Christmas is celebrated differently in every family and we are often asked about how we personally celebrate after sharing our girls minimal presents and that we don’t really play along with the whole Santa thing.
Our way is not the right way, everyone has their own way and it is changing as we go and the girls grow. We hope this blog will help you with your decisions around gift giving at this time of year and help explain your decisions to others in your life if their Christmas is celebrated differently as well.
We have decided to write this blog in a question and answer format with the most commonly asked questions to ensure we have covered it all!
Do you do Santa with your kids?
Do they believe in Santa / What do you tell them?
We don't celebrate Santa in the traditional sense. Santa is still a part of our Christmas and we have no issues with playing along with the magic but we just don't feel comfortable lying to the girls, and this does change the dynamic a bit.
We treat Santa no different to any other fictional character in the girls the girls read about such as Hairy Maclary or the Gruffalo.
The decision not to lie to the girls is a greater family value that we set before the girls were born. This is mostly because we feel it degrades their trust in us and this is something we practice everyday, not just at Christmas.
We have started teaching them about the history of Santa or St Nicholas and the joys of giving to others anonymously. We recently took our girls (2 & 4yrs) on a shopping trip where they got to be ‘Santa’ and pick out a couple of toys to give to children in need.
They are still quite young which makes it hard for them to fully grasp the concept (more so for our youngest) so we hope that by making these traditions now they will understand it more as years pass.
Why did you choose not to gift from Santa?
We don't do presents from Santa mostly because it is sometimes used as a bribe or a threat to be good. The whole “He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake” thing kind of thing doesn’t sit well with us personally. We want our children to know that their emotions are seen and heard and don’t want them to feel like they can’t let it out just because ‘Santa might not come.’
We also don't lie to the girls as a general family value.
The presents on Christmas day are from us and very well considered and meaningful. We don't feel that extra layer of theatrics around Santa would add any further enjoyment for the girls.
Why don't you lie to your children?
As a rule we don’t ever lie to the girls, lots of further questioning I'm sure, but here is a little explanation.
We feel that the easy out of the little white lie such as “there’s no biscuits left” is not worth the loss of trust when they find there is still some in the cupboard.
Although the explanation that it's not good to have that many biscuits and we want to save some for later doesn't always go down well, it means that when they are actually “gone” there is no questioning and that when it comes to more serious things like “that cup is hot” they don't feel the need to test that for themselves.
This does not mean that we tell them everything or things that don't need to know.
We will answer any questions they ask us to the level we think that they want to know, for example “where do babies come from” does not need to become a full detailed description of the birds and the bees, this is most likely not what they wanted to know. If “you came from mummy’s tummy” does not bring further questioning we leave it at that.
How do you stop your family giving gifts you don't want?
How do you get others on board?
What do you do if you don't like the gifts given to your children?
It took a few tries, some awkward conversations and some bargaining but we have our families on board for the most part.
Everyone shows their love and gives gifts in their own way, and often we can feel we need to give gifts to show our love. We try our best to respect others wants and wishes, and never want them to feel bad about getting us or the girls gifts.
We have discussions throughout the year about not wanting to store more things, how much joy we get from a neat and tidy home, how we play with and teach the girls and how opened ended toys helps with this.
We recommend gifts when asked, because knowing what is going to work well in someone else's life is hard, and saying you don't want anything just makes it harder for someone that really wants to get you a gift. We love gifts of experiences and time with others such as days out and camping. If they would like to give an item we suggest a few things that we have been considering purchasing, consumables such as homemade cookies and craft supplies that get enjoyed but don’t stick around.
We have also come to the agreement that if they really want to get an item that does not work in our home they can have it in their home for the girls to enjoy when we visit. This is usually something like a doll (that we already have), dress ups that take up a lot of space and noisy toys that are good for a 2hr visit but not all day.
How many presents do you gift?
For each of the girls we used to keep it simple with 2-3 gifts but this year we have changed to buying 1 gift each from 4 categories:
Something you need, something you want, something to read and something to wear. We also do ‘something to share’ which is usually a family experience or something like a board game.
