A Christmas Story: The Smallest Gift

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” – Bob Hope


What is Christmas to You?

Children have a lot to say about christmas, traditions they have, and what they want for Christmas, and… well, just about everything else! If it’s red and white, or goes “Ho-Ho-Ho”… believe me, I’ve heard about it! This christmas Sophia is six years-old and I’m that much more inspired by her to share the true meaning of christmas. It started with a conversation we had where she shared: “Mama, did you know the word CHRIST is in Christmas?” undoubtedly I played along, “Oh really, I didn’t know?”, she was so surprised and said “What! Mama ‘you’ didn’t know?”I replied by asking her: “Tell me more about why CHRIST is in christmas…?

We talked about many things, including gifts.

We researched together the history of giving presents we found out:

  • Gifts originally were brought by the wise men to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  • Story of Santa Claus-a pretend figure whose kindness in giving gifts originates with Saint Nicholas who did, in fact, give gifts to the poor.
  • Families and friends give gifts to show their love.

grat·i·tude (ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/)
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Gift Giving and Gratitude

What I’ve learned is that raising a grateful child is an ongoing process. While I know many children can be trained to say “please” and “thank you” beginning at about 18 months, true appreciativeness and generosity take time to seed and blossom.

I came across Mike Ferry’s work, the author of “Teaching Happiness and Innovation,” whose research on happiness focuses on children.

Over his years of researching the science of happiness, Ferry has bumped into a phenomenon called the abundance paradox: the more we have, the less we appreciate anything. Mass production and cheap labour have created an abundance of readily available goods. As a result, “we live in a throwaway, disposable age. If our children are growing up within this abundance paradox concept then it’s really hard for them to see the value in things; it’s hard for them to enjoy anything.”

While Ferry points out that “we might be wired to whine,” modelling gratitude for our children will help them (and us) become more grateful. “If we can teach our children to practice gratitude in the home, then we will be able to combat some of this abundance paradox and our children will start to appreciate the little things in life and will be much happier as a result.” This is not only good for the child, it is good for society because grateful individuals have a positive impact on the world. Guess, its back to modelling!!!


The Smallest Gift By Peter Reynolds

Every since, I picked up Someday by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds’s I have become obsessed with Peter Reynolds. As a true lover of children’s book I shared The Smallest Gift with Sophia.

The story is about a boy named Roland.


“Roland was eager for Christmas Day,” writes Reynolds. On next page he draws four stockings hung up with care, and we get a glimpse of what Roland cares about. There are three appropriately-sized stockings and one stocking the size of a twin bed. It rolls on the ground because it is too long to hang from the fireplace. Funny! And telling.

When he comes down on Christmas morning to a small gift with his name on the tag, he’s disappointed. So he wishes for a bigger gift. And right there and then, it doubles in size (and is still wrapped). Wow! He uses this magic again and again and again to make his gift bigger; yet instead of wonder and appreciation, he is angry and annoyed and grumpy.


This holiday tale reminds us that happiness can be found in your heart rather than in material things. Sometimes even though we don’t get what we wish for, we find something better.

So what was in the small box, anyways? I couldn’t help but think.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba (aka “e”), is a children’s book author, illustrator, teacher and speaker and she asked Peter Reynolds: “We never find out what’s in the box – any hints?”
Peter Reynolds replied: “It’s a pair of Christmas socks. The kind with red and green lights and a music box built in. Painful to walk on, but very festive. I’m kidding. Isn’t it better to leave to your imagination? I do have a thought, but I will wait until 2023 for the 10th anniversary of The Smallest Gift of Christmas.”

Guess I wasn’t the only one who was wondering and now to wait. 


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