Christmas? It’s not a contest.

Can I be honest with you? As I write this post, I don’t actually know how many gifts we bought for each of our three children. Plenty– I can tell you that much. I can also tell you that they range from clothes to books to toys to art supplies to learning materials. The gamut, one might say. I can also tell you that the gifts they’ll likely be most excited about are the $5 Dollar Tree gift cards we picked up for each of them.


I would categorize our Christmases as, I don’t know, moderate? If we really need to categorize, that is. (I’m not sure it’s necessary, really.)


Within a day, I heard, “we can’t possibly travel anywhere because our son’s gifts would never fit in the car!” and “our children each get three gifts… because, you know, if it was good enough for Jesus and all…”


Blech. All of it. Just… blech.


What I really want to say? Is just this…


It’s not a contest.


Not a contest to see who has the most. And, also? Not a contest to see who can get by with the least. And, to those like me, not a contest to see who can be the most “moderate” and “balanced”, either.


That whole “three gift” thing? That’s great and I’ll never argue that three’s not sufficient. But, honestly, Jesus received ONE gift from each king, not three from his parents. Also? He was given myrrh. That’s kind of the equivalent of giving someone embalming fluid these days. Really? Are we really trying to replicate this in any way?


I feel like Jessie and I are having a conversation through writing. This shouldn’t surprise me. We’re both civil thinkers who, I believe, work out our thoughts through the written word.


She posted this.


In a true (I swear to you) coincidence, I posted this shortly after she had published it:


She saw it. (She had to see it. I simply can’t believe it was anyone else’s words that caused this misunderstanding– that’s just something I would do, unfortunately. She hasn’t confirmed or denied it at this point, so let’s just assume I’m at the root of all this mess, shall we? :) )


And she wrote this: A Self-Righteous Christmas. It’s a superb– and honest– post. You should read it if you haven’t already.


Though Jessie and I do our Christmases differently from one another, I think our hearts are in the right places. Do I think either of us “has it down”, got it perfect, or is acting in a way more pleasing to God?


Not really.


And I think that’s kind of the point of it all. In this case? Intention and motivation count for at least as much as your gift-giving practices and philosophies.


::The family buying fifty gifts for their son? . . . May also have supplied gifts to dozens of children in need.


::The family “denying their children the magic of Santa”? . . . May be incorporating wonder and magic in a multitude of ways throughout their lives.


::The family with a small artificial tree? . . . Might rather spend their time and resources on adding sparkle and light to the lives of others rather than an evergreen.


::The family with a huge, fresh-picked tree? . . . Might have opted to help another family by supporting a local farm that was selling trees.


… and on and on.


It is not a contest. There is no holy hierarchy. You don’t get bonus points for preferring “Oh Holy Night” to “Let it Snow”.  ;)


I write this for myself, as much as anyone. My struggle with judgment is well-documented in the archives of this-here blog. I’ve grown… a lot. But it’s still there.


I feel superior to my sister-in-law because I don’t go into debt over Christmas.


I think we stretch a dollar better than our neighbors.


I feel pride that we contribute to a number of charities and organizations every single year around this time.



It’s ugly. It’s an ugly side of me that I don’t like to acknowledge. But it’s there. And, realistically, I think most of us have “that” side. Whether it’s because we eat healthier food or are better stewards of finances or work harder or WHATEVER.


But, for heaven’s sake, this is CHRISTMAS we’re talking about.


It’s not a contest.

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7 comments to Christmas? It’s not a contest.

  • Yes, that is the Tweet that got me thinking. No, I didn’t really think you were attacking me. It just made me feel convicted! Thanks for sharing this.

    • I’m so relieved to read that you didn’t feel that I was attacking you. I loved reading all of your thoughts– I love that you THINK about it! Sometimes, I think that might be the most important part, if that makes sense.

  • Susan

    I grew up in a house with 4 children. My parents would come up with an amount of money that they would spend on each child (say..$50 per child). Each child would have a different amount of gifts depending on the price of each gift. Even more weird, if there was any money left over, my parents would give us the “change.” I don’t think I would recommend this method.

  • ooo you rabble rouser!!! Ha ha!! We did Santa growing up in both our families to excess (only children, 2 working parents). We have had some excessive Christmases as parents too. I did change my Santa tune though when you blogged about how off balance it would seem to small kids that Santa visits the kids with so much and ignores the poor kids. SO When Reese sat on Santa’s lap and asked for a silver crayon one year, Santa brought him the 150 crayola pack and a coloring book. This year we’re expecting a baby of a different gender and so I’m thinking wow we have too many toys. Where will the girl toys go??? We need to have a super minimal Christmas. I can’t even come up with enough ideas for the grandparents!!

    • Stirrin’ the pot… it’s what I do. ;) I LOVE the story of Reese asking for a silver crayon. That’s all kinds of awesome. (And… shhh… I’m about to let you in on a crazy secret: girls happily play with boy toys. And vice versa. It’s mostly a marketing scam and social conditioning that makes us believe otherwise. ;) But, oh yes, pink and lavender stuff will have to have its place! #fun!!!)

  • Sonja

    On the girls play with boys stuff….my 2yo daughter & I were walking the aisles at Walmart. All these pretty girlie toys everywhere and she’s asking “can I get a truck, momma?” She has a ton of girlie toys, but happily ignores them, goes to her brothers’ room & gets their toys. But then, they play for hours together with her toys when they get home from school. It’s all good. I love having kids that play together!
    Oh, and I love your blog!

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