Dion and I haven’t done presents for each other since we got married (we instead write a card for birthdays and anniversaries). Christmas is a time that we spend together decorating and creating such as crafting and cooking. We will buy things for the household such as Christmas lights but not each other specifically.
How do you keep it minimal?
Being minimal isn’t something we do just around celebrations and gifts, it is something that we live by everyday. It is a set of values and considerations that we use before bringing anything into our lives.
We also regularly declutter throughout the year!
When do you buy bigger and more expensive things?
Do you give gifts outside of birthdays and christmas?
We don't limit our budget on Christmas presents instead we buy items that are needed that we would have bought anyway.
We buy bigger things for our family or the girls when they need them, if this aligns with Christmas or a birthday we will gift it then but don't usually wait.
Do you set a budget?
We don’t buy presents to a budget. It is of course one of the considerations, but it is not a defining factor. As with any other purchase it is a balance of how enjoyable or useful it is, how much space it will take up, how much it will take to maintain, how long it will last and how much it costs that will go into deciding whether or not to bring it into our lives.
I feel pressured to do Santa and lots of gifts?
We feel the pressure to give lots of presents as well (you’re not alone), everywhere is telling you to do this and even if it's not pressured just seeing other people do things a different way always makes you question what you're doing.
We have had a lot of conversations with others and a lot of maybe we should get more conversations between ourselves, but always go back to our family values and end up going against what a lot of other people think we should do.
Just because it's the ‘norm’ it doesn't mean you should feel bad about it. Do what makes sense for you and what brings your family happiness, and if this is lots of gifts that's ok too.
How do you respond if they wanted something but didn't get it?
This isn't something that has happened yet with gifts, I’m not saying it won't but this is something we will talk about with them when it happens.
They don’t get a lot of screen time (no screen time with advertising). We will watch Playschool on the ABC Kids app (3 times a week) so this helps with exposure to toys that don't fit our family values.
The no Santa thing also helps with expectations of what they will be getting on Christmas day, they aren't making a wish list and being on their best behaviour just to be disappointed when Santa doesn't get it for them.
We explain our reasoning for getting or not getting things with our girls constantly and try to involve them in these decisions as much as we can. They are young but already have a good idea of what makes sense in our household and we hope this helps them to make these decisions for themselves in the future.
They do not have the expectation that they will get something just because they really want it, we put a lot of consideration into the things we bring into our home and we want to teach them the same.
How do you deal with things that they have outgrown or are unwanted ?
We give a lot of things to people in our lives, being as careful as we can to make sure these are wanted and will bring them enjoyment too.
Outgrown clothes get passed down and then passed onto other families or the op shop, they also manage to destroy some in the life of discovery, messy eating and craft.
Our toys are mostly open ended, have been with us for a while and will stay with us even longer till they are passed down to their kids.
Our girls are usually quite good at parting ways with things, especially if outgrown or unwanted. Harder conversations are had when they want a thing that we don’t.
It may take a bit of convincing but we can usually come around to an agreement that that doesn't make sense to keep it any more, it doesn't fit or we don't have room to store it, it has not been used in a very long time, it wasn't as good of a purchase as we first thought and needs to go or be upgraded to a better one. As long as we can justify it to each other beyond ‘I don't like it’, or ‘I don't use it’ we are always surprised how understanding our girls can be even at age 2 and 4.
How do you wrap presents ?
We are quite fond of wrapping presents in silks or other cloth. This means we don't have a stash of gift wrapping supplies as we are making use of something that we already have and can use again and again.
If we are giving a gift to someone else we will either wrap it the same and take the cloth or silk back when opened at a party or if this is not possible we will get our girls to craft their own paper by covering it in stamps, drawings, scribbles, tape, paint and whatever else they find.
They never need much of an excuse to craft and it adds a personal touch.
Do the girls notice minimal approach ?
Do they compare with others ?
How do you explain why others get more ?
The girls are only young at the moment 2 and 4 so this has yet to come up in any real capacity. This is going to have to be something that we deal with as they grow.
