Note: we celebrate Winter Solstice and we give gifts using the term “Christmas,” but this is a framework for any holiday celebration, or even birthdays.

We realized something on Little Ray’s earlier Christmas Days: not much care was given to the pile of presents we had carefully selected. Being with family and playing with the packaging were way more fun. We were telling Ray that this stuff was essential, when it wasn’t. We were telling ourselves we had to spend a ton of money.

We were teaching Little Ray how to own stuff, instead of enjoy the holiday.

Christmas for me, or any end of the year holiday, is a time to honor giving in all forms. We honor giving our presence and gifts to friends and family. We honor how we can give to the wider world, and those whose holidays may not be so happy.

I love being the person who puts it all together and makes the magic happen.

It’s totally possible to have a minimal Christmas without being Grinchy. For Little Ray’s gifts, we did a lot of searching for ideas, and this is her yearly list we came up with:

1. Something educational

2. Something enlightening

3. Something to wear

4. Something to read

5. Santa

These can be experiences or anything that encourages open-ended creative play. I’m not especially crafty, but these can be handmade as well. We don’t like to allow plastic items that don’t really have a purpose other than to take up space, or that encourage kids to buy more plastic items.

Yes, the Santa gift is one gift. This is because we like to honor the story of a kindly man who wants to make sure all children have toys, not the “act a certain way and you’ll get presents, and he’s watching you.” We don’t think this is a good message to send to children, and honestly it’s creepy!

Clearly and respectfully communicating our wishes to family is also essential. Between the small space and being intentional about what we bring into the house, Little Ray made a list of one realistic item for each person who would like to give her a gift this year. We also have a few open-ended items such as art supplies and Legos.

Mr. Pickleman and I usually do something that we want or need for the household, and let Little Ray have a hand in selecting or making gifts. He likes to make a nice Christmas dinner. We also choose a family giving project, no matter how small. Little Ray has delighted in helping animals or other children at Christmas.

In this way we aren’t inundated with stuff, we don’t break our budget, and our holidays aren’t stressful. Bonus: our holiday already fits into a tiny house on wheels.

We keep the spirit of giving and gratitude alive. Happy Holidays!