Ok so we don't celebrate Christmas. We don't really do birthdays either, aside from a yummy meal and treat, chosen by the birthday person. But we do celebrate Eid and we, as a family, have chosen to give gifts on that day. Gifts for everyone including the adults in the family. So it really is a celebration and an exciting day for the kids.
Each year it seems that the wish lists of the kids are becoming more and more technological in nature which means it's also really expensive. Also I think a lot of thought needs to go into buying gifts for anyone so that they actually use and appreciate it. There's also the issue of me not wanting the kids to feel entitled, I want them to realise that not everyone has the luxury of receiving gifts and wearing brand new clothes each special occasion. So how do we balance this without giving a sermon and without denying anyone the surprise of a gift? Well we've come up with a few ideas and have come across a few of them from friends (we haven't the discipline to do all of these but the intention is there):
1. Earning the gifts: So you want a PS4? Sure, no problem. The deal is that each child needs to fulfil certain duties around the house. Simple things like making their beds NEATLY, cleaning their rooms, being nice to each other. They then earn rewards in terms of some cash. This cash they can choose to save and contribute towards this gift that they so badly NEED. This also means that the novelty of the gift takes longer to wear off as they've had to work for it.
2. Giving to the less fortunate: Each year we take our kids together with other families to areas where people are disadvantaged. We spend a day packing hampers for families and the next day giving them out. I like to make a point of including them in the packing and the giving so that they interact with people who honestly, have almost nothing. It's easy to just give someone a hamper, but to talk to them and engage makes it more meaningful. This (hopefully) makes them aware of how lucky they are to have everything they need so readily.
3. Giving of their own: Linked to point 1, if they choose not to use the cash then they need to use some of it to buy goodies for kids such as sweets or toys or stationery and this we also distribute to an organisation or to the kids of the families we give hampers to. Or if we're getting a new toy, we choose an old one that we can give away.
4. Adult donation cards: Sometimes we find ourselves saying "what do I buy my brother now? He has everything already." Well, always a great idea is to donate an amount to a charity of your choice (or theirs) and simply print out a card or letter stating the details of the donation made. This is definitely a gift that keeps on giving, way after people have left us as well.
5. Handmade gifts: Always a winner. This one kills 2 birds with 1 stone. Spending time with the kids making cards or little gifts means it's some quality time with them and the receiver has something special because most times, my kids like to draw something the person would like. E.g. a supercar or a bird or fisherman, fishing. (PS they never seem to know what I like... strange)
6. Gifts for friends: So naturally we'd like to give everyone we know gifts and that's not entirely possible. So for a few friends or acquaintances, work colleagues and neighbours, we buy some really good chocolate or bake some biscuits and package them in pretty containers, tied with a little note. Small gesture but means something.
7. The gift of experience: A present may be forgotten or the use of it short-lived compared to if you give someone a gift of an experience. Thinking about what someone loves (like fishing... eyes rolling...), and making a gift of that is a great way to be thoughtful and sure that that gift is well appreciated.
Now that I think about it, one of the most valuable things today is time. Giving of your time in simple ways can be so rewarding. Time with aging parents, time with the disadvantaged, volunteering to read to little kids, time with the family.
While we may not always be implementing these fully, the general idea is that as much as we love to receive gifts, the pleasure and joy is more in the giving of gifts. It's priceless and heart-warming to watch a person receive anything that is of value to them.