Questions answered about "When we changed the way we do Christmas"

I was SO excited about your response to last week's post about how we cut out excess at Christmas! Six years in and we're still loving how we're doing it.

I received loads of texts, messages, and emails with questions about Santa, Grandparent's gifts, and so much more. I thought I'd share some of them... in case you were wondering, too!

Q: Does Santa still bring gifts for your kids in addition to the Four Gifts?

A: The only gifts Santa brings is what fits inside their stocking.

They do however, receive one (family) present on Christmas eve, which is typically matching PJ's and something to do that night after our church service: board game, movie, that sort of thing!

Q. What do you do about gifts from aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc?

A: This shocks people, but we're very firm with our families on both sides. It has been THE hardest part about making a transition to doing gifts this way. 

We tell our families to please either give a Family Gift (we've gotten things like: a ping pong table, board games, movie tickets in the past) OR one gift per child. ONE.

In the beginning, some family members thought we were being ridiculous so they still gave a massive amount of gifts per kid. We had warned them to please not do this...if they didn't respect our wishes, we would give some of the gifts away. And that's exactly what we did. The kids still opened one...and we donated the rest. They weren't even unwrapped (it would have been tempting to keep them if we had!). Feelings were certainly hurt, but they got the idea we were serious.

It's not always easy...but a lot of parenting isn't. Especially when you're going against cultural norm.

Q. How do you get your older kids on board?

A: It's shocking to see such gross entitlement in our children sometimes, isn't it? Internationally adopted kids are no's crazy how fast they forget about their past life of great need (even just for shoes or food!) and ask, ask, ask for things!

This isn't just a cute little tradition for Christmastime. As parents we need to realize this is an every day of the year kind of counter-cultural decision.

There is no way our older kids will get on board and realize the benefits, reasons, and impact on their own lives if they don't see it played out through the rest of the year. Children should not be given everything they want. We know this in theory, but need to make sure we live it.

When you're out and at Target (for example) and they ask for a random toy you pass, do you purchase it?

I'm not talking about the one they're saving up for...or the one they've been talking about for the past four months and you decide to surprise them with, just because. It's ok to purchase treats for them. But how often do we buy things on a whim, because they're whining or say they "need" it.

One of our kids said he needed pants the other day. When looking in his closet, I found eight pairs of perfectly fine pants that fit him well. He did not need pants. He wanted some. So I obviously said, "no" and told him why. He understood and even chuckled at himself as I pulled each of them out and showed him the large stack!

Helping our children comprehend gift giving as an act of love and not obligation, is huge. This Christmastime Four Gift thing is just a tiny portion of it.

Q: Ok but honestly, do the kids actually like this? Do they wish you did Christmas like everyone else?

What kid doesn't want more gifts? You and I are no's fun receiving things!!

But when the excess gets to the point where you can't remember who gave what gifts, or they have so many presents that they play with something for five minutes before they move on (rarely to touch it again), my question is why?

Why are you doing that to yourself, to them, and to your bank account?

We've been doing this enough years that the kids get excited wondering what one "Want" item they'll get. They try guessing every day and jump up and down with excitement. They know the "Wear" item won't be something boring like underwear or socks (although one of our kids LOVES goofy socks, so they'd be thrilled if we did). We'll purchase a favorite player's jersey, glittery shoes that make the girls squeal, that sort of thing.

It truly helps us know our kids better and what they want more than anything at the moment. What are their greatest loves and interests? What's their favorite book series or what's new by their favorite author? What "Something we'll do" gift would take their breath away with excitement?

They know each of these things is coming and are thrilled with anticipation. So yes. Yes, they truly do love the way we do things.

Yours will too, even if there's complaining the first year or two (and there certainly may be in the beginning).

We don't want to be a "normal" family anyway...let's teach our children that the concept of living out of the ordinary and counter-culturally is absolutely ok.

Q: We're not going to do this, though I think it's cool. Will you be judging me?

