Every year people ask my kids if they're ready for Santa to come. And every year the kids tell them they don't believe in Santa, but that they receive three gifts in honor of Jesus' birthday. Then the shocked parents/grandparents look to me and ask "HOW can you manage ONLY giving them three gifts?"
We started this tradition out of necessity the year my son was one. We were finally living in our own home, and had no money for Christmas. We talked it over one night, and decided that if we were celebrating Jesus' birthday and HE only received 3 gifts… well then, that was a good number for us as well. We had been given a check to cover a dinner out, and decided that we would spend it on a few small things for our son instead. I remember well the gifts we got him that year. There were two new board books, a soft-stuffed doll that he'd been eyeing in the store for about a month, and a huge mylar balloon that we stuffed into a box so it would pop out when he opened it. We spent about $20 on gifts for him, and he was the happiest baby ever. Since that first year, we have kept the tradition of 3 gifts with our kids. Even on their birthdays, the kids know that they will receive exactly three gifts from us.
Every once in awhile, I wonder if my children will grow up to resent this. But this year they showed me how needless that worry has been. While shopping for groceries a week ago, the cashier asked my son if there were mountains of presents under the tree for him yet. He thought about it for a moment, then calmly said, "Jesus received three gifts. Why should I get more than Him?" And at church on Christmas Eve, someone asked my daughter if she would be leaving cookies for Santa. She laughed, and said, "Oh I don't believe in Santa… we believe in celebrating Jesus' birthday, so I will be helping to bake Him a birthday cake instead."
As a parent I often question myself and how I choose to raise my children. But at least in this one small tradition I feel as if I am really on the right track. I have never had to deal with a post-holiday tantrum because they felt they didn't get "enough," and from their own mouths I now know that what I'd hoped they would learn is truly a part of them. I can't think of a better gift from my children.