The 3-Gift Christmas

Written by Stacy Myers, Contributing Writer

When our first daughter was born, we gave great thought to how we would celebrate Christmas. It was our desire to make sure she knew the REASON for the Christmas season. We didn’t want her growing up thinking Christmas was about Dora and Diego toys or stuffing yourself full of candy until you couldn’t zip up your pants.

Because of that, we set out to make sure we fill our Christmas with family traditions that make Christ the main focus. We focus on giving and having time together as a family and we do Christmas devotions together every day…and we still eat some chocolate because God made it – and I’m pretty sure He’s down with chocolate. Can I get an Amen?!

Our Advent celebration involves a different family activity each day. A lot of these activities involve giving to others – to bless them as we have been blessed. We all look forward to this every year. It’s good family bonding, man.

Along with this theme, we decided that instead of showering our children with more than they could ever play with – and risk going into debt to pay for it – we would give each child 3 gifts for Christmas.

The three gifts symbolize the three gifts the Wise Men brought to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  I’ll be honest – before we started this tradition, I had no idea what myrrh was.  I will admit though, it’s fun to say. Myrrh. Myrrh. Try it.

Now every year this is something I look forward to! I put great thought into each gift. I also enjoy sharing the gift selection with my readers.

Let’s go over the significance of these three gifts – so if you choose this tradition, you’ll know them and be able to explain them to every family member that asks…and trust me, they WILL ask. And then they’ll look at you like you’re nuts – so be prepared for that, okay?


The gift of gold symbolizes something of great value. It’s to be something the child wants – something precious to them. At this point, I still choose this gift for my children. If I asked my 3 year old what she wanted, we’d be in big trouble. No ponies in the bedroom.

You can let your child choose this gift or you can simply buy something you know they really want. This is the one you can really have fun with…but don’t go overboard. I’ve always found great deals on my “gold” items – and most of the time I buy used things. Buy used and save the difference.


The gift of frankincense symbolizes something spiritual. Frankincense was burned in the temple as part of worship. For this gift, we give something that helps with the child’s spiritual walk.

We’re still choosing this for our children and likely will every year. Since it is our job to teach our children the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6), I think it’s important that we choose this gift and make sure it’s something that is of great value for their spiritual walk.

This gift will vary greatly based on age. My 3 year old isn’t interested in having a commentary on Romans. A few ideas are: a nativity of their own, a worship music CD, a children’s Bible, or a devotional book. Be creative.

Myrrh was a medicinal item back in the day. This gift symbolizes something for the body. I’ve heard it told that the Wise Men brought this gift to Jesus in preparation for when he would die for us.

This item can be any number of things: clothing, shoes, cologne, underwear. When you stop believing in Santa, you get underwear. <– Tweet This.

And for the record, I like getting underwear for Christmas…then I don’t have to spend my money on it. Ha!

Some examples of things I’ve purchased: wool diaper covers, headbands, shoes, and sleep sacks.

So, there you have it. Our 3-Gift Christmas. Is this a tradition in your family?

About Stacy Myers

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Annie (3) and Andy (newborn). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her daily antics.

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  1. I really like how you relate the 3 gifts to what the maji brought baby Jesus. We have been trying to stick to the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” mentality. The something to read had just been one book for both kids, as we get a new Christmas book each year, and we have been re-wrapping each book, so every year they have one more book to read between opening presents. So I guess it looks like there are moregifts under the tree, but we liked the tradition of re-wrapping / reopening the books each year.

  2. I’m not alone! We’ve done the 3 gifts from the beginning (not the Maji gifts, just gifts). I started this for several reasons. 1) I wanted my kids to know why we have Christmas and that it’s not about presents. 2) It can keep the cost in check. 3) When they are talking to their friends at school about what they got for Christmas they have a reason why they didn’t get as much as someone else (because there will always be someone who gets more). They can tell their friends about Jesus through that system too! Thanks for sharing your family!

  3. Loved your post, Stacey. I only wish my husband and I had this tradition from the get-go. We decided from the beginning that Santa would not be a part of Christmas for our kids, and they’ve been fine with that (despite some “concerns” from other family). We now have four kids ages 2-10 and somehow they have become quite accustomed to being overwhelmed with toys, gifts, etc. not only from us but from the in-laws too. This year my husband and I decided we are definitely cutting back, and I think it’s a perfect time to adopt your tradition of relating the 3 gifts to the wise men. This is the first year we’re celebrating advent and getting the kids involved has been great so I’m hoping they’ll adjust to this new “gift policy” without complaining or disappointment. That’s hoping for a lot, isn’t it? I ask myself, where did we go wrong and why do we make ourselves feel bad for not spoiling our kids rotten? I guess if we really start to focus our eyes on Jesus, we can renew our thinking about this. Thank you for the encouragement!

