Kids are back in school, the leaves are falling, and stores are decking their halls with holiday paraphernalia. Good, bad or indifferent, soon the holiday season will be upon us, and each of us will begin to think about how we plan to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.
For some of us, holidays bring on a level of anxiety, not just because of the financial burden (AHHHHHH), not because of the stress of not knowing what to purchase for the kids, but rather, for what the holiday season does to our marriage.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic family, we celebrated heavily from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some nights were spent with family and friends, opening presents and sharing a meal. Others were spent donning our holiday best for a church service or school pageant. Of course, my favorite part of the holidays as a child was the gifts. Thoughtfully bought, carefully wrapped, and gently placed under the glowing tree to await my eyes on Christmas morning. Awaking before the sun came up, my sister and I would race to the tree to tear open the packages that had accumulated over a number of months, just to be left in a heap within less than 5 minutes. These memories I still carry with me and look back on with smiles and a warm heart.
My husband and I have very different views on what the holidays mean to us, how we expect them to be celebrated, and how we want to make and continue traditions with our two daughters.
Growing up in a third world country, my husband’s memories of Christmas are very different than a lot of ours who have grown up in the United States, including mine. For him, Christmas was a day celebrated with family. There was no tree, there were no stockings hung by the chimney with care. There were not a million gifts wrapped in five-dollar-a-roll wrapping paper with tags signed “from Santa.” He and his family would spend the day doing something they didn’t always get a chance to do. This may include going to a movie at the cinema, going out for dinner, or staying home and cooking a meal and playing games.
Because of these differences, the holidays always cause friction in our marriage no matter how much we talk and do our best to hear each other. There is always added stress, anxiety, and tears due to our differences.
Before having kids, we could “get by” with minimal holiday spending. Without kids, my to-buy-for list was fairly short. My family understood that I cut back on gift purchases when I got married. Although my husband and I would still have our disagreements regarding Christmas budgets and who should make our to-buy-for list, it seemed like we could figure it out and manage through each holiday. Two kids later, and the holidays continue to be a source of tension. Each of us carries with us our past traditions and beliefs and how we feel we should integrate these into our family dynamics.
Holidays in America can look to some to be overdone, materialistic, exaggerated, and a money pit. As I mentioned before, it is now apple picking season, yet we have snowmen and wrapping paper lining the aisles of stores. That does seem premature. But as with many differences in marriage, the experts are always saying communication is key.
So, back to the drawing board we go, every year, to try to find a happy medium that we are both comfortable with.
In general, we don’t overbuy for our kids. At the grocery store, they aren’t leaving with candy, when we run to a department store, they aren’t walking out the door with a new toy, and when we go on vacation, they don’t come home with a bunch of souvenirs. We are more about experiences than material items, and this goes for holidays, as well as our day-to-day lives. But, I am a self-proclaimed giver. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the smile on the face of someone I give a gift to.
As we begin to approach the holiday season, I begin to take breaths and mentally prepare for the tension the holidays can bring into my marriage. Despite having been married for twelve years, and together for fifteen, I foresee this being a thorn in our marriage forever.