When Should Kids Start Buying Christmas Gifts?

I have very fond memories of my childhood Christmases.  When I think back on them, I recall family time spent together watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman on television. I remember the taste of egg nog and picking silver tinsel off sticky candy canes.  I remember the smell of turkey roasting in the oven and playing outside with all the neighborhoods kids after we’d opened our gifts.

But somehow, amid all those fond memories, something is missing.  It’s the gifts.  With a few exceptions, I don’t recall the gifts I received for Christmas as a child.  I do, however, remember the gifts I gave.

Whether it was a hand drawn picture framed with Popsicle sticks or a cheap bottle of perfume I purchased with my allowance,  I distinctly remember the happiness I felt seeing my family open the gifts I had wrapped for them.  It didn’t matter to me – or to them – whether the gifts were hand made or store-bought.  I knew without a doubt that my gifts made them happy.  And that made me happy.

Which is why I am a little bothered by a recent conversation that took place over at Mom Logic.  Writer Michele Ashamalla wanted to know if her 8-year-old son was too young to be expected to save up and spend his own money on gifts for his family like his older sister does.

My daughter started buying some of her own Christmas  presents and birthday presents last year. There have been some Dollar Store and Big Lots purchases, and I’ve helped her find the occasional deal on Amazon or eBay. I think it reinforces one of the main things I try to teach my children: Always think of others.

I am all for teaching our kids to think of others, but I think this focus on saving up and shopping for gifts reinforces something else altogether:  That Christmas is about spending money and that real gifts must be purchased.  The idea that there is an age at which a financial sacrifice must be made in order for the gift to qualify as “thoughtful” bugs me big time.

I should probably tell you now that I have grown to hate Christmas.  Not what it stands for, but what it has become. What used to be a special – and very brief – season of wonder, love and family traditions has changed into something I don’t even recognize anymore. Retailers start their push in September and by the time December 25th rolls around, I am thoroughly disgusted.

Christmas has become all about the shopping.  And that’s a tradition I don’t care to pass down to my child.   If she is moved to spend her own money buying gifts this year,  I certainly won’t stop her.  I want her to give what she wants to give.  But more than that, I want her to know that she can be kind and generous without spending a dime.

What about you?  Do you think that expecting our kids to save and spend on Christmas gifts is teaching them to think of others?  Or is it just helping to perpetuate the commercialization of Christmas?

Image: richardmason/Flickr

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