I’ve always loved gift-giving at Christmas. I’d start in November—shopping and wrapping, and then once the tree hit the loungeroom in December, slowly adding to the pile to make the perfect Christmas Eve photo: a beautiful mountain of presents under a perfectly decorated tree—a picture of abundance…or is it more like decadence?

A few years ago, my family (me, husband and three teens) were traveling at Christmas, and we were living out of suitcases. I’d no time to do my shopping, and no room for the usual haul of gifts anyway. So, we pared it right back and spent just one evening shopping on a cold, wet night in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. It was a lot of fun, and on Christmas morning, everyone received two small gifts, carefully selected by other family members.  

Much to my surprise, everyone was happy. And this triggered a rethink for me—what if we pulled back on Christmas presents every year? Have we been missing out by doing more? What could be gained from changing the way our family views gift-giving? What am I teaching my kids in the way I approach Christmas gift giving? 

Gifts That Mean Something 

The tradition of Christmas giving started with the Magi. They saw the star, followed it and were overjoyed to be in the presence of someone very special.  

‘On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’ (Matthew 2:11)

Talk about excellent taste. These were no ordinary presents—they showed that these wise men knew exactly who they were worshipping.  

A king: gold was clear nod to this baby’s kingship. 

God: frankincense was burned during temple worship as an offering to God. 

One who will die: myrrh is a spice that was used in embalming bodies for burial. At Jesus birth, his coming death was already important. 

Of course, our gift giving will never be as imbued with meaning as this—only Jesus was fully God, and fully man, born to die for us, and be raised up as our everlasting king. Our gifts are not acts of worship like these ones were. But a new set of slippers, or a piece of art can still be very meaningful and reflect this sense of knowledge, following in the spirit of the Magi’s gifts.

Volume and monetary value are far less important than what each gift means.  

Time And Stress

November and December are insanely busy for most of us. Since reducing the need for lots of shopping, I’ve reclaimed time and headspace that I now use enjoying the season, spending time with family, attending services at church and volunteering. I’m afraid shopping centre car parks in December do not encourage me to share ‘tidings of comfort and joy’. The less of that, the nicer I am to be around. 

Excess Stuff 

My house is already overflowing with things—the idea of receiving more induces anxiety. My suspicion is that most of us are similar. These days, I try to buy gifts that can be consumed, or items I know are definitely needed as well as wanted. Another alternative is giving something like Better World Gifts which offer the benefit of a tangible gift card, while resourcing developing communities in ways they truly need. We’ve also curated a list of ways to pair Better World Gifts with something consumable here.   


We tell each other that it’s the thought that counts, but why does Finder’s research show that around 10 million Australians went into debt last year to fund their Christmas spending?  

Even if there are funds available, could some of that be better spent on something that doesn’t go under the tree? Many of our supporters make it a habit to support our annual Christmas Appeal. For our family, reducing the amount we spend on ourselves—when we already have plenty—has increased our ability to be generous with people who have little.  

Give A Gift That’s Really Needed 

This year, Baptist World Aid’s Christmas Appeal centres around the transformation of Mina’s life in Nepal. Mina lived most of her life in poverty, but has since overcome obstacles to create a sustainable income for herself and her family. Our local Christian Partners, with funding from generous donors, supported her to get started—first as a goat farmer, then as a mentor to other women, and now as a community development leader.  You can read more about her story, and help others like Mina, here.  
Considering how to extend generosity beyond your nearest and dearest is a good exercise at Christmas. For me, letting go of the ‘perfect’ Christmas—with an Instagram-worthy pile of goodies under the tree for my family—means I model for my kids gift-giving that is more meaningful, sustainable, ethical and enjoyable. And I hope our family’s Christmas giving now better echoes that of the Magi whose focus was firmly on little King Jesus. No wonder they’re called the wise men.  

You can help transform whole communities this Christmas with a gift to our Christmas Appeal. Please donate so that children, men and women like Mina can get the support they need to lead their communities out of poverty and into fullness of life.