It's not hard to remember the building excitement every new day brought during my childhood Decembers. It was easy to see the same glow in my own girls' eyes, when they were young. It is plain that this anticipation is not totally wrapped up in the gifts under the tree, and yet...
We want the gifts to be special.
But isn't anticipation a part of the gift itself? Vacation is the best example of this for me today. I like to be able to look forward to a vacation or event with joyful expectation. The anticipation colors the actual outing with brighter joy, because it was long awaited. That might just be a lot of what Christmas is about...anticipation of the day...or for what each day might hold. For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of a long awaited Messiah, so there's that too. :)
Maybe giving a child one or two small-ish things they really want is the best gift to put under the tree. Often the gift of 'too much' is less enjoyed than just one or two special, new pieces. Maybe we can get them something small that they looked forward to…and something that we know they will get a lot of use out of. I always liked adding to a well-used collection, when my girls were young. The injection of one small, new part could rejuvenate the entire collection (like the Playmobil or Schleich mentioned here). Could the same idea apply to a beautiful new cashmere scarf in a gorgeous hue or a new pair of luxurious gloves to add to a collection of tried + true, worn denim and tees?
And best of all...isn't each snowflake carefully cut a gift? Isn't each cookie sprinkled + tasted warm from the oven a gift? Isn't each plate of cookies shared with laughing friends a gift? Isn't the glowing tree strung with cherished ornaments a gift? Isn't the warm ride around familiar streets peering from one lit tree to the next a gift? Isn't the same story read by the newest reader a gift? Isn't the first snow, slow + silent, a gift? We are giving and receiving gifts all season long. The gifts under the tree are just part of it. They need not be the main event.
P.S. Expectations can be shifted with a few positive conversations. :)
P.P.S. This article has some interesting food for thought, even if some of it leaves me shaking my head.