The 3-Gift Christmas Rule

xmas gift rules

Children can be astute in many ways and less in others. Younger children notice when their siblings get more presents than they do but they don’t realize that it is often because their gift was more expensive than their siblings’ were. All they see is that Johnny and Jenny got 3 gifts while Tommy only got one, and to a young child that just doesn’t seem fair. Enter the 3-gift rule.

For parents of young children, every year they face the decision as to whether they are going to give each of their children 3 gifts or whether they will put a specific monetary value on the gifts they give each child regardless of the actual number of items.

There is a reason the 3-gift rule came into existence and it has nothing to do with monetary value or trying to ensure that each child is treated equally. The 3-gift rule is actually symbolic of the Three Wise Men who traveled with gifts for the newborn baby Jesus, though using it to keep holiday spending in check is a good reason to implement the rule today.

For children who are easily pleased getting 3 gifts for Christmas is more than enough. For others who judge how lucky they are by the number of presents they get 3 may fall short of the mark. At the end of the day how many gifts a child gets is up to the parents. Sometimes parents fall into the trap of thinking that the more gifts a child is given the more they perceive themselves to be loved.

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There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to implementing the 3-gift rule. If you have raised your children to believe in the Bible they are likely to know about the symbolism of the Three Wise Men and will completely understand and expect to only receive 3 gifts. For others who do not know about the story of Jesus’ birth and how the Three Wise Man came bearing gifts, Christmas time is a great opportunity for parents to tell their children about the 3-gift rule and its origins.

Just as with the original gifts offered to the baby Jesus the giving of 3 gifts today can follow a tradition. The Three Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each today symbolizes something special.

  • Gold represents something of great value. While this may immediately bring to mind something that is expensive it doesn’t necessarily have to be something of great monetary value. It can be something that your child would consider to be precious, and special in some way.

  • Frankincense represents spirituality. For this gift you could choose something that reflects your children’s religious faith. Young children may like to listen to Bible stories or color in coloring books that depict pictures from the Bible.

  • Myrrh represents the body or healing. This can be clothing items, hair accessories for little girls, a special pair of themed pajamas for a little boy, or simply socks and underwear that young children always need.

For parents who have chosen to implement the Christmas rule the question that then must be addressed is whether they buy their children 3 gifts of equal value or 3 gifts regardless of cost. While parents can easily buy 3 gifts regardless of value when their children are young it will be more difficult for older children to reconcile themselves to the fact that their siblings may have gotten more expensive gifts.

This rule is great for those who have budget constraints, and will help immensely to avoid over-spending and/or running up credit card debt that cannot be easily paid back in the New Year. By having a set amount allocated for each child the only challenge then is to get as close to that amount when all 3 gifts have been purchased. Planning ahead of time can alleviate some of the challenges.

Sitting down and coming up with at least 4 or 5 gift ideas for each child may make adhering to a budget a little easier. Unless you have a fairly accurate idea of how much items is going to cost you some research will be required to either find the items at prices that allow you to not go over your pre-determined upper limit or to make alternative choices so you can stay within budget. Make this a fun challenge rather than a chore.

At the end of the day children love to open gifts, whether it is 3 or thirty-three. Unwrapping each lovingly wrapped package to discover the exciting contents inside is almost as much fun as getting to enjoy the gifts carefully chosen by their parents with much love and dedication to their child’s happiness and well-being as they can possibly put into each one. Remember that the number of gifts does not accurately reflect the amount of love each child is given.