De-emphasizing Commercialism

Some families choose to avoid, limit, or re-package the tradition of gift giving on Christmas morning. The James' family chooses not to buy many gifts for each other, or sometimes none at all. "We want the focus to be on giving and what Christ has done," said mom, Pamela, "not on the presents."

Vasthi's family limits the gifts. "We're very blessed so we have to avoid the temptation to over-give to our children. They each get three gifts because that is what Jesus received from the Magi."

Another family chooses not to give each other gifts at all on Christmas day, but later during the Christmas vacation has a treasure hunt. The mom writes riddles telling the children where the gifts are hidden and who they are for. The riddle might lead the children to a big box full of new socks for everyone or to a specific present for one of the children. A gift the whole family can enjoy together, like a game, snack, or craft is found at the end and shared.

Cynthia Ruchti's family does do the traditional gift exchange, but has added a special tradition to help them not only to focus on giving instead of receiving, but also to remember her dad, who modeled this behavior for them. Each Christmas season the family sets up what they call the Richard H. Johnson memorial fund. Everyone contributes, even the littlest grandkids, and then the family donates to a charitable organization. "We lost my dad, a godly man in 1993," said Cynthia. "We all miss him terribly, but the tradition has brought such joy and rekindles thoughts of him in the middle of our Christmas gathering. Our favorite gift year was when we located the orphanage in Korea where he visited as a young marine and distributed gifts and candy to the orphans."

The family contribution was sent to the orphanage, which now specializes in handicapped children and adults. "It was an amazing search to find the place. All we had was a handful of old photos and a little embroidered apron with the words 'Nam Buk Orphanage,'" said Cynthia. "but the effort was well worth it."


A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at You can contact Paula at