Last summer my family had the honor of being featured in the Irish Examiner’s Parents for the Planet series. We were interviewed about our lifestyle, and while there are a few mistakes, the main point is that we are committed to caring for the environment. (For instance, I was not a mother when I first moved to Ireland. I met my husband here and we moved to America before our oldest son was born). If you’re interested in reading about how my family is trying to live a more sustainable life, click here.

Living simply comes more naturally to my partner because of his upbringing. I, on the other hand, struggle with my desire to consume. Truth be told, I love to shop! I also care about the environment so shopping is never guilt free anymore. I do try to buy from ethical sources, limit consumption, and choose quality products rather than cheap synthetic clothes or plastic toys. I also attend clothes swaps with my friends and sometimes buy second hand items. I’m far from perfect, but I’m at least trying to reduce my carbon footprint.

This time of year presents extra challenges for the environmentally aware. (And let’s face it, more and more people are starting to care because of increasing headlines about the climate crisis). I happen to love Christmas and giving gifts. However, my perspective changed once I discovered The Story of Stuff a number of years ago. It’s pretty depressing. I urge you to visit their website because WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE for future generations! (Sorry for shouting). Reality is hard to look at sometimes, but knowing the facts and becoming aware is the first step. With the right attitude it’s possible to change habits and form new, healthier ones.

What can we do to save the spirit of Christmas while also acknowledging that consumerism is destroying the planet?

I’ve been pondering this question for some time. Then the Almighty Internet graced me with a wonderful post while I scrolled through my newsfeed. It’s entitled 4 Gifts for Christmas : How to Make Your Family Happy With Less. Pop over to Happy You, Happy Family to read the post in its entirety. It’s awesome! Plus Kelly provides a free checklist you can download and print for each family member. She also gives a comprehensive list of gift ideas for children and tackles questions about Christmas stockings.

It seems I’ve stumbled upon the answer… but will I be brave enough to do it? I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain. It’s simple and self-explanatory: you only give your child 4 gifts, one from each category. This guideline is supposed to help everyone focus on what really matters during the holidays.

Not just a catchy little rhyme, the 4-gift rule for Christmas promises to help keep your holiday season from devolving into a materialistic frenzy of more, more, more and helps you stick to a reasonable budget.

But more important than that, many parents report that giving just four gifts for Christmas can help you raise kids who appreciate what they have instead of following in Dudley Dursley’s footsteps and throwing a temper tantrum when they end up with 36 presents instead of last year’s 37. – Kelly (author of Happy Family, Happy You)

Four Gifts for Christmas
  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something you wear
  • Something you read

That’s it! Cut down on the clutter, expense, and waste by giving thoughtfully rather than excessively. You can adapt this principle to suit your family of course. While it would be easy to implement this for my toddler at his young age, my teenagers will likely freak out when I suggest this concept. I do not spoil my children with stuff year round and tend to limit spending to Christmas and birthdays as much as possible. Therefore they look forward to the plethora of gifts in December. In recent years, however, I’ve tried to focus more on stuff they need (new pajamas, high quality/ natural toiletries etc.) as well as experiences like tickets to the theater or ballet. This year I’m also knitting them each a hat because I think handmade gifts are the best!

What do you think about giving only 4 gifts? In the age of social media it can be difficult when kids post photos of all of their presents. My daughter in particular has a tendency to compare what she has with what her wealthier friends are given. At 15 and 17 I’m hoping my teenagers will understand why I’m suggesting the 4 gift rule this year. I’ll probably expand it to 5 gifts at our house since I’d like to include Something You Experience. I’ve already bought their books, but I’m hoping they’ll think long and hard before they fill out their wish list. Actually, I think I’ll only ask them to choose one thing- Something You Want- so the other items can be surprises.

Do you think this guideline would work at your house? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll admit to feeling nervous about starting this practice. I don’t want to ruin our favorite holiday. Maybe the opposite will occur and by simplifying we will have an even better Christmas!

6 thoughts on “Saving the Spirit of Christmas: Less Is More

  1. I love this idea! It is important for us to remember that we don’t need a lot to celebrate. At the same time, we can save the planet by consuming less and this includes during the holidays. This won’t take away from the experience either. I love the ideas for gifts. Something that we actually need and will use. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I’m glad you like the idea! My teenagers had mixed reactions. My son only wants one big present. My daughter was unhappy with the suggestion, but she might come around. I’m hoping we’ll make good memories instead of focusing so much on stuff this year.


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