The title here is deceptive, because really, the obvious trouble with Christmas is that I’m Jewish, and don’t celebrate it. But! When you marry someone who does celebrate it, and you don’t have your own family competing to get you to celebrate it with them, then Christmas becomes your holiday too. No, the real trouble with Christmas is that it comes every year, and I am just not that good at coming up with things we need.
I’ll explain – my husband’s family really, really does Christmas. It’s a giftapalooza, where you’re provided with not only the things you’ve needed for a while (new shoes, a suit, stuff for school, etc.) but all the things you want. There is a lot of gift-opening at their house. In my house, Hanukkah is a time for some latkes and some token gift-exchanging. My sister and I would get some candy, some fun things (pretty scarf! CD!) and that was it.
But at the same time, my mother-in-law is incredibly frugal, and a planner, so at the end of the summer (yes) we’re asked what we need so she can start scouting deals. This means I start brainstorming an answer to “What do you want for Christmas” in June. And the problem is, I’m not that good at it. Oh, I can come up with “wish list” type items – a new cashmere scarf from J.Crew! That Diane von Furstenberg dress I’ve been eyeing! That $800 chocolate vault sold by a fancy chocolate store in Boston! But these are not things I would ever actually request, because they are exorbitantly expensive and ridiculous. So instead I take stock of what we could actually use, but haven’t bought. This year, it’s towels, since we’ve been using my husband’s college set, and they are unspeakably old and tattered. I’m pretty pleased with this decision – we’re notoriously horrible at replacing household objects, and this is something that my mother-in-law can shop for well in advance, keeping an eye out for deals.
Of course, I think the real trouble is that I wouldn’t mind if there were some kind of Secret Santa agreement, or “we really can’t think of anything so why don’t we not make up some stuff we don’t need and save everyone the time/money” agreement. It can get costly to shop for everyone in the family, as I’ve discussed. But then again, I never really grew up with the Christmas sentiment, and while I’d be happy to overstuff myself on ham and pie and sleep in until it was time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I think my husband feels differently.
How do you handle different spending patterns between families at the holidays?