The gift of giving
Teach your children the pleasure of giving, and avoid an embarrassing abundance, says this mom of two.
Christmas in the family in which I grew up was, for us 4 kids, a time of excess. On Christmas morning, we’d run excitedly down to the living room (at the crack of dawn, of course) to open our presents, of which there was always an embarrassing abundance.

My parents weren’t wealthy, but they must have saved assiduously for this annual blowout, because aside from one big ‘family’ present (usually a game of some sort), we’d each get the big-ticket gift we’d asked for from Father Christmas: a bicycle, a watch, a mini music system.

We’d also each have a stocking stuffed with sweets and trinkets and little treasures, and we always got a new set of clothes, a book and a record (which is how music came in those days).

My sisters have continued this tradition with their kids, but for various reasons I haven’t. The main one is, of course, financial; but even if I had the earning capacity to save for this kind of shopping spree, I wouldn’t. I much prefer the idea of Christmas as a time of giving to people in need.

Another reason is that my best friend for all the years I was growing up came from a family of four kids (like us then) but was being raised by a single parent (like me now). In marked contrast to our festive profusion, my friend received one modest but carefully chosen and beautifully wrapped gift from her mother. It was a yearly reminder for me how incredibly spoiled I was over Christmas.

Giving to a cause

Interestingly, because my children have grown up without the tradition of a sumptuous supply of personal Christmas presents, they’re very keen on the idea of putting their name to a cause for Christmas.

So, for the past few years, I’ve ‘bought’ them each a present at Gifts4Good. I’ve done the same for those members of my extended family who’ve given me the go-ahead – because some do still prefer personal presents.

But even if you don’t go the charity route, there are other ways to teach your kids less-than-conspicuous consumption around the festive season. For many years, when my kids were younger, we made only homemade gifts, which cost little and were fun family projects – we baked biscuits or fudge, painted lightbulbs, planted herbs in pots…

Of course, everyone loves getting gifts that have been chosen for them and them alone. And most people love giving these, too. That’s why we have birthdays.

Read more by Tracey Hawthorne

What’s your family’s gift policy for special occasions?

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