Christmas 2021 Roundup: The Gifts

Christmas Eve I (momentarily) felt like the biggest hypocrite ever. For all my talk of minimalism, there were a lot of gifts.

Somehow I always seem to forget that gifts trickle in from other sources. A very sweet neighbour, unexpected parcels from one of my sisters (we don’t typically exchange gifts, but she had a way to get them down to us via a friend)…and my mother, bless her, came loaded with stocking stuffers galore.

I’ll admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I DID really stick to my guns in terms of getting things I knew were:

Now that the dust has settled on Christmas 2021 (at least in terms of the presents), I can’t think of much I would have changed!

A few days ago I alluded to the fact our family has some fun ways of prolonging the present-opening experience and wanted to detail those here on the blog.

OUR christmas morning routine

Stockings (homemade by Grammie); we can never fit all the gifts into the stocking, so I put extra/larger stocking stuffers into a festive bag or plastic tote beside the stocking.
  • We bookend breakfast with gifts. Stockings get opened first; because we include a lot of practical things in stockings (socks, pads of paper, coffee filters, shampoo), there is quite a bit to open even if much of it ends up going right into the cupboard (or desk, or shower). While the adults tend to watch what others are opening, there is no restriction on stockings – kids can open gifts as quickly as they want. Since there are always some edible treats included, they tend to slow down once they hit bubble gum or a chocolate bar and take a break for a snack! Hey, it’s Christmas – there’s nothing like chocolate before 9 am once a year.
  • Breakfast comes next; I’ll do a summary of Christmas food in another post, but we always have the same foods on Christmas morning. I bake the cinnamon coffee cake while we open stocking gits, but there tends to be enough buffer before breakfast for me to put away a lot of the stocking stuffers + remove the wrapping debris and organize anything that we’re salvaging for the next year (gift bags, tissue paper, Christmas tins).
  • We label most of the main gifts with Bible verse clues. All credit for this idea goes to close friends of ours who introduced us to this concept years ago. Our very first year as a married couple we went to their house over Christmas and I couldn’t stop laughing when their teenage daughter received some razors which had been labeled with the reference for a verse that said something to the effect of “the rough shall be made smooth.” As an extra layer of hilarity, different Bible translations vary in wording, so it can all get a bit confusing (one year someone gave us a verse that was to say “frost” but the translation we were using said “ice.” Sometimes the verse gives it away, but most of the time it just leaves the recipient stymied. Levi lost interest very quickly (and can’t navigate to find the verses in the Bible anyway), so we let him open gifts without preamble and I eventually set him up watching famous soccer goals on my phone while Abby + the adults enjoyed indulging in the fun. My favourite was the verse I used for John’s Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon record – Ezekiel 32:7b: “I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.”
One of about a dozen layers of boxes/bags/wrapping paper to get to Clue #1
  • I also think we can officially call it an annual tradition of having the kids do a treasure hunt. This year I wrapped the first clue inside about a dozen boxes (so the kids kept opening and opening and opening until they found the clue, a process which built increasing excitement). I hid clues all over the house (and even out in the neighbourhood, inside our mailbox down the street), before they finally found the last clue: “The final clue for you to follow, look behind Godric’s Hollow” – which led them to the downstairs bookshelf, with the wrapped gift behind my boxset of Harry Potter. The gift this year was individual “coupon” books with things like: have a breakfast in bed (not just on your birthday); a trip to a specialty candy store in Halifax (Abby), inviting friends over for supper (Levi), a weeknight sleepover (Levi), and a free pass on emptying the dishwasher (Abby). Last year the clues led them to two sledding saucers; another year it was the booking confirmation for an overnight hotel stay scheduled between Christmas and New Year’s.

gift highlights of 2021

Now on to the gifts. I didn’t take many pictures and I’m too lazy to imbed direct links so this roundup may lack in pizazz, but I thought it would be fun to do a quick run-down of what we gave/received this Christmas. I’ve also tried to make note of the things we sourced second-hand/at the DollarStore.

The whole family received a Crokinole/Backgammon/Checkers board from my parents which has already seen hours of playing fun.