    • Since you’re starting another new tradition, this one should fit right in! :-) I think they’ll adjust just fine…it’s the “other family” that you need to worry about. LOL Just kidding.

    • Myra, I have 4 (5th due in March) children, ages 12, 7, 4 and 1. We started the 3 gifts of Christmas 2 years ago, and it has been SUCH a blessing. Instead of doing 1 thing you want, 1 thing you need and 1 thing to edify you (which is what many of our friends do), we do 3 things you want (bonus mega points when you need them and/or the will edify your spirit!!). I actually had 2 children ask for winter boots this year! Sweet! We may adjust again at some point, but, that was what worked best for us, going from super crazy spoiled Christmas to something very different. It has not been nearly as much of an adjustment as I thought it would be. I just wanted to encourage you that it CAN be done, even if it means changing traditions :) And Stacy, thanks so much for this post!

      • :-) You’re welcome. And thanks for chiming in!

      • Kristin,
        Thank you so much for the encouragement! I really appreciate it. If you & your family can do it, then my family should be able to too, right? :) Congratulations on your 5th baby! I always thought having five children would be lovely! Blessings to you!

  4. My husband and I started something like this when we got married. When we had kids and decided to do Santa with them we set these rules: 1 gift per child from Santa (and it’s usually their “big” gift-a bicycle, etc.), and 3 gifts from mom and dad (1 outfit, a movie or book, and a small toy or something else we know they want) We also celebrate St. Nick on December 6th so they get their stockings then. In those we put things like socks, underwear, hair things, bubble bath, lotion, chapstick, etc. It’s always helped to keep it simple, especially now with 4 kids! If only we could the family on board-although I think they are finally starting to get it…10 years later :-)

  5. What a fantastic idea! My kids are older so I don’t know if I can implement it now but you’ve go me thinking.

  6. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! We have been praying about how to “do” gifts and I felt that when I read this today God was saying “Here it is”. Our kids are almost 4 and 2, with #3 due in March, and our intentionality about gifts is so important to us. And I love that we can relate it to the gospel and the Truth of Christmas. Thank you for sharing and God Bless you and your family!

  7. This was a great post! Thank you so much. You have inspired many. This is a great idea to keep our eyes on Christ, not Wal Mart.

  8. Awesome post btw, Love it! I will also share this with my daughter in law!

  9. “underwear”… used? Used Drawers Stac??? LOL… I jest ;-)

  10. We also do 3 gifts – a book, a clothing item, and a “toy” (kids are older now so the “toy” can be another book or clothing item they were wanting). When my husbands grandmother was alive we would have her up (she lived just down our driveway) for breakfast and then the kids would open their gifts with her there. To help them wait when they were young, we put their stockings by their places at the table with oranges and such that they could go ahead and eat and 1 small present to open and play with. They then would look for that wrapping paper under the tree, knowing that those were their gifts. It made wrapping for 6 children easier with each one in a different wrap.

  11. My name Is Aimee. I have one little boy (4). We are working on teaching him to appreciate what he does have. So I told him that Santa only brings children three gifts and any others he receives are from those people who love him. To celebrate jesus’ birthday! We also have a cake/ cupcakes at christmas to celebrate!

  12. My son was born on Dec. 20 and my daughter on Dec. 17. So uh…yah. December is a crazy month here. But in a way, I think it will help us keep Christmas in check, and focused on Jesus.

  13. I love this idea! We have 8 children with #9 on the way, and we have always limited the amount of gifts we give the kids because we knew we wanted a large family. Frankly with only 3 gifts a piece under the tree it will still look overloaded! I had to laugh when I read about the giving of underwear. I always put underwear and/or socks in the kids stockings!

  14. I did similar a few years ago, I can’t even remember what we did last year! Yikes. But we’ve always kept it simple. I haven’t even thought one bit about Christmas yet. We’re moving…maybe we can just skip it this year. :) We’ll do something I’m sure but it will be VERY simple this year.

  15. Michelle Stortzum says:

    Love how you tied your gifts into the meaning of Christmas. We do something similar except it is 4 gifts and a rhyme–one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear and one thing to read. :) Have a blessed holiday.

