5 Rules for Opening Gifts on Christmas Morning

By Tracy Lane

In our family growing up, everyone knew what any gift unwrapping session would entail. No matter what my older brother unwrapped, he was giddy, shouting, “YES! YES!” as if he had gotten his lifelong Christmas wish granted. Once, my dad packaged my brother’s present inside a Folger’s coffee can. My brother shouted, “YES! Coffee! THANK YOU!” While my parents appreciated his gratitude and excitement, they assured him he hadn’t actually been given coffee for his 8-year-old Christmas gift.

My little brother was the total opposite. A few weeks before Christmas, my mom would usher him to the store to let him point to the exact action figure his heart desired. She’d sneak it in the cart during that shopping session to be sure it wouldn’t sell out or be misbought. On Christmas morning, my parents beamed, knowing they had gotten precisely what their sweet little boy wanted. As he began tearing into the paper, the first sneak peek of the gift brought tears. “I didn’t want THIS ONE! I thought I was getting the red one!!!!!!” Never failed. We never figured out if the one he pointed to had somehow slipped his mind in those short weeks of Christmas countdown, if he had actually changed his mind, or if he was just unpleasable.

Then there was me, the emotionless middle child at that point in our family. I had listed items that I wanted. I think I usually got them. I didn’t like attention of unwrapping gifts and I didn’t want to cause conflict. I would open my taped up Christmas tree paper, taking care not to tear it, creasing it smooth again once the gift was revealed. I shyly smiled and whispered a small thanks to my parents. I felt ready to get on enjoying my new goods and have everyone looking at someone else.

You know the ropes and roles of your family’s Christmas morning. And some of those personality quirks, and built in expectations, you can’t overcome. But maybe you could implement these 5 rules for gift opening that would help everyone enjoy the moment to the fullest and make the best memories.


1.      Make the morning last. Christmas morning is a once a year magical gift! Even if you don’t think so anymore, your children certainly believe this. Make it last as long as possible. Open gifts one by one, starting with the youngest. But on each round have each person only open one gift at a time. And then have the whole family watch and celebrate the gift opener. You might even take a break halfway through and serve breakfast. Then head back around the tree for the send half. This is a way to squeeze out every minute of gift opening cheer.

2.      Put the emphasis on giving instead of getting. Okay as parents this is easy because you’ve listened, you’ve planned, you’ve purchased. Your joy on Christmas morning likely does come from giving your children something that you can’t wait for them to enjoy. Don’t let your joy shift to their reaction of the gift. You can encourage this among your children too. There’s still time for each of them to buy or even handcraft a gift for each other. When someone feels the pride in giving it’s easier to be a more gracious receiver too


3.      Don’t ask if someone liked it. It’s kind of like asking if those pants make you look fat. “Do you like your gift???” falls into the category of don’t ask the question if you don’t want the answer. Seriously, don’t set yourself up for that. And if you’re focusing on giving as a family, then don’t set up the receiver to complain about a thoughtful gift they’ve received



4.      If you don’t like it, don’t say it. Hey, it’s the thought that counts right? But it really kind of is. So swallow your disappointment and go back to what your momma taught you. Smile and say, “Thank you.” And teach your kids to do the same. Showing gratitude, appreciation, and respect for the kindness they receive, even if they would’ve preferred a different version of it will get them farther in life than getting everything they scribbled on their wanted list.


5.      Wait to play with any toys until all the gifts are open. Receiving that long-awaited favorite is so exciting. But you want your kids to enjoy each gift that you’ve spent heard earned money on. Have everyone wait to play until all the gifts are open. Then spend Christmas afternoon is delighted contentment as everyone indulges in their new goodies around the fire together.

Ahh. It really can be a magical day. As long as you don’t buy the wrong color action figure for your four-year-old. But seriously, make the moments special this Christmas morning. Treasure the time you’ll share with your loved ones. And celebrate the gift of together.