The no-gift Christmas

The no-gift Christmas | World Vision Blog

Maralmaa with her cousin Bandi and a Gift Catalog lamb in Mongolia. (Photo: 2010 Delgermaa Surenjav/World Vision)

Have you ever considered skipping Christmas gifts?

Read why one family decided to do without gifts at Christmas … and how they were surprised by joy in their absence!


Two years ago, we made a decision to skip Christmas gifts. My kids were 11, 12, and 21 at the time, and while I’d like to say that this idea was part of some altruistic, do-gooder decision that we made as a family, the truth is we came to the realization that our kids quite simply had too much stuff.

The "no-gift Christmas" idea actually started in July. My son’s birthday is in the summer and every time we asked him what he wanted he would shrug his shoulders or say he’d get back to us. It got to the point where I almost felt that we were begging him for gift suggestions. We continued to press him until he reluctantly told us to get him some random video game that he wasn’t really dying to play.

After his birthday passed and the video game was in the drawer with all of the others, I told my husband that this was crazy. If the kids don’t truly want anything, that’s fine, we don’t need to buy them anything, right? It felt so strange to even consider not doing gifts.

We tossed that idea around for a few weeks, and later that summer we proposed something new to the kids. We asked them, what if we didn’t do gifts that Christmas and instead focused on spending time together and blessing others? As a family, we decided to do two things: first, move our annual summer vacation to Christmas week so we could break away from the holiday busyness and just relax and enjoy each other; and second, spend the money that we would otherwise use to buy gifts and shop for others instead.

Honestly, we thought we’d have to do some sweet-talking to get all three kids to agree to our plan, but we were surprised that they were actually excited about doing something new. Full disclosure: our youngest daughter took some convincing, but was on board after we reassured her that grandma and grandpa would still bring presents. You can't win them all, I suppose.  

This year, we are once again getting ready to celebrate the holidays with our new holiday tradition. No department stores, no wrapping paper, no standing in long lines with crabby shoppers. This year, we are once again giving gifts that matter.

The no-gift Christmas | World Vision Blog
(Photo: Nicole Wick)


We’re giving gifts like livestock and water and medical care. I love that we no longer get the shoulder shrug from our kids when we ask them what they want. Instead, they browse through the World Vision Gift Catalog, carefully reading all of the descriptions and keeping a tally of their spending on a scrap of paper to make sure that they use every dime that they’ve been given.

I love watching them carefully pore over the pages of the Catalog. It reminds me of the excitement they used to have when they were little kids looking through the Sunday newspaper adverts and making their lists for Santa. This weekend, they sat at the kitchen table with the Catalog and a big red sharpie circling items that they wanted for Christmas: three rabbits, a share of a donkey, clean water for one person, seeds for two families, tools for a farmer, a Mongolian ger (I had to Wikipedia that one), two bibles, text books and medicine. Items that total far less than what we would typically spend on needless toys or games but will be priceless to those who receive them.

It fills my heart to see the Catalog full of red circles and dog-eared pages and to hear their conversations about which gifts will be needed most.

Our Christmas tree won’t have gifts underneath it again this year, and our kids won’t miss them. These last two Christmases we’ve learned that there truly is more joy in the giving. If you haven’t looked through the World Vision Catalog with your family, I encourage you to give it a try. With much-needed gifts costing as little as $16, you may find that your family will want to start a new holiday tradition, too.

Get started giving gifts that matter with our online Gift Catalog!

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