Seven or eight years ago, I was talking to a friend about Christmas traditions. We weren't close friends yet--she had only moved in a few months before, but we were on our way. She said something that shocked me. She told me that in their family, each person only got 3 gifts, since the original tradition of gift giving came from the three gifts that the wise men brought.
At first, the idea seemed terrible to me. I couldn't believe they would deprive their children like that. I love gift giving, and finding the perfect gift for each person. I love the piles of gifts under the tree, growing day by day throughout the Christmas Season.
However, I pondered on the idea for several years, and I came to see many advantages. We implemented it as a family about 3 years ago, and I am a firm convert now!
I realized that since SmallDaughter believes that all wrapped gifts are for her, nothing gets put out until Christmas Eve, anyway. Also, with 5 people and the WonderDog (yes, he gets gifts too--he's getting a brand new collar this year--shhh! Don't tell!) we have 18+ gifts under the tree. And there are always other gifts from other people, so it is still a nice sized pile.
Far from of depriving our children, it has forced us to focus on the things that are really important to each of them, and it has actually enriched them. Instead of getting more "stuff", just to have more, we have focused on quality instead of quantity.
It has reduced greed, materialism and the "gimme-gimme's" (not just in the children, either!). It is much easier to plan now, too! Before, there was always the panicked realization that one child was getting WAY more (or WAY less!) than the others. Not an issue anymore.
Since we have had a tradition that one gift (for every gift giving occasion, not just Christmas) is a book, and since I love for another to be something that encourages their creativity, shopping is a breeze! It makes budgeting and staying in the budget much simpler--if we can afford a big gift--great! And if we can't--I can spend my time and energy getting something that costs less and means more.
To make my life easier, in November we start Wish Lists. We have three categories, and each person can put down 4 items in each category. The first is "If Money Were No Object"--this tends to be electronics, but isn't always. (I believe this the first year that a chocolate lab puppy hasn't made it onto BigGirl's list!) The second category is "Under $20", and the third is "Books I Want". That gives a nice range of ideas for parents, siblings and anyone else who needs to know!
We don't even really have Santa at our house anymore, since BigGirl and LargeBoy are too big, and SmallDaughter doesn't understand/care.
On Christmas morning, we unwrap the gifts one at a time, so everyone can appreciate each present and it is wonderful! I am very grateful for a stray comment from a friend that has given us a a tradition that has deepened the meaning of Christmas and reduced stress at the same time.