This is our third Christmas together, and more than anything, I’m glad we decided on our Christmas traditions early. Most parts of the season are transitory: some years we may not go to see lights, or drink hot cocoa, or read the same Christmas stories; but the true traditions are the core parts of the holiday that happen every year without fail.
Ours are incredibly simple: put up the tree, make sure the house is full of music, and write in the Christmas journal. But one of the most important is our tradition of gift-giving.
It seems most people base their gift-giving from year to year on how much money they get to spend: good years find piles and piles of presents beneath the tree, and bad years come with guilt and a small pile of gifts that perhaps they couldn’t afford. We didn’t want to feel that our ability to give gifts was contingent upon a large bank account, so we decided to become purposeful about our tradition of gift-giving.
I wanted our Christmases to focus on Christ, not consumerism. I started to think about the gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and what those gifts symbolized. Then, once I learned what they meant, I came up with a way to use those symbols for our own gifts.
In our home, everyone gets three gifts—no more, no less— and those gifts represent the three gifts of the wise men.
Gold was a common gift given to Kings during the time of Christ. It represented the wise men’s understanding that Jesus was the King of Kings. We give a material gift to represent gold.
Frankincense was commonly used in religious rites. It had a great spiritual symbolism, and showed that the wise men knew that Christ was the highest priest that would ever be born. We give a spiritual gift to represent frankincense.
Myrrh was, by far, the most interesting gift given to Christ by the wise men. Myrrh was used in embalming and burial rites; it was commonly associated with death and suffering. This gift represented the wise men’s understanding of Jesus’ role as the Savior who would suffer death and pain on behalf of everyone who would ever live. Because of its prominence in burial rites, we give an experience, a memory that the receiver will be able to take with them in the next life, to represent myrrh.
I know many people have this tradition and there are a few different interpretations. Ours works for us. If you like this idea, I would encourage you to adopt it, but change it to your family’s needs. Traditions are meant to be fun, meaningful ways to come together and share the season together.
We are wishing you a meaningful, joy-filled holiday. Merry Christmas!