LEVI | After the presents were all opened I asked Levi what his favourite gift was and he didn’t miss a beat with the answer: LEGO! We bought him another Classic Tote and have systematically built each of the design options they suggest within the enclosed booklet. When we’re ready to dismantle those, it will really help boost our existing collection of LEGO building materials. Other favourites included:

  • a new homemade hat (from Grammie)
  • a $25 Amazon gift card
  • a personalized/engraved passenger flight record log book from our neighbour who works for AirCanada (you know, for the day when we can easily get on a plane again?!)
  • Art supplies – presharpened pencils, a binder containing plain white paper, erasers; and from a local thrift store lots of art accessories: a 3-hole-punch, pillow desk, and desk organizer
  • Shrink-art (a big hit!) – DollarStore
  • Soccer-themed mini-gloves – DollarStore
  • A dinosaur fossil kit (he actually received this last year but I had set it aside because it seemed a bit too advanced; I re-wrapped it this year and he LOVED it)
  • A glow-in-the-dark balloon (a neat twist on glow sticks) – DollarStore
  • A flashlight lantern (grandparents)
  • Fruit Loops, Tic Tacs, bubble gum, and a few chocolate bars for the edible treat components
  • A new beach towel because he desperately needed one for our summer adventures (a great Costco find)
  • Lots of socks – all from the DollarStore, the best place to find cotton socks, ironically enough, which the dermatologist recommended


  • Codenames – I’m not a big game person, but this really is a blast to play. We opted for the picture version, but I think I might buy her the original word-based version next year, too?
  • A cozy sweater (thrift store find; she loves it and it is SO soft)
  • A new-to-her FitBit (she got a knock-off last Christmas which broke twice; we finally gave up and sourced her a genuine FitBit off Kijiji for $30, as I’m not quite ready for her to have an Apple product)
  • a personalized/engraved passenger flight record log book from our neighbour who works for AirCanada
  • Personalized calendar with fun pictures from 2021
  • Personalized “Handcrafted by Abby” stickers as she loves to make things + some little plastic baggies to put crafts/candy in to give as gifts
  • The first Mysterious Benedict Society Book
  • Shrink art (big hit) – DollarStore
  • Necklace + socks – from my sister
  • Various art supplies: some plain white paper, new sketching pencils, some sticker art, and some black velvet colouring sheets – DollarStore
  • Reese’s puffs cereal, TicTacs and chocolate
  • Scrunchies – I bought her about 10 (after hearing Ingrid Fetell Lee talk about the pleasure of abundance)…and then my Mom made her about a dozen. So we have an extreme abundance of scrunchies! I bought them for about 3/$1!
  • A BeanieBoo (DollarStore) + some bookbag accessories (Levi picked these out)

JOHN | I had a lot of fun buying for John this year!

  • A canvas tote with his prize-winning cow picture emblazoned on the front
  • A Rubix-cube themed shirt (to commemorate our year of Rubix cubes)
  • Apple Airtags (for locating keys, bookbags etc).
  • Star Wars Lego (the AT-AT set)
  • Socks (including a free replacement pair of DarnTough from a warranty claim)
  • A new baseball hat (local merch from our town)
  • A few bumper stickers/decals (also merch from our beloved town)
  • A bottle of California Reaper peppers (hottest pepper on the Scoville scale)!
  • Dark Side of the Moon record
  • FIVE different types of KitKat bars


  • a new Bible
  • a five-year journal
  • three sets of earrings (unkenownst to me, after already buying me my annual set of earrings – remember I’m a huge fan of giving/receiving the same things each year – John read my blog post about having a 2022 goal to buy a set of hoop earrings and went out and bought me two sets of hoops, just so I could cross something off my list! So sweet and the gesture alone made me happy, not to mention I love all the earrings).
  • a canister for storing all my loose tea bags (bonus: it fits perfectly on the shelf where I store tea) – DollarStore
  • Twizzlers and Brooksides and Mars bars…obviously. And yes, I did binge the Twizzlers.
  • A new cooling rack
  • Two gorgeous new serving bowls – DollarStore
  • The All Creatures Great and Small book
  • An adorable Elephant ornament from my father-in-law (technically a joint gift with John, but I’m claiming main dibs on this)!
  • Merino/alpaca wool socks + polypro gloves (bought with a credit from a warranty claim)


