Creating Our Own Christmas Traditions: Gifts

Growing up, Christmas was always a big deal. My mom has always decorated the house like a magazine, we spent an entire evening decorating the family tree together and certainly had more than our fair share of “traditions”.

We still do.

But now I have my own family. Nate and I have been married for three years, but we really haven’t established our own family traditions. Our first year of married life? We celebrated at about 5am in our apartment in St Petersburg (no one told me I had to go back to bed and wait to open presents!) and then drove to Venice to celebrate with my family. We got there just as they finished opening the gifts in their stockings. Second year of married life? We went to Texas and celebrated with his family – his brother’s family lives in Dallas and so the rest of us made the trek out there to spend Christmas morning with them.

So here we are, in the third year of married life. We now own a home and we have two children – 18 months and 3 weeks. Sure, it’s a little early for them to really care about any “traditions” we establish, but I’m considering this year a “dry run” – to figure out just how we want things to go when they do start to care.

There are so many Christmas traditions, but I’m going to focus first on the “Christmas morning” traditions – specifically about gifts. Here’s what we did growing up:

We each got one “big” gift from Santa, and the gifts in our stocking were from Santa. Santa’s gifts were wrapped in a “Santa” paper, if they were wrapped at all. (Things like a trampoline and a sailboat couldn’t really be wrapped!) Santa was never a big focus in our house – opening those gifts, and leaving a snack out for him the night before, was about as far as we took it.

All of the other gifts were from our parents or our siblings (I have three sisters). I never realized it at the time, but my mom always got each of us a set number of gifts – four I think? In addition to our big gift from Santa. I have to tell you, it always felt like more!

(Christmas morning 2007!)

Part of that is because we all took turns opening gifts. I know some people just like to tear into their gifts. We would take our time, watching each person open their gift in order. I loved that.

So…what Christmas gift traditions will we have? I’m still figuring that out.

We have stockings and for the past three years have given eachother books in our stockings. That has worked well…until this year, when the books I got for both of the kids don’t fit in their stockings. Whoops. Should we keep the stocking to just a book? Maybe go a more traditional route with “stocking stuffers”? Should the gifts in the stockings be from us? Or from Santa?

My husband really isn’t into Santa and wouldn’t mind if we excluded him from the gift giving all together. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Anyone out there have a Santa-less Christmas morning?

I got each of the kids a “big” gift and three other gifts…and one from each of the kids to their sibling. It’s starting to look pretty full under the tree!

Oh, that’s another thing I grew up with – none of our gifts were under the tree until Christmas morning. I love the look of the gifts under the tree right now, but I have to admit that as a kid, there’s nothing like coming out on Christmas morning and seeing the HUGE pile of gifts!!! Definitely makes your eyes light up.

So should I put the presents away until Christmas morning? Or leave them out?

The taking turns part of opening Christmas gifts is a non-negotiable for me. I love savoring the moment as each gift is open!

I’ve been on Pinterest-overload lately (it’s easy to scroll through on the phone while nursing!) and there are SO many ideas about Christmas traditions. I’m trying to decide which ones to add/incorporate into our Christmas mornings. Decisions decisions!

So tell me…what Christmas traditions did you grow up with when it comes to gifts? Which ones were your favorites? Which will you be keeping for your own family? 



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16 Responses to Creating Our Own Christmas Traditions: Gifts

  1. Our stockings always have an apple and an orange in the bottom. Then after that there’s some candy, and usually chapstick. When there was more money to go around, sometimes there’d be a $20 (or more) in the stocking too. But when I think of our stockings, what I think of is the apple and orange.

  2. Anna

    For my family we all got three from our parent because Jesus got three also. We did not get any from santa, and looking back I don’t feel like I missed anything. We also had a stocking. Sometimes we did have issues with gifts not fitting in them so there was a string attached to the stocking and the gift was at the other end. We would also exchange gifts between family members. I also have 3 sisters and our tree would be so full Christmas morning! Gifts from our parents were not under the tree until Christmas morning. When I have a family I hope to keep all of theses tradition.

  3. Lindsay

    Christmas presents would ALWAYS be kept out of sight until Christmas morning. My parents always tried to keep the price of the gifts the same, but this meant that at times I would get more gifts than my brother or it would be the other way. My mom and dad would have a select number of gifts from Santa and some from them. I think Christmas is all about magic and joy and I don’t think that having the gifts out all season is as exciting! 🙂

  4. Kathy in Chicago

    As children, we were allowed to get up as early as we wanted to open our Santa presents, as long as we didn’t wake up our parents. (they were usually up anyway once we started & couldn’t contain our excitement). Then we went back to bed, often times with tricycles and sleds sharing our bed with us….

    We didn’t receive presents from our parents until we stopped believing in Santa… I kind of liked receiving the presents from Santa, some mystery person who knows I’ve been good & gives me a present… Some years, when I’ve had a tough year, and I had to do something REALLY hard that was also for the best, it is those years someone mysterious delivers a present to me from Santa…. It helps remind me that God works in mysterious ways, & is still watching out for me….

