I was raised by a mother who gave us an overabundance of presents every year, Christmas and birthday, and I found myself doing the same thing to my children. Christmas just wasn't Christmas without hundreds of presents under the tree.

One year we found ourselves in financial stress and I could not see how we could begin to afford the usual exorbitant quantity of gifts, handmade or store bought. I strengthened myself with thoughts of how they would simply have to adjust to the idea, appreciate the holiday for its original purpose and we would get into the spirit of Christmas the old fashioned way. We explained the situation to the children, then about five and eleven, who supplied the expected groans and moans but finally agreed to the new "one person, one present" rule. Not that they had a choice, mind you.

We did not forgo the purchase of a Christmas tree, heaven forbid, although it was not the twelve footer we usually buy. While someone whispered how meager the small scattering of presents under the tree was, it hit me how the tree itself was a splendor of homemade decorations and love felt trimmings that warmed our hearts like never before. We attended a candle light church service that year that gave us a real Christmas spirit we will never forget.

From that year forward we have maintained our policy about Christmas gifts and I truly encourage other families to consider it.

We give gifts at Christmas as it is the tradition to give gifts on someone's birthday.  Christmas is not OUR birthday, but we give a gift to another person in lieu of Jesus being present, so to speak. Why not give gifts to Jesus, for he is truly present. A gift to our Lord can take on many shapes, far too many to list here. Make it a family project!

We exchange Christmas gifts to show our love for one another, or at least that is what I believe the original intention was, opposed to a pressure to produce the best, most or most expensive. Why not give gifts that are truly special to reflect a real love for others? It is hard to keep monetary value out of the selection, but it is what I try to do, continually. I still fear a recipient might be considering it's value and feel slighted by something that was not expensive even though it was the perfect idea, but I get to deal with that.

One person, one gift. Choose carefully. I openly admit I go crazy on birthdays, and that's ok. Birthdays come one at a time, basically. Christmas gifts means children, their spouses, sisters, brothers, their spouses, their children, parents, inlaws, grandchildren, close friends. Lets see, that's eight children, seven spouses, two sisters, one brother, their three spouses, a niece, a nephew, two parents, one inlaw, ten and a half grandchildren, four close friends. Not including the mailman, that's THIRTY NINE presents. I LIKE my rule. It is rather mandatory.

Make cost no object, so to speak. It takes some doing to cast aside concerns spoken of earlier, that the recipients will be more concerned with price than you are, but if you want to get this going, you have to start it. My son may be dreaming of a new bike with a very high price tag. My daughter may want a homemade doll complete with wardrobe that can be made entirely from existing stock, requiring little to no expense but an incredible amount of time. We encourage the children never to look at the price but the value of the heart.

The same applies to the gifts they give. My gifts are always handmade, but I can't insist this of my children. I do request that their gifts be their choice and their ideas, not mine.

Sometimes I still cringe, hoping that my handmade gift will not appear shabby next to something purchased at the finest stores in town. I have had my labor intensive, lovingly made gift accepted with complete nonchalant attitudes and had to swallow and smile. This is by far, the rare exception. (A little tiny part of me said, "See if YOU ever get another gift from me!") Beyond that incident,  rarely have I seen anyone's eyes register dollars when they open my gifts. Instead, I believe the love and thought that went into the gift is apparent and the thanks and appreciation are very genuine. It certainly makes my day and reinforces my belief that Christmas is of the heart.

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