  • A lighter for the wood stove (Dad)
  • Books – most of them free from neighbourhood lending libraries!
  • Non-stick silicone mats (Mom)
  • Jumbo storage bags (Mom) – Ikea
  • Homemade family calendars (my parents + in-laws)
  • Computer speakers (father-in-law) – in-box at thrift store
  • Our favourite shovel (Dad) -bought last March on a clearance sale
  • Candy/chocolate
  • My favourite Columbia socks (father-in-law) – sourced at a huge discount two years ago and stashed away
  • A Ledgle neck-light (Mom)
  • Best Grandpa in the World mug (father-in-law, from Abby)

Phew. A lot of gifts, but most of them were either very practical (clothing, storage for the kitchen) or fueled a passion (art supplies for the kids, LEGO), would be easy to rehome (books), or were consumable (edible treats like cereal, candy, and hot peppers).

What about you. What was your favourite gift to give and receive for Christmas 2021?

16 thoughts on “Christmas 2021 Roundup: The Gifts”

  1. So glad you had a great Christmas! I mainly got books from my wish list, and I am SO happy with that. New books are always such a treat 🙂

    1. I typically ask for one new book a year (and tend to request a specific title). I mostly source my books second-hand or preferably from the library, but there are a few I really want to own. Last year I asked for the Harry Potter boxset; not sure what I’ll request next year!

  2. Wow that is a lot of gifts onces you write it down. I bet if I would do it I would be surprised too. I love that even small things bring joy. The things with the Bible verses is a fun activity. I have. never heard of anything like it. But I can see the wit and laughter that goes along with it.

    Art supplies for Christmas is always a great thing and books of course. I love giving books and receiving them.

    Sounds like your Christmas has been real fun and you all enjoyed it. I will hopefully find some time to catch up on all your posts I have missed.

    1. It was fun, though I think I’ve enjoyed the last few days more than Christmas itself. Getting a few good nights sleep in after Christmas has really helped my mood and I just feel less overwhelmed now that Christmas is over and everyone had a good time!

  3. We stretched out our gift opening, too. Paul opened one on the 23rd and then we’d have him open a couple in the morning/afternoon of the 24-25 and then more in the evening of the 26-27. I asked him what he got for Christmas a couple of days ago and he could not remember… which tells me he received too much! The biggest gift giver was my MIL by far and she said she will cut back next year but I am going to have my husband remind her of this next fall. I will tuck some of what she gave away, like sticker books and such. But overall I was not thrilled with the pile of 13 gifts Paul had to open. I think fewer gifts would result in him appreciating what he got more! Will got less luckily since he’s not as fun to buy for and really doesn’t need anything since he has plenty of Paul’s toys to play with. He was most excited about the discarded wrapping and tissue paper! Ha.

    We also did a dice game on Christmas Day once Will was in bed. This is the first time we’ve had Paul play and he loved it! You get to pick a present when you get doubles and then after they’ve all been taken/unwrapped, you can steal from others. He got really into it and didn’t get upset when someone took something from him. So that was a highlight of the celebration.

    We’ve started to go through toys, though, and have some to donate. So that helps with the clutter!

    Phil and I don’t exchange gifts but my MIL gets us things – my favorite gift was a hooded sweatshirt I’d asked for from a local running store. It is super soft and cozy!

    1. It’s so fun when kids get old enough to participate in more stimulating games. We played Just One again on Christmas Eve and everyone can play at basically an equal level. It’s a lot of fun. Every stage has advantages, but it is definitely a huge perk when kids are old enough to do some activities with adults and everyone enjoys it!

      Post-Christmas clutter can feel overwhelming. I try to clear things out on Christmas Day (and actually try to do a decluttering BEFORE Christmas, so we have more space for new things that come along).

      Our company left today, so we spent about 2.5 hours stripping beds, vacuuming, and taking down some of the Christmas decorations. I have one small tote full of miscellaneous stuff I need to store, but for the most part I feel like I can breathe again after all the chaos/clutter of Christmas.