A: Ohmygosh are you kidding? No! Of course not!! You may not be doing this exact thing, and that's ok! Don't worry...I'm not going to look at what's under your tree and get all lame and up on my high-horse!

This is meant to be an encouragement to those who are tired of all the excess. That's it. Zero judgements here. Promise.


Want to read the post When we changed the way we do Christmas again? Click here!

Take Joy,


P.S. The photos do not show items we're getting the little ones...because I don't want them to accidentally figure any of their gifts out! Just FYI ; )

Getting to know your kids better with the (updated) 4 Gift Rule + free printable tags

We've done the "Four Gift Rule" for gosh...maybe five years now?

And just absolutely love it.

We first began because we had recently brought home some of our adopted kids and felt burdened to just tone-down the excess in life. And in Christmas.

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We wanted to be more intentional in our gift-giving with the kids, not simply buying something because they might like it and then purchase something else because it was on sale and they'd mentioned it once, and then wrap up yet another toy I found last year and forgot about in the back of the get the idea.

That's how we gave gifts to our kids before switching gears.

Can you relate??

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For several years in a row however, we've done...

. Something you Want .

. Something to Read .

. Something to Wear .

And last year we switched from...

. Something you Need (because, truly...they have all they need.) to instead, Something we'll Do .

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This particular gift is our kids favorite because we get to do fun one-on-one dates that are right up their alley.

Things like, dinner at a fancy restaurant, tickets to a monster truck rally, heading downtown for the Art Walk, having our nails painted at a nice spa, going to a play, or an afternoon at the arcade.

Every family has to be deliberate with dates with their children, and having a family our size definitely takes major intentionality. It's important to us though, so we make them happen throughout the year.

These Christmastime dates are just a little bigger...a bit more special than simply having a hot chocolate and croissants at Starbucks.

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The Want gift is probably the hardest to purchase, believe it or not.

I think it's because Ben and I have to brainstorm together in finding hands-down, the one gift they want more than any others.

It forces us to really know our children and their likes and interests at this exact moment in their lives.

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Most of our kids are complete and total bookworms so sitting down and writing down ideas on the one book that would thrill them more than any other also helps us pay extra attention to where they're at in both interest and reading level.

Christmas four gifts

Something to Wear doesn't have to be as boring as it sounds.

Don't worry, we're not gifting socks and underwear here.

Instead, it's things like an NFL jersey we wouldn't typically spend money on, a sparkly "twirling" dress, or even something like this sweatshirt (for Abreham...shhhh) that will instill confidence in who they are and remind our kids how we see them.

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(click here to download striped tags)

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(click here to download dotted tags)

Christmas four gifts 4

(click here to download plaid tags)

stripe - double - pink

What do you think of this idea...would you change up the way you do Christmas?

What Christmas traditions do you have in your family!!

Comment below... I'd love to hear them + maybe add 'em to what we do!

Click here for more of our Christmas traditions + here for how we do Christmas.

take joy-signature-new-pink

for the love of polka dot

for the love of polka dot

Whether you're needing a little gift for someone or something for yourself, these are some of my absolute favorites!

polka dot gifts

I use this washi tape on everything from the envelopes for our Christmas cards to hanging up a photo when I can't find a thumbtack.

The glassine sacks have also been used for tons of things, including wrapping teachers gifts {fold over the top and use a sticker or washi tape to hold closed!}.


These paper straws are displayed {with more in red stripe} in an old jar in our kitchen.

The gold plate is a gift for a friend, though one in my office sure would be lovely.

The paper placemats are crazy cute. I'm starting to think about Elsabet's 1st birthday...perhaps I'll use them for that! {inside are both a scrolly design as well as the polka dot}


I bought several of these fun boxes at Homegoods.

I loved using it when wrapping a gift for one of the Angel Tree kids we've gotten gifts for {kinda wanting to keep the other!} this Christmas.

polka dot confetti

And who doesn't love a little polka dot confetti?!

polka dot gifts

 . . are you as crazy about polka dot as I am?? . .

take joy-signature-new-pink