The actress's 5-year-old daughter Emerson reminded her about the true spirit of Christmas

By Sophie Dodd
December 14, 2018 11:47 AM

JoAnna Garcia Swisher‘s daughter is reminding her of the true spirit of the holidays: Giving selflessly.

The Reba actress and founder of The Happy Place blog believes in the power of meaningful gifts, and it seems that she’s passed her giving spirit down to daughters Emerson, 5, and Sailor, 2. When it came to buying holiday gifts for their teachers this year, her oldest daughter had something something special in mind — her mother’s cherished Christmas mugs.

“I have a very weird love for mugs. I also have very strong opinions of what a mug should be, and how heavy it should be and all these kinds of things,” Garcia Swisher tells PEOPLE, jokingly adding, “But we can get to that one when I’m getting to therapy on another day.”

The actress is particularly fond of the set that she breaks out every year around the holidays. “I have eight of them, and I love them and I get really excited at Christmas time when I can pull them out,” she shares. But before she could sit back and sip on some egg nog this year, Emerson made a request.

Heidi Ryder

“This year, I was asking Emme what she wanted to get her teachers, and she was like, ‘I think they really love coffee,’ and I was like ‘Great! Should we get them a Starbucks card?’ And she was like ‘Yes! And I want to put them in this mug, and I want you to wrap that mug up, and I want to give them one of the mugs.'”

The sweet request touched the mom of two, but also gave her pause.

Heidi Ryder

“In my head I’m thinking, ‘First of all, those are Mommy’s special mugs.'” Her husband Nick Swisher wasn’t sure she would be able to go through with it, the actress tells PEOPLE. “[He] was like, ‘Is this really gonna go down?’ And it is. I’m giving up two of my precious eight, because Emme wants to share it,” she says. But she’s not letting them go without consequences.

“One day, I’ll remind her how hard this has been for me,” Garcia Swisher, 39, playfully vows. Hoping to comfort her, her former pro baseball player husband, 37, suggested that she seek out replacements. “I’m like, ‘They can not be found. They can probably never be found again.'”

Heidi Ryder

While she’s sad to part with the sentimental ceramics, Garcia Swisher is proud of her daughter’s kind-hearted impulse. “It was really sweet,” she says. “We’re gonna wrap up these special mugs because they mean something, and I love that she has that spirit already… She’s known these mugs her whole life, and she just really wanted to gift them to [her teachers].”

She hopes her daughters will continue to be thoughtful in their gift-giving, even when it may mean sacrificing something of high personal value. “I’m happy to, even though I will only have six mugs left, I’m happy to lead by example.”

“I’m still working through it, clearly,” she admits. “They really mean a lot to me. I hope her teachers love mugs as much as I do!”

Find more of Joanna Garcia Swisher’s holiday decorating ideas on and on Instagram, @thehappyplace.