The Buckley family, consisting of two parents, four pre-pubescent brothers and a baby on the way, deals with the antics of its young sons and their struggles with the Hagbart family during the Christmas season. Actions center on Matthew, the second eldest son, who grows up to be a writer and narrates the action from fifteen years in future. The Buckleys devote themselves to "elving," selecting a family on hard times who could use a bit of anonymous gift-giving (usually food) to see them through. 1986 was a memorable year as the "elved" family turned out to be the Hagbarts, whose eldest son, Finn (held back a year and bigger than most of his classmates), bullied all at school with particular focus on Matthew. With charity comes insight.