for some of our favorite people. It may be purchased; it may be handmade from stuff around the house; it may even be hand-written/drawn on a piece (or three 😉 ) of notepaper. Some of us end up with quite a little pile of goodies; others end up with less; we are all happy.

    I will admit that we do hear the occasional apology when someone has a gift for one and not the other — but it is inevitably met with an honest “Don’t worry about it!” Our joy really is in seeing each other’s joy in receiving.

    I really like the idea of drawing names for extended family, too.

  5. Good thoughts Elsie. Several years ago, my side of the family decided to draw names and buy gifts for only one person, like you mentioned in this post. We did it to save money and lower our stress. And it worked! We still enjoy gift-giving and everyone still receives something, but it’s no longer overdone, as it was some years during my childhood. I think it has helped us focus more on the true celebration of Christmas, our Savior’s birth. We still give gifts to everyone on my husband’s side, and it’s a lot more effort. But my main love language is not gift-giving and maybe I view it as more “work.” I could see how gifts could carry different meaning for different people. I agree with others that the heart attitude is most important!

  6. I agree that we don’t have to take the presents out of Christmas. We are trying something new in our family this year, as we have definitely gone way over board in past years as we were new parents and wanted our kids to have the best Christmas experience but we had it all wrong. We have since learned from those mistakes and this year we have limited our kids to 3 gifts each plus a gift from Santa and everything will be bought locally or is handmade. As for the extended family who but gifts for our kids we asked that they limit what they gift our kids and to try to gift them things that they really need such as pajamas, shoes, jackets, etc.

  7. Gift giving isn’t my love language, but I agree. I love giving presents and the joy on my children’s faces when they receive the presents. We don’t go over board, normally one large gift and several small ones.

  8. As always I love your heart in this Elsie! For me, gifting giving and receiving isn’t part of my love language or my overly-practical personality. My 3-year old, however, is super excited about this. And that’s where I can really understand where some families decide to nix the gift giving all together. The other day, I asked my son why we were celebrating Christmas. His answer? “Because I get presents!” We read bible stories to him. Talk about the meaning of Christmas. Remind him about the gifts of the magi. Take him to Sunday school. Don’t do Santa. Yet, the meaning for Christmas, for him at this age, is presents. But there’s no way we’ll do away with presents. This year seeing his excitement for the holidays has brought out in me more excitement and anticipation of celebration the birth of our savior than I have ever before experienced. I wouldn’t miss his innocent enthusiasm for all the pious minimalism in the world!

  9. I wanted to share my favorite Christmas gift wrapping tradition that keeps our Christmas gift wrapping simple. My step mom started many years ago sewing simple cloth bags with scraps of fabric and tying them up with a ribbon as wrapping. These bags have been reused over and over within our family and as new ones are made our collection between us has grown to the point where we almost don’t need to use wrapping paper at all. It’s simple, beautiful, saves money and resources all at the same time. <3

  10. I saw the picture of your mantle and chuckled. I made the same bear stockings for my family. My children still expect to have gifts in their stockings each Christmas although they are in their twenties and thirties. I too give gifts as a sign of my love to those who receive them. I can not imagine stopping . I shop all year long. Giving gifts is Christmas for me.

    1. That’s awesome! My aunt sewed those for us when we were babies. I bet it’s the same pattern! We still do stockings at Christmas when all the kids, spouses, and grandkids get together. And us “kids” are now in our twenties and thirties, too!

  11. Hello, I have 2 quick things to say, and I didn’t read everyone else’s reply because I just don’t like to do that before I reply. So if someone else said something like this, sorry for the repeats!
    First, in our extended family (my siblings, nieces, nephews, all the spouses and the next generation of children) we also exchanged names, but the dollar amount of the gift kept being raised, and that was impossible for some, so they dropped out of the gift exchange altogether and no one wanted that. So, we did a kind of white elephant exchange. We take things that we think someone might use, and wrap it up and then we put all the presents in the middle of the room. We don’t usually each only bring one thing. (Last year, for example, I brought 20 from our family of 5.) Then we do various methods of calling out each person’s name and that person picks one and unwraps. We keep that up until all the presents are gone. At the end, if anyone doesn’t want what they got, they can trade, however, we don’t allow ‘stealing’ as some do. Lately, we just put the unwanted things in a designated area and if anyone wants something from there, they can take it. The point for us is not actually getting the presents, it is just something we do that is fun and completely stress free! The gifts that we bring are often from our house or things we got through the year for free with coupons, etc. The unwanted leftovers are donated to a local thrift store.
    Second, even brown paper can get costly. We sometimes use newspaper. Sometimes with ribbon, sometimes not. Also, at least around here, if you hit the rummage sales and estate sales in the spring, summer, and fall, you can usually get several partial rolls of gift-wrap for a dollar or two.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Beth! I love your ideas. Now that we are paying a higher rent, I definitely need more ways to be frugal…so saving newspapers and check rummage sales sounds like a plan! The gift exchange with my siblings and in-laws is evolving. We might try a White Elephant style some time. And we would definitely not steal things, either. I NEVER liked that aspect of White Elephant!

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