Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Taking new ornaments out of the advent calendar and hanging them on the tree has become one of my boys' favorite evening activities.

This year for Christmas, my husband and I decided to try the “three gifts only” idea for our children.

In years past, we have been so frantic trying to get the best deals on toy after toy. We've also seen way too many of those toys get broken, lost or thrown in the thrift store donation bag months later.

The idea of three gifts comes from the Bible story of Christ’s birth, when the wise men brought gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh to the Savior. If he received three, than that’s a good number for my children.

In the hustle and bustle of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, we somehow lose the entire purpose of Christmas: to celebrate the birth of Christ. Yes, giving gifts is a wonderful and meaningful way to show loved ones you care. But it is not what Christmas is about. (I sometimes have to remind myself that.)

While watching the "Today" show one morning, we heard Kathy Lee Gifford talk about the “three gift only” idea, saying, “The gifts are something you want, something you need and something you’ll read.”

I have to admit, limiting the number of presents for Santa to bring has really lifted a huge weight from my shoulders this year. We have been able to focus more on doing memorable things with our children such as decorating gingerbread houses, going for “sleigh rides” (horse rides with jingle bells on the carriage, since snow has been MIA this winter), choosing a Christmas tree and walking around Temple Square to see the beautiful lights.

But one of my favorite things is a new tradition that was introduced to me by my sister.

A few weeks ago, she had all the girls over for a craft day at her house. On every chair was a little box with “25 Days of Christ” printed on the top. Inside the box were 25 ornaments, ready to be painted. We spent hours laughing and talking and creating these tiny little ornaments that looked like fish, feet, doves, shepherds, a candle and other symbols of Christ — lessons he taught, or miracles he performed.

My mom gave me a hanging advent calendar a few years ago, and in each little pouch I placed one of these new ornaments. Every night after the baby is asleep, we gather our two oldest boys by the fire. They excitedly pull out a new ornament to hang on a special mini-tree that sits on our coffee table. We look at the ornament, talk about its significance, read a scripture, look at a picture or watch a movie that goes along with what the ornament represents. It has brought such a sweet spirit into our home, and gives the boys a chance to learn a little more about what Christmas is really about and practice being reverent as they learn about Christ’s life.

Of all the exciting things we have done this Christmas season, this is the thing they have looked forward to the most.

I am grateful both for the magic and childhood wonder of Santa Claus and for the wonderful reality of Jesus Christ this time of year. If you want more information about the life of the Savior, visit or for more ideas on how you can make your home Christ-centered this holiday season.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.