I think it’s pretty much a given that when you get married, both parties are bringing different experiences, traditions, and expectations into the marriage. Having dated my husband since our freshman year of high school, I was pretty familiar with – and had even become a part of – his upbringing and family traditions by the time we got married. I knew his family went all out for Christmas – I’m talking hiring a Santa to come to the house when he was young, a full page Christmas list for each kid, and waking up to mountains of gifts under (and all around) the tree on Christmas morning. My family was on the opposite end of the spectrum. My mom was never a big fan of Santa, I don’t really remember ever making lists of things we wanted, and we each got one big gift each year because a big chunk of our family’s Christmas budget went to buying new livestock for a girl my age in Uganda that we’d sponsored almost her entire life. And we both look fondly on our childhood Christmases! Giving gifts is his mom’s love language and it brings her joy. I can go through almost year by year and tell you what I got each Christmas and how much it meant to me. I don’t think either of our experiences was “right” or “wrong,” but still entirely different. It wasn’t until we had children of our own that we realized we were still on different pages in regard to how we would celebrate Christmas in our own family.
I don’t consider myself a scrooge by any means, and really, I enjoy giving gifts! I just would prefer to spread out our gift giving to other people. Our kids aren’t at all deprived, and it’s really important to me that they don’t equate Christmas solely with what they want to get each year. I think in my husband’s mind, he pictured Christmas mornings consumed with hours of opening present after present and watching the surprise on our kids’ faces. He’s now realized that they’re still just as surprised and thrilled with their stockings, a couple small gifts, and one thing they really wanted – and that they can remember a month later what all they got because they’re still using/playing with it.
That’s what marriage and parenting are all about, right? Realizing sometimes that you and your spouse are on different pages, and then finding a compromise that works well for your own family. I don’t know that we’re really set on any one “thing” or way of doing things when it comes to Christmas, but we’ve started a few little traditions, and are generally on the less extravagant side when it comes to gifts.
Our girls are still quite young, and I know things may get harder as they get older and have actual hobbies and interests and things they desperately want. But, as long as we succeed in our goal of instilling an attitude of gratitude in them rather than one of greed or entitlement, Christmas will still be magical and exciting without going overboard or being focused on gifts. And we will still fully experience the magic of the season – especially in realizing it’s just as fun to give as it is to receive, experiences and traditions and time together are even more rewarding than lots of presents, and blessing someone else blesses you just as much.