If you are a fan of “Fiddler on the Roof” you sang the title to my post, rather than read it. As I realize how far behind this year on trying to get “everything” done to be just perfect I am starting to think of tradition. What do I want our family to have memories of as they grow and create families of their own? I know that I do not want an expensive gift exchange. I do want thoughtful gifts that the recipient will remember and the giver will not go into debt with. As a child I remember things like my grandma making lebkuchen, peffernusse and anise caps. I remember my parents making chicken liver pate and a gouda ball. Clearly I am food centered!  We always served appetizers on Christmas Eve. We would go to church and then assemble the appetizers. Easy to prepare right after church services. We now do the same in my family.

But having three teenage boys we needed some new traditions besides the ones centered around food. We did have a fantastic white elephant gift exchange that I know I will always remember. Here are some other last minute ideas that you can quickly implement with your family at little or no cost…and hopefully no clutter.

So I asked around for some fun ideas of what others do for low cost memorable traditions.

  • White elephant gift where everything must come from a gas station.
  • The gift must cost $9.99 exactly. Tape the receipt to the top of the box to ensure no cheating!
  • The gift must be round. So think bath soaking balls…big container of cheese puffs, etc. One family is taking it a step further and making the food all round as well, as they celebrate their “Christmas Ball”!
  • The gift must come from a thrift store, be homemade, re-gifted or cost under $5.
  • I know of one family that chooses randomly a family member that they dress up in a crazy way. The person who is dressed up the previous year gets to dress the next year’s person. The person has to wear the outfit all day long. For example, Uncle Charlie is going on a cruise and dress him up in loud tourist clothes.
  • Buy only three gifts for your children. There were three wise men and Jesus received three gifts. Make it symbolic and meaningful.
  • Give a gift of something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read.
  • Always think about sharing of experiences as making traditions. As a family go and sing carols around the neighborhood or area nursing homes. Go and serve a meal at a local shelter.
  • Think about giving instead of receiving. Adopt a family in need and provide them with all of their necessities.
  • Randomly drop off baked goods on the steps of neighbors, friends or people who you know are going through a difficult period.
  • Have a family talent show. You never know, maybe Aunt Susie can play the harmonica!

But really in the big scheme the gifts don’t matter much, but rather the being together and making memories. I just need to take my own advice and call everyone and let them know to have something ready for our first annual talent show! I have musical and theater/improve kids so this should be great fun! My husband and I lack in those areas….so we will need to be creative!

To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at

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2 Responses

  1. Katie

    A few years ago, my family tossed the traditional mountain of gifts tradition out the window and did a $5 Christmas. We set a price limit of $5 for each gift, with a strong encouragement to purchase them at garage sales the summer before. Saved on last-minute shopping stress and also was easier on the bank, since there are six of us in the immediate family. In recent years, we’ve given up gifts all together and simply bring goodies to share over a few games. So much more relaxing!

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