This primary assembly centres around presents, helping children think about the purpose of present-buying, and their own feelings about both giving and receiving

An economist, Joel Waldfogel, has written a book called ’Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents For The Holidays‘, that says there’s far too much present buying at Christmas.

To be fair, he’s not really being a Scrooge. It’s more to do with the proliferation of unnecessary present-buying. This assembly picks up on this and helps children think about the purpose of present-buying, and their own feelings about both giving and receiving.


Do you like having Christmas presents? That’s a silly question isn’t it. We all like presents, especially at this time of year. Well, let me ask you another question then. Do you like giving Christmas presents? I guess that’s an easy one, too, because it‘s a great feeling to see how someone feels when you give them a present. So exchanging presents – when two people each give one and receive one, somehow helps you both to feel closer together.

So, when you think about it, one of the important things about both present-giving and present-receiving is the feelings that are involved. And today’s assembly is about celebrating those feelings, and to reflect on the need to think a little about the balance between affordability and the joy of giving and receiving.

‘I know what I’m getting for Christmas,’ said Jack. ‘I made a list ages ago, and I know every single thing I’m getting.’

‘What?’ said George. ‘Did you just put down exactly what you wanted? Didn’t you wonder whether your mum could afford it all?’

Jack had to think a bit about that.

‘Well, I guess I sort of knew it was no good putting some things down. I mean there’s lots of really expensive stuff that I’d like. It’d be good to have a flat screen telly in my own bedroom, but my sister would want one too, and in any case I wouldn’t get one even if it was just me.’

‘But I bet your list adds up to a lot,’ said George.

‘It’s only once a year,’ said Jack.

‘No it’s not,’ said George. ‘You get stuff for your birthday as well. I think you’re really lucky in a way.’

‘Why’s that?’ said Jack.

‘Well, you do get lots of presents don’t you?’ said George,

‘Are you jealous, then?’ said Jack.

George laughed and shook his head.

‘Jealous? No I’m not jealous. You like your way of doing it, and I like my way of doing it.’

‘And what’s that?’ said Jack.

George laughed again.

‘Well, I don’t know what presents I’m getting. My mum hasn’t got much money. In fact some days she hasn’t got any money at all, and she gets worried and upset. So at Christmas I think maybe I’ll get a present and maybe not. I don’t say what I want, because I don’t want her to think she’s got to get that particular thing. But I always do get something, and I’m always pleased.’

‘So what might it be?’ asked Jack.

‘Well, last year I had a model car, that I think might have come from a charity shop, and a chocolate bar.’

It was Jack’s turn to laugh.

‘That’s not enough for a present!’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t like that at all.’

‘But I did like it,’ said George. ‘And the reason I liked it was because I thought I might not get anything at all, and also because I know my mum couldn’t really even afford what she bought. She needs every penny for bills and for food, but I knew she was thinking of me and making sure I had presents to open. I opened my presents, and mum sat with me, and she cried a bit and said she wished it had been more.’

‘What did you say?’ asked Jack.

‘I told her it was OK, and I liked the car. Then I opened the chocolate bar and we ate it together. And mum cried again and I hugged her.’

Jack was quiet for a while.

‘Did you buy your mum anything?’ George asked.

‘I did. I clubbed up with my sister and we bought mum some nice perfume that she likes out of our pocket money.’

George nodded. ‘Mums like perfume. I bought my mum some, too, out of my pocket money. I don’t get much pocket money, and I got the perfume from the chemist. I found some that had been reduced. Mum said it was lovely.’

Jack was quiet again. Then he said,

‘There’s one good thing about what you said, about just getting one or two things for presents.’

‘What’s that then?’ said George.

‘Well,’ said Jack. ‘You sat with your mum and both enjoyed opening your presents and eating the chocolate. I get so many presents that I wouldn’t have time to do that. I spend ages messing about with those big cardboard boxes that toys and gadgets come in, and making sure there are batteries and all that sort of thing. I’m in the middle of it and Dad says, ‘Dinner’s ready’ and I don’t want to leave my presents, so Dad shouts at me, and suddenly there’s an argument.’

‘Maybe you get too much,’ said George.

Jack laughed. ‘You’ve been listening to my gran. She always says that, on my birthday, at Christmas, on holiday, everything.’

Jack stopped, straightened up, put his hands on his hips and pulled a sour face and did an imitation of his gran.

‘’They get too much, those kids’. That’s what gran says. Then she tells us how she just had one toy and an apple and an orange at Christmas.’

‘A bit like me then,’ said George. ‘Only I get some chocolate which is a bit better than an apple and an orange. I think so anyway. Don’t tell my mum or she might give me fruit instead of chocolate.’

Both boys laughed and were quiet together for a while. Then George said,

‘You know, however much you get, or however much you give, you know what I think?’

‘What?’ said Jack.

‘Your parents love you, and you love them,’ said George, ‘And they give you what they can manage, and you give them what you can manage. In a way it doesn’t matter what it is.’

‘Right,’ said Jack. ‘But tell you what, I like that bit about sitting on the settee with your mum and opening stuff together and having a bit of chocolate together. Maybe if I don’t rush to open all my stuff at once, I can do some of that.’

When you give and receive presents, it’s the feelings that count. It’s the love that your parents have for you, and the love that you have for them. And maybe it is a good idea to spend more time thinking about your feelings and enjoying each other’s company, instead of ignoring everyone while you rip paper off your presents.

A prayer
Lord, we thank you for the joy of Christmas, and for the opportunity to show our love through the giving of presents. Help us to remember that the love we have for our families is more important than how many presents we give, or how valuable they are.

A thought
The old saying is, ‘It’s the thought that counts.’ And that’s absolutely true.

Things to think about
Jack’s gran thinks that her grandchildren get too many presents. Why does she think that? Is she right? Or is she just being grumpy?

Do some people have wasteful presents? (Too many, too much packing material, too many thinks that aren’t much use.) Can you think of times when that’s happened in your family?

Information about the book

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh