"The Best Christmas Gift Idea Yet!" by Tami Kiser (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2016 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

It is at about this time every year that I try to finish my Christmas shopping. Crazy, huh? But you've got to do it sometime, so you might as well do it now. My goal is to have it done by Thanksgiving.

This helps me to maintain the right mindset for Advent, which always begins so quickly after Thanksgiving. It also keeps me away from Black Friday shopping—especially when this shopping begins to happen on Thanksgiving Day. I used to get caught up in the Black Friday madness, but not anymore. For our family, Black Friday is now known as a “do-something- together” day. Usually we head for the mountains to hike or something else that seems like a polar opposite of being in a mall.

"The Best Christmas Gift Idea Yet!" by Tami Kiser (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2016 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

In the past, I’ve written about lots of ideas for gift-giving. You can look back to this article for some of those ideas. Basically we try to keep it very simple, but meaningful. This often takes time—and that time that goes into getting the perfect gift really is part of the gift.  It’s the gift of yourself.

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In the article, I suggest ideas such as donating to a charity in a person’s name, giving perishable gifts that preferably are homemade and even NOT giving gifts. There are probably people who we don’t need to buy a gift for. We all have way too much stuff.

It was that idea of all of us having too much stuff that led me to the idea of my one of my best Christmas gifts ever. I don’t really think that my kids will say it was their best gift ever---but I do think they will really like it. It ranks up there as “best” for me because it is so easy.

And before I reveal the best Christmas gift idea that I am getting for everyone this year, I do want to confess that I am going to also buy and wrap one additional present for each of my 3 children who are still at home and for each of my 5 grandchildren. This may still seem like a lot of “extra” presents to buy, but when compared to the past, it seems minimal. I used to buy for all of my 10 children, their spouses, fiancés, our parents, our siblings, teachers, mailman, our dog, etc. We needed a whole room for all of the presents.

A few years ago, we started having all of our children and spouses do a name exchange—“Secret Santa.” It is a highlight of the season as each person gets to unwrap their specially picked-out present. We used to put a cap on the price you could spend. For the last couple of years, we made everyone buy either a “used” present from a thrift store or have it be homemade. This has been a lot of fun. Our Secret Santa names are drawn on Thanksgiving.

I think we are finally starting to get the right idea for how we should celebrate this Advent and Christmas season, beginning with our Black Friday hike and then spending some serious thought on what you can get for your Secret Santa. It’s about family and giving of yourself.

Now this year, after just declaring another war on clutter (I think I do this every 3 months!), I decided to give a gift of experience. I have done this in the past, but never just one experience for all. I have given putt-putt golf games, airsoft games, bowling, skating, rock climbing, movies, and even zip-line rides. I’ve done unusual restaurants for my older kids, too. Different experiences for different kids took lots of work.

This year we are doing one experience for all. For our experience gift (drum roll, please. . . ), my husband and I have rented a house in the mountains and we are taking everyone skiing and/or babysitting grandchildren while their parents ski. I think everyone is going to love it--all of us in a big house with lots of snow and lots of hot cocoa. What’s not to love? Time with family—the best kind of presence.

And with a little time on VRBO (Vacation Rentals) and a little skiing research online, I am done with all of my shopping! Best ever!

We are giving this “gift” to everyone on Thanksgiving so that everyone can get this date on their calendar. We are staying at the vacation house for a week, and people can come at any time during that week that fits with their Christmas vacation time.

So since the family will be getting this “experience” gift then, I also thought that we could try that same idea for our Secret Santas this year. Instead of buying a present for your Secret Santa, you have to provide them with an experience. I hope to see some really creative ideas—especially from my children who are always short on cash.

Even if you don’t want to do anything as radical as just buying one present that you can’t even unwrap, I hope this article has helped you get the wheels turning for your own ideas for your family. Give a try to getting most of your shopping done before Advent begins so that you can give “presence” to your family during the holiday season.

I’d love to hear about some unique gifts you’ve given. Please comment below.

Copyright 2016 Tami Kiser