Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas gift opening: poll update

This was an interesting poll in the way people did or did not respond to it. There were 3 actual responses cast; others included a remark in their comments on other posts or in email.

Among the actual responders one selected “Christmas Eve only.” The responder is from a German background and it is a strong cultural tradition to open on Christmas Eve. I had completely forgotten about this when I wrote the poll.

The other two responders selected “we alternate between parents.” It was surprising that two chose this in a day when parents, children and grandparents rarely live close to one another. What I was thinking when I wrote this choice was that both sets of grandparents live close enough that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the grandchildren are alternated every year. This is our current system to share the granddaughter with her dad’s family who also live nearby.

Those who left comments, remarks and email mostly noted that they are in a time of flux since their family dynamics are changing because of marriage and work moves. When I was noting my ideas for this follow-up, in which I include some of the ways we have managed the gift opening portion of Christmas, my notes include all of the above and then some. In many ways our family Christmas experiences across the years look like the “fringe operators” I referred to in the original post, which was unfortunately a regrettable term.

My personal Christmas experiences growing up were not patterned on any firm schedule tradition. In some ways that might be a sad thing but it was helpful when we married and our location dictated where and how we spent Christmas. What the lack of a schedule tradition forces is communicating and planning how the two days of Christmas will unfold.

Over the years, when there were two of us and our families were on the other side of the country, we opened gifts on Christmas morning. When the children were toddlers to tweens we would let them open their new pajamas after Christmas Eve services which ensured that there were no unpublishable or too-small pajamas in Christmas photos. Later, as the children moved into the high school and college years when new pajamas were not cool, we started opening gift ornaments on Christmas Eve and adding them to the tree. (Note: we always gave ornaments when the kids lived at home and they each have/had a box of ornaments to start their own trees, we hadn’t always wrapped them as gifts).

Two Christmases are green in memory related to gift opening. The one is the Christmas we went to a joint family conclave in Charlotte. There were stockings to open after Christmas Eve services in the first place. But on Christmas Day there were so many people in the house, actually it was a townhouse, that we had to break for lunch and finish opening in the afternoon. No one has suggested repeating that production ever again. (Another reason it is memorable is that the temperature dropped to 6 above and a water pipe broke in the ceiling of the den extension; all those people without water for 30 hours.)

The second memorable Christmas was the year we had three Christmases. We had gone to family in Florida but we only took gifts we were giving to family there and not our gifts to each other. On the way home we spent a night with Charlotte family where we exchanged gifts with them. Then, when we finally got back home, the following day we dug our own gifts out of hiding and opened those. We haven’t repeated that production again either. And somewhere there is a photo of the kids sitting under the tiny brown tree with three fingers held up. We’re such dorks.

The bottom line of all this rambling down memory lane is to point out that Christmas traditions, even though Christmas is a date of our modern calendar, do not have to be tied to the clock or the calendar. Traditions are about honoring loved ones and expressing appreciation. When and how that takes place can be negotiated if the parties involved can “give” a bit. So go create a tradition of making memories.

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domestika said...

I have absolutely nothing useful to contribute in the way of a comment here - just wanted to say that this post struck a real chord with me, and to thank you for it.

When life throws you a life change or a loss, and Christmas traditions have to change as a result, the only constant is that tradition of love and memories. That's the rock, the foundation - and in the final analysis, that's really all a family needs to celebrate, isn't it?


G's Cottage said...

Thank you. Just letting me know that you read it and it struck a chord is very useful. Please don't under-estimate that.

Have a nice day.

Mrs_Scotsman said...

I think it is important to add that the youngest child called all clothes given as gifts "posterpedic". I'm not sure when that started; I think it had something to do with grandparents always giving clothes. I still use that term for any clothing item I receive as gift.


G's Cottage said...

Actually I don't remember it being the youngest. But it was a soft mushy package that I think had a sweater. Probably meant polyester but it came out sideways.