Hand-Me-Down Holidays: an Alternative Gift Giving Tradition


It all started a long, long time ago… kidding! The first COVID Christmas happened to coincide with my kids being the ripe old ages of four and two. The ages when a box can be a favorite toy, and kids’ attention spans are shorter than when a dog sees a squirrel. I’ve always disagreed with the consumerism associated with Christmas gift giving, but I know that is how some people express their love and excitement and I won’t take that away. 

Enter my new favorite concept, Hand-Me-Down Holidays:  the perfect alternative gift giving tradition. 

What exactly are Hand-Me-Down Holidays and how do they offer an alternative to traditional gift giving? First of all, wouldn’t it be great to start a new year with a clean, refreshed space? Hand-Me-Down Holidays motivate you to clean out those old toys, books, games, clothes, and other kids’ things taking up space in your house. You know your kids no longer need or use tons of stuff, so the idea is that you clean and repair everything, then wrap it all up, and hand it down for Christmas for another kid to enjoy (or any birthday, holiday, or whatever, really).

A boy curls up on a blanket reading a cardboard book. He is no less thrilled bc the book is a hand me down. How did this alternative gift giving tradition start in my house? My kids are a few years younger than my nieces and nephews and brand-new toys, books, and clothing are expensive. I asked my siblings if they would consider gifting my kids things that were no longer wanted or needed in their homes. 

Christmas 2020 was our first attempt at the alternative, hand-me-down gift giving, and it was incredible! 

girl in a pink dress spinning and playing with a pile of toysI am thankful to my siblings for sticking to the plan and only gifting my kids hand-me-downs because we still use so many of those gifts. They received a whole box of old Halloween costumes that now make up the bulk of our dress-up closet. My kids STILL put on those costumes (not to mention we were way ahead of the game when Halloween rolled around). There was a box of books my kids still read and love. There was an overflowing bag of clothes that my daughter is still growing into, and best of all, they’re “cool” because they come from her cousins. These simple items made amazingly useful gifts that had more sentimental value for all of us.

This alternative gift giving concept really doesn’t just apply to Christmas either. I applied it for my daughter’s birthday once with friends too. For my daughter’s birthday, she was handed down some soccer cleats, a pair of sandals, and a few other things. Guess which presents were her favorites and were basically lived in until she outgrew them? The hand-me-down gifts. There is something about things that were well-loved, well-played with, and freely given that just carries so much more meaning.

Imagine if we applied this alternative gift giving concept not just within our immediate families but with our communities? 

I have heard some different feedback about this alternative gift giving tradition. Some people think that used items aren’t great for gifts because new things are better. They have a point. I don’t want hand-me-down underwear, toothbrushes, or anything completely ruined. However, I’m incredibly frustrated with how expensive life is these days and how buying new things seems to precipitate more and more buying. Why do we have to buy the newest toy, the greatest new invention, or the latest fashion? Who says that new means better? When did money become the measurement of love? 

I want my kids to grow up knowing that they will be donating their own clothes, books, and toys to other kids who may also love them. Their stuff is not disposable- to be ruined on purpose- and will not be instantly replaced by more brand-new stuff. I want my kids to grow up knowing that it’s the thought behind gift giving that counts. 

child regifting a toy in an alternative gift giving traditionMy daughter is currently planning to give my husband two Pokémon cards of hers, a skeleton ornament, and a bag full of her change for his birthday tomorrow.

Sure, some people (even my husband) may say, “Keep your money, Dad doesn’t need that” or, “Why don’t you make something else?” and honestly, I get that logic. But I LOVE that my six-year-old is finding some things of hers to give to her dad for his birthday. She’s taking some of her own money to give to her dad, “So he can buy more things that he wants that are expensive.” She doesn’t understand that $1.00 in nickels and dimes won’t get very far in adult life- but it’s the thought and meaning behind it that fills my heart with mom pride. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. 

How do you celebrate your holidays? Do you go big or go home? Or do you make and donate things from the heart? Or! Do you boycott gifts altogether? I love learning about how others celebrate holidays- traditional or alternative. It’s all about what works for you and your family. If you’re looking to switch it up, try this alternative gift giving option in the hand-me-down style and let me know how it goes. Hand-me-down holidays are a great way to come together, and I love the values this tradition teaches my kids.


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Kelli Hier Pike
A born and raised Vermonter, Kelli got her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Vermont, then joined the Vermont Air National Guard, where she met her husband. After that, she got her Master’s Degree in Digital Forensic Science from Champlain College. She and her husband and bought a house in the woods with 30+ acres of land to raise their two kids (4 and 2), three dogs, two cats, six chickens, and three guinea hens. Kelli stays home with her kids and pets while running her own wood crafting business, Tabor Ridge Designs, during nap-times. Kelli occasionally writes for her own mom blog, Calm Collected Mom, because we can all dream. She doesn't always think of herself as a writer, but she often has conversations with people over similar life frustrations and wants everyone to know that they're not alone. Life is full of irritations and annoyances, but Kelli thinks that we’ll get through it with a great story to tell afterward!


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