such good comments. thanks ladies and fellow. i have continued to think about this as the christmas season has gone on. i don't think there can be any one, big answer. every family has to do what works for them. i think the key though is to really put thought into it so that the things that we choose to do as a family have meaning and then weed out the things that aren't important-the extra STUFF of it all. really, i think this is the key with all parts of life. so often we get caught up in the things/stuff we should do/need, when really, it just adds more stress to our lives. conscious simplicity-that's my goal for my family.
the santa comments were interesting. on the flip side of what you said michelle, i know someone who, once they found out santa/easter bunny/tooth fairy(the triad) weren't real, started to question whether God and guardian angels where real. something to think about, or at least think about how much emphasis we put on those things. i think i will stick to doing st. nick's day. i always wished we did that as a kid and think it's fun to use shoes as a gift receptacle. and maybe put unwrapped candy in them to see if my boys would still eat it ; ) (who am i kidding-they totally would!!)
even though i think we'll go along with the idea of the triad, we won't really play it up. maybe just read stories about them and then when they ask, just reference the story. no big shenanigans to draw it out. that way when our kids find out, it won't be a big deal. we'll just tell them that we did it because we love them and wanted something special for them. and then keep doing it even after they know to reaffirm that love through the effort. it wasn't a big deal for me when i found out, but then again, i was five. i like to think my figuring it out is a sign of great intelligence. or suspicion of everything and paranoia.
we honestly haven't given the boys christmas presents ever because we haven't been home and i give all my good present ideas to other family members who want to get them gifts. but i think next year we'll change that because ben will be old enough. i think it would be cool to do our little family celebration of the feast of the Holy Family or wait until the Epiphany, because that is, after all, when baby J got his presents. (waiting all the way till january to open presents for us probably isn't very realistic. we are notorious impatient, early present openers. i intentionally waited until two days before christmas to get tim's present so i wouldn't give it early.)
i like the simplicity of the three gift idea. my cousin gives her boys each three presents: a book, a clothing item, and a toy-easy shopping for her and reasonable expectations for them. my sister has simplified further with one gift per child. granted, that's from their parents. they still get plenty of toys from other family members. if we do in fact get to celebrate our little Family Day on the feast of the Holy Family (and i think we will!) it would be nice to get gifts that would bring us closer together as a family-art supplies, family movies, board games, sports equipment, etc.
oh, i really like how this is taking shape! we WILL win back the holiday season! as always, thanks for your wonderful comments and ideas.