  16. I have started to do something similar to this. I realized this to late to stop my children from becoming the children that have lost the TRUE meaning of the holiday. I started late but there is still time for me to fix it. I am giving them gifts with meaning but only four. Something they can use, something they need, something they can wear and something that they want. I think my husband is taking it harder than the kids because he likes to go all out for them.

  17. We try to keep it simple too, though we don’t set an actual number of gifts so much as a money amount per child. Plus sometimes I’ll wrap items that go together in separate packages just so she’ll have the fun of opening them. I do have a weakness for books though. If there is any area of my budget that I overspend on, that would be it. I love to read and I want my kids to love to read. I look for good deals the best that I can, but I do find myself wanting to go over budget just so I can purchase my favorite childhood books for the kids.
    Regarding gifts from grandparents and others, I’ve been known to return clothing items that didn’t suit my kids needs and keep the store credit to purchase things they need but we can’t afford (like shoes). It’s hard with toys though because my daughter gets attached very easily and has a great memory. If I can tell early on that an item she opened is totally inappropriate I try to divert her attention to something else so that she won’t get too attached. Last year she opened a gift that I really didn’t want her to have and I couldn’t return it so I donated it to charity. (It wasn’t a bad toy, just not something we would use and another younger girl would have loved it).

  18. Love this! :) We do the same. Some family members–gasp–accuse us of depriving the girls. They are so many toys already that I can barely walk in the play room! I love you idea about putting stuff up to give to Annie all throughout the year!

  19. We do something similar with three gifts per child (something to play with, something to read and something to wear), but I really like the way you’ve related it to the gifts of the Magi!

  20. This is great! We have 5 boys and have already vowed that this would be a “no more debt” Christmas! (We’re working on it!..the debt!) We have already set our limit to 3 gifts per boy and it just so happens that I’ve gotten them all a Bible so we’re off to a great start! Now I have a “reason” for it.

  21. Love, love, love it! This is our son’s first Christmas and we’ve also been putting a lot of thought into it. This is the direction I was heading, but didn’t have it put in the same terms. Love simple, meaningful Christmas memories!!

  22. My daughter is 2 1/2 so she gets excited about whatever she’s given. I have to confess that I buy the majority of her gifts used at seasonal consignment sales. Last year, she didn’t know that the Little People Zoo set was used but in great condition bought for only $8. Nor does she know that the toy horse on a stick that she can gallop around the house on that she’s getting this year only cost me $2.50. I’m very picky about the quality of these toys, but it’s awesome to buy great toys at such a bargain.

    Family…I create a wish list that includes many items between $5-$20. I spend a long time looking on the internet for quality toys, craft type things, etc. I put the $15 easel from IKEA on this list as well as good, wooden pattern blocks. While my side of the family can’t afford to spend much on gifts, my mother-in-law speaks the love language of gifts. It’s not for me to tell her not to be generous; however, she wants to buy from the list I create. So I will pick items I could never afford and let her buy them. For example, I picked out a nice Step 2 kitchen that she got my daughter for her 2nd birthday. So I’m avoiding dumb toys that create clutter by carefully providing wish lists of good toy/gift ideas.

    • You’re spot on – I too have family members who have the love language of gift-giving. So, I let them give but I try to choose wisely. :-)
      And by the way, I usually buy used gifts for my kids. ;-) Shop smarter, not harder.

  23. What about stockings?

  24. I love this, but I have to ask what you do about over-generous family members? Have you had a conversation with them to make them understand your point of view? Do they hold the same view? Are they complete opposites with you and could care less how you feel because they want to spend a lot of money anyways? It is something I have been struggling with, how to let others know how we feel without stepping on toes, but at the same time showing our kids the real reason we are celebrating Christmas…definitely not easy.

    • This is the policy in OUR home. Both of Annie/Andy’s grandparents are allowed to buy gifts as they like – but we do ask for specific things and for some things to be avoided (I hate batteries, lol).
      In order to avoid the WHOA factor after Christmas, when Annie goes to bed, we put up a lot of things that she received. Some are used for re-gifts (gasp!) and some are just put up to pull out throughout the year for little treats.
      For example, I had put up several of her activity items from last Christmas and when we took a road trip this summer, I pulled a few out for the car – so she had two “new” toys to take on her trip to occupy her. :-)

  25. I completely love this post, I am adopting that tradition its great. Tara xx


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