Christmas was coming and we had been dealing with some major life changes, resulting in a tough financial situation for my husband and me. Our children were all starting out with families of their own too. As our family gathered for Thanksgiving, we decided that the adults would not buy presents for each other. That’s right! The rule was that our children wouldn’t buy us presents, and we wouldn’t buy them presents. Instead, we decided on the Ornament Exchange.

Everyone, including the little ones, had to get an ornament that represented their personality, something that “says me.” And with that, the challenge began.  When we finally made it to the great exchange, everyone was bubbling over with excitement at their choices.

We put all of our names in a bowl and, starting with our youngest grandson, we each drew a name. Then we would get to open the gift from the person whose name we drew.

I was impressed at everyone’s creativity! The first gift opened that year was a 12-inch wrench with a red ribbon tied to it! A gift from Grandpa Mike to the youngest grandson. I received my oldest son’s gift, an angel with his name written on it. His comment; “You said to get something that says me!”

And thus, the tradition started. One year we drew names at Christmas for the next Christmas, and the challenge was to buy something for that person. It seems that everyone enjoys the challenge to find the best ornament. And there are hundreds to choose from! The children have even made ornaments.

Each Christmas as I hang the new ornaments on the tree, I think of each person with a smile.  I have a miniature BBQ grill, a mustang car, a Reese’s peanut butter ornament, and a bike, to name a few.  We have been doing the exchange for several years. My daughter just asked yesterday if we will do it again. My answer: “If you can make it for Christmas at my house, bring an ornament to exchange.”

What was started to help out for one Christmas season has turned into many years of fun memories. The kids have a great start at decorating their own Christmas trees.

But the best part of our new tradition? It has taught me that we don’t need to get lost in the commercialism of Christmas. I love that this tradition has toned down the stress of the season. As the years have come and gone, we’ve added some gift giving back in. This year I might start a new tradition – the Saran Wrap Christmas Party Game.  For more on this game, check out the ideas on Pinterest at

Gift giving is great! But the fun of our ornament exchange is priceless.

Jesus. Family. Fun. Memories. That’s Christmas. It’s the heart of the Season.