I will be honest, we don’t buy a ton of gifts for our kids at Christmas time. Instead of focusing on how many gifts are under the tree, we focus on making memories with family and friends…with a few gifts sprinkled in (4 plus a gift from Santa to be exact).

Some of my favorite memories involve the small traditions that I love doing with the kids. Over the years, they remind me of the things we need to be doing and that is so reassuring that they love the traditions like I do. I also feel like by having these traditions, it takes some of the emphasis off of gifts and allows us to focus on other fun things.

Wondering what we do?

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After Thanksgiving Tradition – Santa Bags and Elves

Our Santa Bag – A family Tradition

We kick off the season the morning after Thanksgiving when Sam, our Elf on the Shelf, brings a “Santa Bag” for my kids to fill. Basically, it is a large, fabric bag with ribbon and bells on it. You could also DIY one with a red laundry bag and a tag.

They put all the toys that are in good working order that they no longer play with in it and Sam takes the filled bag to Santa’s workshop where the toys can be loved by other kids. In reality, the toys go to our local rescue mission or shelter. I love that we are able to donate things that someone else can use.

Sam, our Elf, also just hides in fun spots, but isn’t the type of Elf to make a mess or destroy things…thankfully, we have enough of that without extra encouragement.

Leading up to Christmas

Some of our favorite traditions include writing Santa letters, watching Sam the Elf move each day, and making holiday treats with our families. I no longer question my tight pants at Christmas, we do way too much baking and eating.

Also, a few days before Christmas, my kids open a box with Christmas pajamas, a Christmas book, and some holiday popcorn. We enjoy watching holiday movies at night leading up to Christmas Eve. It’s so fun to hear them talk about the movies, what they hope they are getting from Santa, etc.

The 4 Gift Rule

We don’t go crazy buying gifts for our kids…and they don’t notice. Between gifts from grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, etc, the kids were ending up with so much that they didn’t even know what to play with or where they got certain items. It was too much, we were all overwhelmed.

Then I heard someone say they did the “4 Gift Rule” for gifts in their house and I loved the idea!

Basically, our kids get a gift from Santa and then 4 gifts from us:

  • Something they WANT
  • Something they NEED
  • Something to WEAR
  • Something to READ
The Rule of 4 for Easy Gift Giving

This year, the kids are getting some travel items because we are taking a family vacation to Florida and will be visiting Disney. In part, we can go on fun trips or do excursions like waterparks (as well as reward them throughout the year with small things), because we don’t spend thousands of dollars at Christmas time.

As an example, here is what my kids are getting this Christmas just from us:

  • WANT: We picked something off of each kid’s list to get them and tried to keep the dollar amount the same usually around $50
  • NEED: Carry On Suitcases in different colors – when they open them they will find out about Disney
  • WEAR: A custom Disney shirt from Etsy in their favorite color as well as a new bathing suit
  • READ: We picked out a few books based on favorite characters, shows, etc

Christmas Eve Tradition

On Christmas Eve, my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids generally come over to our house for an early dinner, gift opening, and candle light church. It is one of my favorite traditions.

Also, since the kids only opened a few gifts, they aren’t so upset to leave their new things to go to Church. After church, it is Christmas pajamas and setting out the milk and cookies for Santa then off to bed.

Christmas Day Tradition

Who would have ever thought that you can enjoy Christmas more as an adult than when you were a kid? Seeing my kids wake up with such excitement and wonder is one of the best feelings in the entire world.

Picture of the kids enjoying our family tradition of 4 gifts from us
Rule of 4 and they couldn’t be happier!

Once everyone is up, we take turns opening gifts. Each kid will have 4 gifts from us and 1 Santa gift under the tree. I love that there aren’t 100 gifts under the tree for them to open. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen kids open something they really want and then not want to open the rest. Thankfully, with only 5 gifts, it isn’t too bad and they appreciate them so much more.

After we open our gifts, we head to my in-laws where the kids get to tell Grandma what Santa brought them and what Mom and Dad picked out. Again, they are really good about going to the next function because they aren’t so overwhelmed gifts. We enjoy the rest of the morning with family while the kids open a few more gifts from grandparents, aunts/unlces/cousins.

Our afternoon is spend visiting with extended family and eating tons of good food. When we finally get back home, we enjoy watching the kids play with their new favorite things while a Christmas movie plays in the background.

Make your own Christmas Traditions to cherish

I truly believe that the gift of family and friends is what makes the holiday wonderful. It isn’t about the number of presents under the tree or the amount of money spent, it is about the memories made.

Just remember to enjoy your traditions, make great memories, and do Christmas how it works for your family!

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