This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.
Becky’s and my childhood Christmases were one-day affairs – we’d sit down with our immediate families on the morning of December 25, and open our presents as a group. But since there are two sets of extended families that are reasonably local, it would be pretty hard to fit in yet another paper-tearing extravaganza. Instead, we decided a few years ago to do our gift-giving over the 12 days leading up to that day, with a deliberate ritual: we take turns opening a gift, and everyone gets to ooh and aah and appreciate the receiver’s excitement and happiness.
We’ve found a few benefits from this strategy. Firstly, the kids don’t get overwhelmed with a bunch of stuff they don’t have time to play with. In previous years, they’d open 12 new toys all in a row, and not have a chance to really look at any one of them. This way they get an entire day to enjoy each thing, and still have energy left for all the other stuff that happens that day.
Which leads to our second benefit: gift-opening becomes a shared experience. Not only do Will and Lucy heartily enjoy opening their own gifts, they also get to share in the joy when someone else opens something they’re excited about. Case in point: every single time Becky opens a new cookbook, we all gather around as a family and flip through it, reading the titles aloud with excitement.
“I’m just as excited to watch you guys open your gifts as I am to open mine!” — Will
The third benefit we’ve seen is that of quantity. You remember that feeling you had going to bed Christmas eve when you were 9? We get that 12 days in a row.
But enough of the sales pitch. Here’s what we did this year:
Becky opened a happy orange coffee machine. Each kid got new PJs. And Ben got a shipment of new clothes from Trunk Club, which will make him way more dapper.
Ben got a typographical map of Portland neighborhoods. Becky got a Goldilocks dutch oven (our others are usually too big or too small). And each kid got a new watch that helps them learn to tell time better.
New Christmas ornaments for the kids, commemorating their participation this year in Trackers Earth, and new bikes for the grownups! (We’ll go shopping for them in early 2015.)
New cooking tools for Becky, to replace some of the old-and-busted ones currently inhabiting our kitchen. Show tickets for Ben. And MP3 players for the kids, so they can listen to music in their rooms!
A new and delicious coffee-brewing method for Ben (which Becky has also benefited from). A travel book for Becky. Reading journals for the kids, and we picked them up early from school and went to Powell’s City of Books, which is the second happiest place on earth for them.
New hiking/activity backpacks for the kids, which will come in handy for their next Trackers day. A small hiking vest for Becky, and new everyday shoes for Ben (which he is wearing as he types this).
Arts and crafts for the kids! A beading loom, decorative scissors, and a massive collection of glue-able bits and bobs for Lucy. A serious graphite and charcoal set and two idea books for Will. A really nice tech shirt for Ben. And two cookbooks for Becky, thoughtfully chosen by the kids.
Becky got a Versalette, which apparently is at least three dozen garments packed into one piece of fabric. Will opened a huge Hot Wheels track set with loops, boulders, and turbo boosters. Lucy got some LEGO Friends kits to extend her collection. (It should be noted that the kids very thoughtfully chose the gifts for each other today, and did a great job of choosing something the other would like.) And Ben received a new set of lenses that magnetically attach to his phone!
Ben got the definitive guide to preparing and cooking meats. Becky got a three-tiered salt cellar (which will hold about a third of the salts she keeps on hand). And the kids opened some new board games for us to enjoy as a family!
This one is for the entire family, and was a gift from Ben’s mother. It’s a day at the Wings and Waves waterpark! The kids have become strong enough swimmers that we can finally take them to awesome things like this. There’s a 747 parked on top of the building, and the top of the tallest waterslide is inside it!!
The 12th day is the only day that has a theme every year: adventures! For the kids this usually includes at least a half-day of being an “only” child, where they go do something with the parents but not their sibling.
Lucy: a trip to Oaks Amusement Park!
Will: a visit to the Vintage Racing Festival at PIR!
Ben: a trip to Mexico, starting on December 27!
Becky: snorkeling with whale sharks and sea lions while in Mexico!
Needless to say, we’re all very excited.
In the end, this may or may not be more work than just one day of gifts. But every year it becomes more clear how much our family is getting from this way of doing it. Happy holidays, everyone.