Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Presents

Waiting and Wondering
My mother would have had numbers on these.
When I was a kid, my mother was a master at keeping our Christmas presents secret. One of the first rules of hers was that after Thanksgiving, we were not allowed in her bedroom. Next if we found out what any present was before Christmas morning, she told us that it would be given to the Salvation Army. This alone was enough to keep me from looking too much. Every year at Christmas time, we had to pick out one of our current toys to give to them, so I understood who they were. I was willing to give up one toy, I wasn't willing to give up the new toys that were coming.When we got a little older, our presents were labeled with numbers instead of names. Every year the numbers were different and seemed to have no rhyme or reason as to who got what number, but she told us she had a system.

However of all of these present rules, the one I remember the most was that we were not allowed downstairs on Christmas morning until my aunt and uncle arrived. It wasn't like they got there in the middle of the day, but it seemed like forever to me. However, my mother had a way of making the waiting bearable. When we went to bed the night before, we took the toaster, a loaf of bread, and a stick of butter with us. As a child I thought this was very special and was fascinated with the fact that we used the window sill as a refrigerator for the butter. The next morning while we were waiting, we had toast for breakfast. Then finally we would be called downstairs to see what Santa and others had left for us.

While I didn't always understand all of the present rules while I was growing up, I realize that they were one of the things that made Christmas special for me. My mother understood that anticipation is sometimes the best part of something.

Now lets move on a little bit. I realize that one reason that my mother's gift practices worked was because she had four fairly rule abiding children. However I know that sometimes curiosity gets the best of kids and they can't help themselves. For example, a friend was telling me about her children when they were younger. She wasn't sure where to hide their Christmas presents to she put them in the back of her large van with a blanket over them. The gifts couldn't be seen, couldn't be reached from any of the seats, and the kids were never in the van by themselves. So she thought they were safe. However one day, the two older kids lifted up their younger brother and pushed him through the vent window into the van. He then unlocked the doors so they could all get in and see the gifts that were coming. They never let on that they knew anything even on Christmas morning. It was only recently as adults that they told their mother what they had done.

I'm gonna have to ask Wally and Theo if they ever did anything like that because it was only recently that I learned they climbed out on the roof when they were supposedly taking a nap.Who knows? Maybe they were looking for Santa.:)

Do you do anything special to keep gifts secret? Have you ever secretly found your gifts ahead of time?


  1. I keep things "hidden" in my closet. I don't think my kids have scouted it out (they aren't ones to push those kinds of boundaries--and I've always made our bedroom as a somewhat "off limits" area--our house is small and we need some space to ourselves) but who knows?

    Your mom sure had an elaborate system! Like my kids, I was always rule-abiding ... but one year, when I got off the school bus, lo and behold, there was a giant boxed Lite Brite sitting on the mailbox (my parent's house is on a hill in the country so easy to see why they would have missed that delivery). I went grinning into the house and mentioned it to mom. I think she was pretty mad at the mail service for not bringing it to the door and it was wrapped up and presented at Christmas. Also, one year I accidentally discovered a purse which was a present for me--but that wasn't my fault--mom kept the dust cloth in the same closet as her hiding place for the purse.

    1. Were you disappointed on Christmas day when you already knew that you were getting a Lite Brite even though you were excited when you found it?

    2. I don't remember being disappointed. I just thought it was funny. I think it was disappointing for mom, though, and now that I'm a parent, I understand how much fun it is to surprise your kids with something you know they will like.

      I enjoyed reading your comments and Lili's comments, below. I'm also a mean mother--I don't think I could give away gifts to Salvation Army, and I wouldn't let them use their gifts till Christmas, but, to me, waiting for the proper time to open gifts is training in delay of gratification, and also in showing good manners and being polite about gifts and gift-giving. My kids have been little "elves" creating gifts for all of us and wrapping them up and placing them under the tree. I delight to see their giving spirit and inventiveness--I think kids have to be taught this--it doesn't come naturally.

  2. I love this!

    Growing up, my mom would wrap and place gifts under the tree throughout December. So, obviously, as kids we would look and shake boxes and try to guess, for several days before Christmas.

    Well, I think this just encourages kids to expect greater things. So with my own kids, I don't put gifts under the tree until late on Christmas Eve. Then everything is a surprise. I do think that my kids are much happier with what they receive, having no idea what shape or size anything could possible be, until just before opening.

    A good friend of mine used her husbands boat, parked in the garage to hide her kids gifts. Even at 6 years of age, they were able to climb up and peek. Now this is a somewhat indulgent mom, so she gave them their gifts early one year, and still felt the need to go out and buy more!!! Shock, huh?!!

    In our household, if we had found out what we were getting, by snooping, my mom had the same threat, she would give the gifts away.

    Taking the bread, butter and toaster upstairs must have been exciting for you and your sisters. And maybe it gave your mom a measure of peace on Christmas morning -- now that's an idea I wish I'd had many years ago. We've now entered the stage where we have to wake the kids up to open their gifts!

    1. We didn't put presents for Wally and Theodore under the tree until Christmas Eve either. Two reasons, my kids weren't the most rule abiding and the cats liked to chew on them. I think it was more fun for everyone to save them until Christmas Eve or day.

      Wow, your friend bought another whole set of presents! I think I would have given the first set away and gotten them some others although maybe not as big. Then I would have figured out a new hiding place and learned to wrap them as soon as I got them. Kids can open packages, but they are less likely to figure out what's in a box with only a peak.

    2. I know, I would have never bought extra presents!

      I would have given them their presents when they found them, and then nothing on Christmas, outside of what I had already planned, and just said, "sorry you were snooping and found your gifts early, so now you don't have anything to unwrap. Oh well, maybe next year you'll just leave things alone, then you can have the excitement of opening things with the rest of the family, on Christmas Day".

      That sounds really mean, but from my own childhood, that may have been the only way I could have gotten the lesson. My mom's plan was to simply give it all away, and we'd get nothing at all. That was pretty good incentive to not go looking, before they were under the tree.

    3. I don't think that's mean. I agree that's the way you learn lessons. I am often the meanest mother around, so I understand "tough love". However, if I'm truthful with myself, I probably would have gotten something for them to open Christmas day even if it were a token. I am caught up enough in the holiday, I think I would have caved a little.

  3. I never found my presents and I am not sure I ever wanted to. My sister, the Evil one, was a master sleuth. She could unwrap and rewrap a present with no one being the wiser. Finally, it dawned on her that knowing in advance meant no Christmas surprises and she stopped. BTW, she is the younger sister and to this day is filled with cunning, she just doesn't unwrap her gifts anymore!

  4. For the record, I never had to worry about my kids guessing what I had wrapped. I was/am a believer in non-traditional wrapping. A watch might be in the center of a dishtowel, placed inside a milk bottle with a slit in the side, wrapped with Christmas paper. Or a cd could possible be taped to two bricks inside a wrapped shoe box. I have been known to utilize any and everything to throw everyone off the track. Plus when our kids were very young a neighbor with grown kids kept all my Santa items at her house.

    1. I'm not sure your sister is the only cunning one in the family. While I have done non-traditional wrapping then and again, it sounds like you are a master. That would make Christmas morning even more fun whether you were a kid or an adult. :)


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