Three Gifts Tradition for Christmas


I wish I had started this post earlier, like before Thanksgiving, to be a guide for all of you for this year. Alas, December has run away from me! I’ve got more outside responsibilities on my plate this year so blogging has taken a backseat. Christmas is just days away! If any of you out there want some last-minute gift ideas, or haven’t done any shopping yet (yikes!) consider this “Three Gifts Tradition” Christmas gift guide for this year to fill in some holes. Otherwise, use it next year! I hope it helps someone for 2019.

This is how we handle Christmas gift giving to our children. We’ve done this for a decade at least, maybe two. It allows us to avoid overspending, aka debt, and too much stuff. It also keeps my children from not getting greedy at Christmas, knowing that they will be getting three gifts from their parents/Santa.

I follow the Three Gifts Tradition. Wise men gave the Christ Child three gifts, right? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts symbolize the three types of gift I give each child. If three gifts were good enough for the Christ Child, then that’s good enough for anyone. I learned about this tradition from my friend Kelli Poll a long time ago.

Gold is a fancy, fun gift. That’s because gold is fancy and glittery.

Frankincense and myrrh were both involved in spiritual rituals, but this blog here says that frankincense was used more for spiritual rituals. So the frankincense gift is a spiritual or meaningful gift. Something the child may not value now, but will value more as they get older and more mature. 

That same post says that myrrh was used for the body, I think for embalming after death. So the  myrrh gift is a practical gift, for the body.

So here are some examples of these three gifts in terms of children.

Gold: we are going for the “wow” factor here. These are gifts that represent the wonderful treasures of the world and the world’s craftsmen/toymakers/inventors, as well as the wonderful adventures that the world beckons us to take. Of course, the obvious choice is toys. I’m listing them in order of the ideal age of recipient, youngest to oldest. 

  • Duplos
  • Fisher Price Little People sets
  • Brio wooden railway set
  • Legos
  • other building sets, like Uberstix or K’nex
  • Dolls (flat-chested dolls only, please, as Miss Manners implores, such as baby dolls and American Girl-type dolls)
  • Doll accessories
  • Dollhouse and furniture
  • race cars and race car track
  • RC car
  • scooter
  • bicycle
  • board game (these are not your Grandma’s board games! A whole world of games is waiting to take you into marvelous hours of fun, learning, laughter and bonding!)
  • trampoline (for the whole family to share)
  • camera
  • sports equipment (Including ice skates, skis, and snowshoes for winter sports!)
  • art supplies
  • Klutz art/craft/hobby activity books for children
  • musical instrument
  • karaoke machine
  • drones
  • mp3 player
  • Kindle
  • laptop
  • wireless mouse
  • cell phone, if the child is 18 and about to go off to college
  • dog, cat, or other pet


Yeah, it’s really not hard to find a gift fitting this category. It’s usually what the child really wants and he/she lets you know. After children hit 14, that’s when I gift the electronics. You know you nailed the “wow” button of your child when the child unwraps the present and has a big smile or a an open mouth of  an “oooh!”  exclamation. Sometimes the child doesn’t know what a cool gift would be, and you have to go with your best guess. I’ve flopped plenty of times in this category, not getting a wow or ooh, but that’s OK. Christmas rolls around again and I get another chance to elicit a “wow!” the next year. It sure is a beautiful, parental nirvana-ish thing when it happens.  (Notice I didn’t list a Nintendo, Wii or any video games. I’m the mean mom who doesn’t buy gaming systems for her kids. Some of the older kids who have left the nest have actually thanked me for that.) Of course as they get older it tends to get more expensive to elicit the “wow.” Just in time for them to leave the nest, earn more money on their own, and appreciate the other side of the Santa role.


Frankincense: These represent the nobility and spirituality of living out our Hero’s Journey, or quest, and our spiritual connection to God and community. In other words, these are gifts to contribute to improving the child’s education and character. So they don’t seem as “fun” but they are definitely worthwhile.

  • scriptures
  • scripture stickers to mark the scriptures
  • photo books full of pictures of the child and family members and friends
  • Dave Ramsey Jr. products, like his Jr. Books and the Jr. cash envelopes
  • Dave Ramsey books for the older kiddos, when they are older teens and college age
  • classic books
  • desk and chair
  • classic books of heroes following a quest
  • blank journals, or books with journal-writing prompts
  • family history books
  • nonfiction books to guide the child’s quest
  • nightstand
  • lamp
  • book light for reading in bed or car

Myrrh: These are gifts to care for the body, to feel warm, snuggly and comfy in our bodies, as well as to help treat the body as a temple. They tend to be practical gifts but not necessarily. I’m all for glam gifts!

  • pajamas
  • nightgown
  • bathrobes
  • slippers
  • colorful, fluffy, soft bath towel
  • electronic toothbrush
  • pillow and fun, colorful pillowcase
  • colorful sheets and/or comforter, with a pattern especially appealing to the child
  • flannel sheets (especially for people like me who tend to be so cold in the winter)
  • silky soft blanket
  • weighted blanket to improve sleep
  • shoes
  • sleeping bag
  • boots
  • gloves
  • scarf
  • winter hat
  • dress shirt
  • necktie
  • dress
  • coat
  • cooking gear, appliances, or gadgets, such as the deep fat fryer my 15 year old got last year. He loved it!
  • jewelry
  • jewelry box
  • Curlformers
  • curling iron
  • straightening iron
  • razor


What about the stockings? True confession, I sometimes add a fourth gift into their stocking. That’s because I don’t like stuffing stockings with pure sugar (candy) and small, junky trinkets that will end up in a corner of a bedroom or under a bed, casually tossed aside and long-forgotten, like some Toy Story misfit. I add nuts so the edible part is savory and not just sweet. Also an orange for the toe. This fourth gift is usually something non-edible that is educational, like a Jim Weiss story on CD, a DVD of a classic movie, book darts, a set of Brain Quest cards or some other card game or small puzzle. Sometimes I make the candy when I have time because I tend to be a purist and cringe at food dyes and corn syrup-y products. But sometimes I don’t have time so I just buy regular sugary-candy, close my eyes, and hope for the best, LOL.

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So that’s it! They also get a present from each set of grandparents, a gift from siblings, and sometimes from cousins too or church leaders or friends. So that’s plenty of gifts! It’s great to remind ourselves that whatever material item we didn’t get, we can work to earn it in the New Year and give the coveted object to ourselves. Thank goodness Christmas Day is not the only day we can receive things! I hope my children carry this tradition on in their families. It has served me well as a guide to gifting for many years. We’ve had some years where we’ve had a lot more money than others. In the lean years I’ve been grateful we didn’t create extravagant Christmases in the rich years, so that we’ve been able to sustain the pace of gift-giving in the dry times. We haven’t disappointed in lean years because there wasn’t a huge, high bar set of lavish gifts in the years of plenty.

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Merry Christmas one and all!

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3 Responses to Three Gifts Tradition for Christmas

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