I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Christmas is a magical time of the year. You get to spend time with family and friends, practice family traditions, and get PRESENTS! Oh, wait, it’s Christ’s birthday, too. This brings me to why I’m bah humbug. We are supposed to be celebrating Christ’s birth (o.k., we really don’t know when he was born, but this is when we celebrate it) by showing love to others through giving. However, I get so distracted with not just what I’m getting (I’m selfish, but honest), but frustrated with gift ideas for others – who, like me, don’t really need anything. So, after years of aggravation, I’ve come up with some alternative ideas to traditional Christmas presents.
I have experienced heaps of guilt and frustration over what to give my children for Christmas. Like most new parents, my husband and I went back and forth on how we wanted to celebrate holidays (especially Christmas) with our new family. I have the frustrating habit of over analyzing everything.
- Why should we spend our hard earned money to give our kids a bunch of toys they don’t appreciate because they already have so much?
- What’s the point?
- What’s the result when you overwhelm children with more than they could possibly want?
- Aside from tradition, why do it?
Even knowing the answer to these questions, we decided to do the traditional “thing.” Why? Because Christmas is fun, and I didn’t want my kids to ever feel they were missing out. When my oldest kid was about four, he started asking me God questions. The one that clenched my heart was, after explaining that God was everywhere and although we can’t see him, we have to have faith and believe that he’s there, he asked, “So, God is like Santa Clause, right?” Of course, I clarified, quickly, the difference between God and Santa. We haven’t “done” Santa since. So, because of all the questions above, when gifting my kids at Christmas, we only buy them a few presents and fill a stocking. I try to get them something they REALLY want, a few other things I know they would like, and of course, books. Since, I don’t get them an array of things; I try to put a lot of thought into what I do get for them.
I know some people hate giving gift cards, but I have found that my kids LOVE them. Honestly, this is also a good way to give them what they really want – your time. Somebody has to help them use their gifts. You know what happens when you do that? You also give them great memories. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Here are a few ideas:
- Movies – I bought my oldest son a $20 gift card to the local movie theatre last year for his stocking. He loves it. He’s such a “Penny Pincher” that he’s learned he can go during matinee times and stretch the life of his gift card. Something else he loves, since his brothers and sister didn’t get the same card, he has me or my husband all to himself for a movie date. He has even gotten to use it with other family members and gotten a break from all of us. I love the movie gift card because it wasn’t a toy lying around my floor helping to create a mess.
- Trampoline Parks – Let them get some energy out and have fun at the same time!
- Amusement Parks – If you want to gift your kids with a season pass to a local theme park, Christmas is the best time to do it!
- Sports Stores – I have 3 boys who love sports and might want something special during the next ball season (my boys love the expensive stuff).
- Bass Pro Shops – They have it all for anyone of the male species – no matter the age. My family takes several trips a year to this store, even though the closest store to us is an hour drive.
- Nail Salon – My daughter loves manicures and pedicures, but since that’s not something I can justify much for myself on our budget, she doesn’t get them very much either. So, this is one way she can.
- Amazon – My kids LOVE buying music, movies, and books on Amazon.
- Ice Cream – All kids LOVE ice cream. Buy them a gift card to a local ice cream shop to have during those hot summer months that are sure to come.
- An Adventure Center – United States White Water Center in Charlotte, NC – My husband took me here for our anniversary a few years ago and I loved it! And, let’s face it, I’m just a big kid. My oldest son has been begging me for a trip there. Their activities range from a ride on the zip line, a jaunt through the obstacle course, to White Water Rafting. Buy an All Sport or a Cool Sport Pass depending on what you think your kid and/or budget would like. The pass is good for one year from date of purchase.
- Tea House – My daughter loves going for tea. Unfortunately, there aren’t any “real” tea houses close to our area. There is one tea place we patron sometimes, but they don’t do the whole “Afternoon Tea” thing. We went a few years ago to one near Charleston and she has been begging me to go back. If you are fortunate enough to live close to a tea house, a gift card there would be an excellent gift for a girly girl.
- Interactive Museum – This is a great idea for smaller children. I used to take my kids to one in Rutherfordton, NC – Kidsenses. It’s the best place for kids to have a hands on learning experience while having lots of fun. If you can get away with museum passes for your older kids, that’s great, too. I’m not sure I could with mine.
- McDonald’s – I know this sounds lame, but my husband’s aunt has been giving my kids McDonald’s gift cards for the last few years. She found out that my kids rarely get Happy Meals and felt sorry for them. Yeah, I’m cheap. When buying for a family of six – we order off the dollar menu and drink water. They LOVE their gift cards because they can order what they want and get a toy!