We are hoping to deal with it in much the same way as we do “why don’t we have a TV”, which we explain as different people have different things and they have never really questioned that. This is also similar to when other children are at the park and they might not be wearing a hat and sometimes the girls question that asking why they have to and I say “that is not my child, our family wears a hat.” Dion and I also always model this too!
Comparison isn’t something that they have noticed too much either they get excited when they visit friends and family that have different toys and again that comes down to every family having different values and items, no two houses are the same!
How do you make sure they don't burst others' Santa bubble ?
How do you explain other experiences with Santa ?
Our girls are only quite young at the moment (2&4) and this hasn’t become too much of an issue yet.
We are always sure to not discount and say negative things about Santa, he is a character they enjoy seeing at Christmas! We also don't make a point of telling them straight out ‘Santa isn't real’ and to tell other kids that.
Our eldest (4yo) recently had Santa come to her daycare and we had a great conversation about what he did there and the present she got (a book), which she was very excited about. We also had a conversation with her asking if she knew who was dressed as Santa this time.
Her being gifted something from Santa is still fun for them and we aren’t going to take that away they just know the truth about where it came from.
My friend found a great book called ‘The (Wonderful) Truth about Santa’ and we have also been reading this. It talks about how Christmas begun, the history of St Nicholas and why people gift to their kids in different ways at Christmas time. This is one sentence I really love from the book but the whole book I recommend if you also tell the truth about Santa to your children.
“Every Christmas Eve, parents around the world are Santa Claus. They continue the work of Saint Nicholas, by leaving gifts for their sleeping children to open when they wake.”
Any lie that you tell your kids will most likely get found out at some point but we try to make sure the girls are respectful of how other families treat Santa. A lot of other families don’t celebrate Christmas at all be it for religious or other reasons and we think it’s important to have an overall discussion that other families do things differently for their own reasons and that’s okay.
As you probably know as soon as you tell children not to do something they do it, so we have actually never said specifically said not to tell other kids Santa is not real. They do understand that some children treat Santa differently and believe different things about Santa and that’s okay.
We believe that it is a discussion of being respectful of other people as a whole; the things they like, the way they choose to live, the things they eat or wear and Santa is just another one of these things.
What little things do you do to make it special, cheap and not wasteful ?
Our special things to do this time of year are always experiences and time together but our traditions would be:
- Christmas baking
- Christmas crafting for friends and family
- Giving to families in need
- Putting up decorations (bought and handmade)
- Going to look at Christmas lights
- Gatherings with families (direct and extended)
- Making wrapping paper in brown paper and wrapping our own presents in silks
A few new ones that have happened this year are making paper chains which the girls loved so we will probably continue this yearly!
We also took the girls shopping to pick gifts to give to children in need now that they are old enough to understand (past years we have bought and donated but not made a big thing of it with them.
Every year these traditions will grow and change with them as they get older and we love that!
How do you deal with individual toys / communal toys ?
Where are their personal belongings kept, in rooms ?
All our toys are communal and are kept in our playspace/living room and outside (mud kitchen, sandpit, pickler swings etc). Some of them we have enough for our girls to play with together such as connectix and board games, and some we have multiples of such as playdough (a few colours, 2 boards, 2 rollers and enough stamps etc to share)
The only things they have that are theirs are things like clothes and hats or things that aren’t really meant to be shared like water bottles or toothbrushes.
Our girls do have a few items in their room which we refer to as their rest time toys, this helps them entertain themselves at rest time if they are not ready for a sleep. These are rotated as all our other toys and can include things like calm down bottles, memory match games, busy books and dolls with an outfit or two.
They also have a set of books each in their rooms (around 6) that they will choose for a story before bed, and sometimes like to have a look through at rest time.
Our home has only bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, and we prefer to keep play and activities downstairs/outside to try and have a divide between rest time and play. This also allows them to retreat to their room and have some quiet time by themselves if they are getting overwhelmed without the other coming and disturbing them to play.