Back when we were first together, J. and I struggled during the holidays. Thanksgiving was often with my family, but then we went back and forth between celebrating the Solstice, “my” holiday, and Christmas (his). It was a complicated decision based on the calendar, gift-giving, and odd emotional callbacks and family-of-origin dynamics.
What we eventually came to was twofold: we’d decide in late autumn whether we’d exchange gifts on Yule or Christmas (based on what was most convenient on the calendar), and we decided to stop giving personal gifts to one another.
The latter was profound, and one of the best ideas we’ve had. Instead of personal gifts to one another, each of us would take turns playing Santa and give gifts to the house. That way one of us was surprised by what was under the tree and we both got to enjoy the gift-giving aspect. It was great fun, and house gifts ranged from excellent linens for the table to travel events. Some years Santa played games and we had a treasure hunt through the house, other years a simple envelope heralded great times ahead.
We’re about to set off into the great unknown, and holiday plans are in a state of maximum flux. We know we’ll be in Portugal, but that’s about all we can plan for at this time. No tree, no decor, no special cooked meals. Our plans are as scrubbed clean as we can imagine. (We do think there are events happening in Braga, our new home city, and perhaps a Christmas Market visit in Lisbon. But we aren’t *sure*.)
Moreover and perhaps most influentially, giving each other *things* — for any reason — no longer makes any sense at all.
So instead we are staring a new practice with this holiday: we’ll be giving one another exclusively experiences. (To be honest, a book or album of music may sneak in from time to time.) We’ll be taking turns for each others’ birthdays, and Santa will be relegated to the same rules each year. We’re looking forward to this new phase in our life very much!
*** It’s my turn to be Santa this year, and I am loving my idea! ***