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I Blame the Magi.


I blame the Magi.  They started this whole giving gifts at Christmas thing, but let me warn you, though I have no use for frankincense or myrrh, I could use some gold around this time of year.
Christmas giving can be expensive, so it is best to plan before you go shopping instead of spending your hard-earned cash on gifts that won’t be appreciated.   
When I was a preteen my mother gave me a present that still gives me nightmares, yet I am sure that was not her intention.  She gave me a Christmas outfit that she forced me to wear to midnight Mass.  It was a green, bonded knit skirt that came with a long sleeved, green and white, horizontal striped top. It wasn’t even Christmas green, but this garish lime green that next to my complexion made me look jaundiced.  It also gave me a skin rash, but Mother demanded I wear it because it was expensive. It wasn’t around for long, because, hey, how was I to know bonded knit wasn’t supposed to be ironed?
Her money would have been better spent if she had asked me what I wanted.  
Here we are decades later and I am still unappreciative when it comes to presents I do not need and or that require for me to dust.  I thank the giver profusely, display their gift for a respectable period of time, and then quietly get rid of it.  
Christmas gifts do not need to be expensive. I prefer a fun or useful present.  
Here’s my take on it:
Start with a list and decide on a reasonable budget. Find ways to give gifts without going into debt.   
I love to give fun presents like Santa hats or headbands, Christmas socks, tree decorations, candles.
I love swapping names, doing Secret Santa, maybe a White Elephant; and set a dollar limit to the gift. It’s more fun hunting for the One right gift than buying in multiples because you have so many people on your list. I actually have friends who have a ONE DOLLAR limit on their gift swap. Another friend participates in a gift swap where the present has to be a certain shape.  Last year, the present had to be round and under $20.00.  What fun.    
I love food gifts.  
My husband and his family are spread out all over two states, so we send each other packages of food.  It isn’t Christmas until HB sends everyone the Deluxe Sampler from the New Braunfels Smokehouse, and no one has forgiven my mother-in-law the one year she decided not to send everyone the No. 101 Fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery.
And I love, love, love Cookie Exchanges. I’ve taken part in several and it is a great way to spend time together and then come home with an assortment of cookies.
I still miss my grandmother’s tamaladas where all the women in my family gathered together for one full day to make tamales and then we each got fresh, homemade dozens of tamales to take home to our families.   
As a grandmother of twelve, I came up with the Pajama Gramma Plan. Whether they like it or not, my grandchildren get pajamas for Christmas.  I skipped it last year and fielded complaints, so they are getting pajamas again this year.  They will also get a book or a video, something to eat or drink (popcorn, hot chocolate packet), and a small present (gift card, earbuds, phone charger, etc.) in their Christmas gift from Gramma.
I did the Advent Countdown Calendar with Books one year. I purchased thirty-one, inexpensive children’s’ books and wrapped each one individually in Christmas paper. I made two sets, one for each family with young children at that time. The child opened one book a night throughout the entire month of December and their parents read it to them at bedtime. It wasn’t as expensive as it sounds.  I bought my books at a second-hand bookstore. I bought sets of books by one author online, and  I bought books anywhere I could find a good book for under $5.00. It took some planning but I came in under budget when I did that. It might be time to try this again since those grands now have younger siblings.
Those gift-giving magi rubbed off on me but remember their gifts to the Baby had special meaning.  I hope you put as much thought into your gifts as well.  


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