  4. Well, that looks lovely! My boys got mostly shirts and new electric razors, and a couple of books. For me, I loved the books I received, plus earrings and slippers. My mom gives me new slippers every year which is great, because I really wear them out!

    1. You know I love to receive the same gifts (but different) every year. Slippers sounds like a perfect annual gift 🙂

  5. Great variety of gifts!! Sounds like everyone ended up happy, so that’s a win! 🙂 I’m probably not the best judge since we admittedly are over-gifters at our house, but I think that sounds like a VERY reasonable amount of gifts, especially if that’s including gifts from neighbors/extended family/ etc.

    We played the game Code Names (the original, I think?) at a board game store a couple years ago and really liked it, so I got it for them last year…embarrassingly, we haven’t tried it again since!! It’s one of those things that I feel like I would need to re-learn how to play, which has put me off from suggesting it again…and then it got buried in the back of the closet. Thanks for the reminder- we should get this out, maybe tonight!

    1. I hadn’t played in almost a year and it only took a few minutes for the refresher. Abby and I played it again today (you can play it as a 2-person game, which is great since it’s still too advanced for Levi).

      Hope you break if out of the closet and play it again soon. I really do find it a great game and, as I mentioned, think I may go ahead and get the original version eventually as well!

  6. I love this post so much! You guys had some great presents, and a nice balance between fun and practical things. I agree that there can be joy in abundance, especially at Christmas, but it can be hard to get it right. I’ve had years where the kids got too many junky toys (sometimes things were never even opened and went straight to Goodwill) and I’ve had years where I went too minimalist, and neither of those felt good. This year was a good year! It’s getting easier as they get older.
    My 19-year-old son also got Legos! You can never go wrong with Legos.

    1. Both my son AND husband get LEGO every year for Christmas. We’ll see how long I can continue on with that tradition as it does take up a lot of space…but it is just such a hit.
      I have one gift that sort of fell flat (ironically enough, a LEGO book for making various unusual contraptions); it’s still unopened so I might return it OR set it aside and wrap it up next year and try again?! It worked well with the fossil kit…haha.

  7. I love the way you guys open presents, and the Bible verse idea is so cool and special. What a lovely tradition to pass on to your kids!

    I also got a five-year journal! Although I bought it for myself, ha. I had one last year but only used it for a few months, and I am DETERMINED to make this one last.

    My favorite gift was my air fryer! I am already putting that baby to work. And I think my favorite thing to give was a Tennessee Volunteers cup to my stepdad. He was so grateful and surprised! It was really sweet.

    1. I’ve heard such good things about air fryers…I just have a pretty small kitchen and don’t know where I’d put it/wonder how much I’d use it since I don’t have space to leave it on the counter. Same with a KitchenAid. I said as soon as we bought a house I wanted one, but I don’t bake much anymore and don’t have enough countertop space.
      Short of buying a house with a bigger kitchen, I think the stand mixer, air fryer, and InstantPot will have to wait!

      I’m loving the 5-year journal, but don’t know how consistent I’ll be. Trying to give myself grace from the outset that I’ll surely miss some days, but will do my best to fill things in retroactively if that happens since I have a pretty good record via my planner/iPhone pictures.

  8. Oh wow, just looking at that picture made me dizzy… so many gifts, but then, you were also a few people. Our gift pile was definitely a LOT smaller, but I do love that you incorporate a lot of small. edible or useable gift (I appreciate these more and more over anything that just clutters up my house!).

    I absolutely love the idea of the treasure hunt – I want to suggest this to my sister (in case her kids – 12 and 13 – would still be interested in it this year). I think it’s such an awesome activity.

    1. The treasure hunt was A LOT of fun, and I’m thrilled with how excited the kids have been about using up their coupon book.
      It WAS a lot of gifts, but I’m so happy with how it all came together. Most of the craft kits are all finished and the kids loved doing the activities, the LEGO has been built, I have a little stash of edible treats set aside to dole out over the next few months. It was just a good mix of fun, but practical gifts. Definitely not something I can recreate every year, but I’m glad my temporary panic was for naught!

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