PolaroidsAs a little girl, Christmas in my family included a family dinner on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. It was joyous and cheerful, and we always opened presents before midnight on the 24th. When my parents divorced, Christmas tradition suddenly became a two-day celebration. This meant more family, more love, more fun…and a ton more presents.

As I’ve married and had a child of my own, Christmas has since gotten a bit more complicated. These days, it’s a whirlwind trying to split the holiday between all of our families in two days…especially when my husband is Santa’s helper (delivering packages for UPS). It almost seems impossible to squeeze in quality family time amidst all the chaos, but every year we manage to make it work. It’s exhausting, but so beautiful, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There is one thing, though. I want my daughter to understand that the memories we share with our families mean more than the presents we receive. When I came across an article on the premise of gratitude and the four-gift challenge, I knew I had to give it a try. On the morning of the 25th, she gets from us four items: a want, a need, a wear and a read.

My daughter doesn’t have a huge stack of presents from her parents, but I can tell you there is a tremendous amount of thought and love put into each box under the tree. Her book box is filled with her favorites, and her wear box includes new tees and pajamas, a new jacket and jeans, socks and accessories. Her need is usually the hardest for me to choose. This is because creating long-lasting family memories is the most important gift of all. This box always contains some sort of experience: season passes to a local amusement park, cooking lessons or a family board game. Saving the best for last is her want. This is my favorite to watch her open because I know there is little chance for disappointment. This box is the one she has been asking for, and I love to see her reaction when she gets the item on the top of her wish list.

When my daughter grows up and looks back at this tradition I’ve created, I hope she can appreciate my attempt to teach her about quality over quantity. But most importantly, when she looks back at our crazy Christmas tradition of running from house to house, I hope she remembers how lucky she is to have so much family around to celebrate with and how much fun she had running around and playing with all of her cousins. My wish is that everyone is just as lucky, or loved.