  5. My family is Cuban/American, so we celebrate Noche Buena (the good night) with a huge Christmas eve dinner/party with the extended family (cousins, aunts, etc). We pick names out of a hat (Secret Santa style) and buy a gift or two for the person we pick because there’s just SO many of us. They, we would head to my parents house and open a few gifts from mom/dad, and stuff my brother and I bought for each other as we grew up. We still did this tradition including my brother and my significant others. Then, Christmas morning, Santa would come and fill our 6ft tall stockings! Yup, they are BIG. I actually saw one that was close in size at CVS. Anything that didn’t fit in the stocking would be under the tree wrapped in Santa paper and signed by him. Believe it or not, my mom kept up this tradition until last Christmas for me (33yrs old) and my brother (24yrs old). Since she passed away last spring, I have gotten the stockings and will be filling up my brother’s with gifts from “Santa” to keep the tradition alive in my mom’s memory. So many great memories! I hope you find some great ideas to start your own traditions! 😀

  6. Monica

    My parents tried to not do Santa and my sister threw a FIT. There is going to be so much Santa pressure in the world, that would be one I would just give in to and not have your kids feel like Santa forgot them.

  7. Katie D.

    We had very few traditions in my family! We opened presents anywhere from the 22nd to the 27th depending on where we were going and stockings varied too. Sometimes Christmas eve night, sometimes Christmas eve day, or Christmas day or Christmas night!!

    I have 2 sisters and we always got each other something (with money from our parents when we were younger and from our jobs/babysitting when we were older) and our stockings were mostly candy, socks, chapstick.

  8. Beth

    We were, and still are, a non-Santa family and the mystery and beauty and excitement of Christmas was thick and palpable for me anyway. One of my most treasured memories is unpacking the ceramic manger scene each year, hoping I would be the one to find the baby Jesus… Because we live a ways from my parents and often go there Christmas day we have started opening our family gifts on Christmas Eve. Because it’s a little odd, we added in a tradition of going out for bagels and coffee. I think it really builds the suspense, to have to get up and go out for breakfast first….it’s been fun! We also stack the gifts under the tree early. I don’t know which is more exciting but gazing at gifts that you can’t open for a week or two is rather suspenseful! So, bottom line, I think whatever you and your husband decide to do will build the beauty and awe that is ours as children, as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday!

  9. Seriously…how did women survive nursing without phones to entertain them? Blogger, online newspapers, and Baby Connect have been life-savers for me in this new season of motherhood. Merry Christmas!

  10. Liz

    My family is so corny. 🙂 We love to sing christmas carols. The twelve days of Christmas is our favorite. Everyone has their part and it stays the same from year to year. We drink egg nog before we open gifts. We always have a big dinner together. We make it a point to enjoy each others company.

  11. Ara

    I LOVE that you’re so in to traditions. We don’t have too many traditions when it comes to Christmas. When we were kids, there was always nothing under the tree until Christmas morning. In our stockings there was always an apple/orange at teh bottom of our stocking and then all kinds of stuff in our stockings. I’ll be looking forward to hearing what traditions you go with.

  12. We have been talking a lot about traditions in our house as my husbands and mine couldn’t be mote different. They have always celebrated Saint Nicholas day and opened their stockings so we now do that instead of on Christmas. My sister in law and her family sing happy birthday to Jesus before presents which I love. Growing up we ripped into everything but now I love opening one at a time. I mentioned the other day that I am not aure i want santa to bring presents when TJ gets bigger or if he does maybe one large gift and then the rest from us.

  13. I think you might like one of our “Santa Traditions”. Since Jesus only got three gifts from the wise men, Santa would bring us 3 gifts. We never got any more or any less. It was always a reminder of why we have Christmas. It was a great way to incorporate Santa and Jesus. I hope y’all have a great holiday season!

  14. Growing up my parents always gave us a stocking as well. When we were younger it was always candies – the M&Ms with the ornament on top that turned into a train when hooked together. As we got older it turned into things like lipglos, razors, ear buds, necessity items we would use. We would always get 1-2 presents set out before Christmas from them, but the other one from “Santa” and 1-2 more would be put out that night. Since I am a Christmas baby, I always got to open my birthday presents on Christmas Eve if I wanted 🙂 There was always home made cinnamon rolls and Christmas music as we each took rounds to open a gift. We did the same – watching each other take a turn.

    I am hoping to start traditions this year with Mike – since it’ll be the two of us that morning, start small – with a dish (like the cinnamon rolls) or eggnog, etc. Or maybe a mimosa! 😉

  15. Amanda

    In my family, most of the gifts were from Santa. One gift was from each of my parents. Everything was wrapped unless it was too big for wrapping (all stocking stuffers were wrapped too!) and gifts were not put out until xmas!

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