Column: Christmas Traditions

Howdy, friends. Here is my weekly column:

Everyone knows that when you get married, you have to make some compromises.

OK, a lot of compromises. I prefer it when my husband is the one who bends, but it doesn’t always work that way. For some things, we agree wholeheartedly (buying good coffee is a necessity), and others we differ (putting away laundry is up to the owner of those clothes — and let’s just say his dresser has Mount Washmore piled high on top of it).

Philip and I both come from divorced families, which means our holidays were sort of all over the place. My dad and I spent every holiday break driving from Ohio to Rhode Island to be with my three older sisters. That meant we often didn’t even have a tree at home — what was the point, if we weren’t going to be there?

My husband often celebrated Christmas Eve with one parent and the holiday itself with the other. He’s always loved Christmas — and holiday music — and spends all of December whistling carols (annoying) and playing his favorite song, “Little St. Nick” by the Beach Boys — awful, in my opinion.

Until we met and got married, I didn’t care about Christmas at all. It was never that special to me, and I often volunteered to work on that day. But Philip slowly brought me around, and now I’m the one demanding he go get a tree the minute we put Thanksgiving dishes away. Every year, our outside lights get more elaborate, thanks to clearance-sale lights. Philip makes homemade croissants, even though he has gluten issues and can’t eat them. It’s a two-day process that requires an absurd amount of butter — and I’m grateful he keeps doing it for me.

We’re getting better and better at this whole holiday thing. I’ve made enough holiday dinners now to not stress out about it. And I’ve decided that my normal housework is “good enough,” no matter who our guests are. It would be a Christmas miracle if everything were put away, anyway.

And on the day itself, I’m sure the kids will be up well before dawn to race downstairs to see what Santa brought. We try to insist on eating breakfast first, but it doesn’t always work.

But this is where we can’t quite come together. In an informal poll of random friends and co-workers, it seems there are two schools of thought for opening gifts: insane free-for-all and orderly turn-taking.

You can guess which one I prefer.

I tell myself that making the kids take turns means they get to experience the joy of watching someone else open a gift — they learn that giving feels just as good as receiving. This is an important lesson, no matter what you celebrate on Dec. 25.

But that’s not actually true. I want us all to take turns so I can carefully gather up all stray pieces of wrapping paper, tape, gift tags and box pieces and immediately put them in a garbage or recycling bag. I cannot stand a living room full of holiday shrapnel, missing pieces and chaos. I want all our boxes to be outside the minute gift-opening is over.

Philip has three brothers and a sister. Oh, the pity I feel for his sister. I’ve witnessed the Klemond gift-giving, and it’s thoughtful and kindhearted, just like the Klemonds themselves, but it also involves balling up the paper and throwing it at each other. And if it goes behind the couch? That’s OK. We’ll get it come spring.

Friends, it’s enough to fill me with more rage than listening to the Beach Boys’ Christmas song. I try hard not to glare on holidays, but sometimes I can’t help it.

We still come together for the things that really matter. And especially on Christmas morning: Make coffee. A lot. And keep it coming.

 

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