A Christmas Story, you probably remember the scene when Ralphie's little brother Randy sees all of the gifts under the tree and enthusiastically seeks out the ones that have his name on them. It's hilarious but also a bit disheartening. After all, we want our children to be appreciative, not greedy, right?
I didn't know how to get around this at first but one year I came up with an idea that I think is inspired. Instead of putting names on the gifts, I put numbers. As I put numbers on gifts, I would create a Master List itemizing which gift belonged to each person. When the children woke up on Christmas morning, there was no way for any of them to know for certain if #41 was for them or someone else.
I took it a step further. We would rotate the person who would choose the first gift and give it to the recipient. So, for instance, if it was Shira's turn to choose the first gift, she would go to the tree and choose a gift. She would then read the number aloud and I would go through the list to and say, "That one is for Joe." In doing this, my intention was to put the emphasis on Giving rather than Receiving. We would then all watch as Joe opened his gift. There was no rush and we'd all have the pleasure of seeing his delight in finding that perfect something inside. Once he had finished, it would be his turn to find a gift under the tree and give it to the next person.
And so it would go. This prolonged the pleasure of unwrapping, putting the focus on giving while also taking the time to focus on the recipient and the gift. Obviously, this is very different from what I've seen in some movies, where everyone is chaotically tearing off the ribbon and paper, briefly holding up the unwrapped gift while everyone is busily unwrapping their own gift, and not eager to appreciate what anyone else got.
How can you ooh and ahh over another person's gift when you're still trying to get the wrapping off your own?
By using the numbers to maintain some of the mystery and putting the emphasis on everyone giving a gift, even if the gift itself wasn't from the giver, the children had the time to enjoy Christmas in an unhurried and focused manner. Mind you, all bets were off when it came to the stockings. Once all of the gifts were opened, we went ahead took the stockings down from where they were hung and all emptied them at the same time.
A couple of years ago, I made some numbered tags that are nicer than the ones I've used in the past. (Confession: One year I even used Post-It notes. Not very pretty.) I could make even fancier ones and maybe one year (when I am earning some money) I'll make some very pretty ones with embellishments and such. But this year, I took the ones I had made a couple of years ago and laminated them. We'll be able to use them year after year, continuing to let everyone have a chance to give as well as receive something.