Archive for November 29th, 2011

As Christmas approaches stress increases and money decreases. It is tough to feel adequate, as a parent, in finding gifts for your children that are meaningful, enjoyable and low cost. Years ago, I heard of an idea for gift giving that has become one of the favorite traditions in our household.

I do not remember where this idea came from, and I am not sure exactly when we began the tradition. All I remember is that it started when our children were very young, that we were living off of one income, and that it was an instant success.

The idea is a box of books.

I bet you are seeing dollar signs right now, because anyone who has bought a new book lately knows that they are not an inexpensive purchase. But, I did not say a box of new books! 😉

Each year, when I am in thrift stores, used book stores and at garage sales I collect books for each of our three kids. I bring them home and put them in a box that I have hidden somewhere in our house (I leave it in the same place every year, or else I would never remember where I left it … I am just that old). I have never spent much for any individual book, and sometimes they have been as cheap inexpensive as five cents.

Our kid’s interests are pretty simple. One loves period pieces, anything about princesses, historical female figures, pop culture and psychology. One loves animal stories, romantic novels, craft books, as well as hair and beauty information books. Our third does not love reading (sigh), but he loves picture books, information books, history and sports (in picture-story form). I also include lots of books on cassette (yes, they still exist … and they are cheap) and CD, of classic tales so that our non-reader-lover can still benefit from the literary geniuses of the past.

Our kids do not get the latest and greatest books from the bookstores. But, if I stick to their individual interests, they are usually a hit.

The part of the annual box of books that our family has added is when our kids get this gift.

Every year, on Christmas Eve day, once our kids are up, dressed, and have their bedrooms cleaned they get their box of books. This ritual means that they often help each other out in cleaning rooms, so as to expediate the receiving of their gifts. It has been a rare occasion that the preliminary tasks take beyond noon.

Once their jobs are done, I simply place the box on the floor, with the three sitting there like our beast awaiting a treat. Once they open the top, giggles, joyful shouts and “look at this” are heard as they seek and discover what is contained and who each book is intended for. Then, silence fills the room … for hours.

When our kids were younger it was the one thing that would calm the over-the-top excitement and anticipation that are such a common part of awaiting the arrival of Saint Nick.

Not once did they ever complain because they were not new, had the name of someone else in the front cover, or still had the original price sticker from 1979.This is one of their favorite Christmas traditions. I bet it is one that they all continue as they grow up and go off to start their own traditions one day (hopefully not too soon).

Some of my greatest memories are of watching wonder fill their faces as they explored dusty, used books that were reborn, and became new in their hands and in their minds.

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