Christmas Morning 2009
Waiting to see if Santa came.
Christmas Eve 5 years ago. Our son was three and a half and we knew that this year he would remember what happened at Christmas. It had to be perfect.
It was late and the kids were fast asleep. I sat down to start getting Santa's gifts ready. I was surrounded by bags when my husband walked into the room.
"Where is the wrapping paper and I will help you"? He said.
"I would love some help, thanks".
"Okay, so where is the wrapping paper"?
"There is a little down stairs, why"?
"To wrap the gifts." he said.
"What gifts". I said, concerned.
"From Santa". He responded.
I laughed, "What? Santa doesn't wrap his gifts". I said.
"Yes, he does". My husband said.
"OH. NO. HE. DOESN'T". I said.
"OH. YES. HE. DOES". My husband said.
And so it continued, for the next FIVE hours, into the wee hours of the morning. We went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over this Christmas tradition.
You see, when Santa came to my house as a child, gifts were not wrapped. They were set out by child and each of us had a special spot in the room. My gifts were on the chair, and my brother's gifts shared the couch. The small gifts in our stockings were sometimes wrapped, but the main gifts from Santa, THEY WERE NEVER WRAPPED. SANTA DOESN'T WRAP GIFTS.
My husband completely disagreed. In his house growing up, Santa wrapped everything.
How silly. That didn't even make sense to me. Still doesn't for that matter. Never the less, that was my husband's tradition and he wanted to see it carried on to our family as badly as I wanted to see my Santa tradition carried on.
I had dreamed of the day that our kids would run down the stairs to see their gifts on display.
My husband and I don't scream and yell at one another when we disagree, and we didn't that night either, although we got close. Really close. I can tell you there was a lot of crying (by me), and going to bed at 4 am on Christmas Eve does not make for a very enjoyable Christmas Day.
We argued our cases and the more I cried (I mean talked) the more I realized how strongly our beliefs stemmed from our traditions growing up.
We were at a stand still. No one wanted to move. How could we, you don't challenge Christmas Traditions. In fact, I didn't even know I cared whether Santa wrapped his gifts or not until my husband challenged my tradition.
If we wrapped Santa's gifts our kids would miss out on all the great Christmas memories I had growing up. I knew that what ever we choose that night would have to be the tradition forever. We couldn't switch back and forth.
That was the worst Christmas I have ever had. I woke up after only two and a half hours sleep, frustrated, hurt and still upset. I faked it all day long.
For most families November and December are filled with more family traditions than any other time of year. Traditions passed on through generations. Traditions that mean so much to us that we make sacrifices of time and energy, money and sleep, to make sure they happen.
You don't dare mess with holiday traditions. In fact, for couples, compromising on holiday traditions brings more contention than money or intimacy. That is a lot of stress. Questions like, Where do we spend Christmas, do we open one gift on Christmas Eve, do we give matching pajamas to everyone in the family?
How can we ease the frustrations that come over holiday traditions?
1. Talk about your expectations for holidays and traditions before they hit. Discuss what means the most to you and why. Remember, you are not the only one with traditions that you love. Your spouse has his/her favorites also. Talk about it in advance. It would have been a lot easier to talk to my husband about all of this in July, instead of on Christmas Eve.
2. Create your own family traditions.
It is natural to carry on your family traditions. It is important. Research shows we take about 50% of what we did in our families growing up, with us when we get married. We just don't want to get caught up in keeping score. Your traditions or mine.
The best thing to do, create some of your own traditions. Unique to your family. Traditions that don't belong to either of your families. New traditions just for you.
For example... My husband spent a few years in Germany. His time there made a huge impact on him. It only makes sense that we incorporate some German Christmas traditions into our family. My parents don't do that. His parents don't do that. They are only our traditions. A challenge: This year, establish a new family tradition, unique to you.
In your house, DOES SANTA WRAP HIS GIFTS OR NOT? I MUST KNOW.
HAVE YOU EVER DISAGREED ON A TRADITION?
***An added note***
At 4 am a settlement had been reached. Around 3:30 am, amongst much anguish, something hit me. I realized that my husband had never, ever fought for any of his family traditions before. Ever. Our family has carried on traditions my family grew up doing. My husband likes them, he is fine with that. But I realized that he had never cared enough to fight before. If it meant so much to him that he was willing to fight for it, then it was important we did it the way he wanted. In our house Santa now wraps his gifts.