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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Scott

We Flipped Christmas Upside-Down

How we are emphasizing memories over gifts


Christmas is in a week and I haven’t bought a single gift.

Christmas has always been a stressful time of year for me. I would save all year long and start shopping months in advance. I would try to be mindful of the things our boys were interested in. I wanted to make sure they each felt spoiled on Christmas morning. I would stress and stress about the gifts I bought, fearing that the boys wouldn’t like them or there wouldn’t be enough.


I know this stress comes from my childhood. We were a military family and we were damn proud of it. My parents didn’t have much money. But every year they made me and my three sisters feel like we were the richest and most special girls on the planet. I want this for my children as well...who wouldn’t?


Every year my husband and I would argue about how much money was spent and how many gifts the kids we’re given. I was so wrapped up in the consumer aspect of the holiday I didn’t pay much attention to quality family time. A few years ago I start paying attention to what the kids actually played with and enjoyed after the excitement of Christmas morning had worn off. Some of the toys were cheap and broke the same day. Others were played with for a few days and then forgotten about. The final straw for me was finding a box, months later, under the bed of one of my sons with almost every single gift from Christmas untouched.

I was done!

I was no longer going to stress about buying endless amounts of things just so my kids were happy for the 37 minutes it took to unwrap everything on Christmas morning.

We started brainstorming other options besides gift giving.

We knew traveling was something all of us loved to do. When we started doing the math my husband I realized it would cost about the same amount of money to take a mini vacation as it did to buy a bunch of random gifts. But what would the kids think? Again, my stress soared. Would the boys be excited to exchange opening gifts for spending Christmas on the beach? Would I be depriving my kids of Christmas if they weren’t showered with gifts? What would other people think if they found out my kids didn’t open presents Christmas morning like most kids?

In reality, how many of us actually remember all the gifts we opened Christmas morning when we were kids? I know I don’t. What we remember is the anticipation and build up to Christmas morning. A day to slow down and spend time together as a family. A time to express love and gratitude. Those are the things we want to emphasize to our boys.

The more we talked about things the more it made sense for our family to get away for Christmas. We explained things to the kids and how it would work. They were excited to spend a few days at the beach hanging out with the family. As expected, there were a few concerns about gifts.

During our Christmas vacations we make it a point to put away electronics and really be in the moment. We play board games, walk along the boardwalk, and take lots of pictures. Our goal is to create lasting memories for our children. Memories that last longer than 37 minutes.

Just to be clear, they do still receive gifts. It’s nothing like years past though. Maybe one or two gifts on Christmas morning

We spend time together talking about what the boys want to add to their Christmas wish list. We try to decide if what they are asking for is really worth it and if it's something they will use for more than a few days. As a result the items on their wish list have more meaning.

Our way of celebrating Christmas is by no means perfect

Our way of celebrating Christmas is by no means perfect or what everyone should do. We are still relatively new to this idea and things change each year.

Now I’d love to hear from you!! What kind of memories are you making with your family? What are your holiday traditions?

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