Am I a Grinch or will I find the Christmas spirit someday?

Posted by
By: Alexa LaSpisaCC BY 2.0
My husband loves Christmas and all of its traditions: stockings, a tree, nauseating Christmas specials, gifts, church, etc. He has opened his gifts, decorated his tree and watched the same TV specials every year in the exact same way since he was three.

My childhood was very different. I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus, never watched Christmas specials, sometimes we didn’t even have a tree or gifts even though we were Catholic. I have never celebrated Christmas in the same way twice. For us, Christmas was about remembering those who had died: My great-grandpa on Decemeber 22nd, my grandma on December 23rd, my uncle on December 24th, and my Grandpa on December 27th. If it was ever happy, it was quickly overshadowed by sad.

Our first Christmas in our home and as a married couple, my husband spent almost the entire time talking about all the traditions we were going to start this year and do the same thing every year and how much fun our future kids were going to have and other happy joy joy type silliness. All I kept thinking; I just want to sit on my couch, watch Downton Abbey, and forget about Christmas.

My question: Does all of this make me a Grinch? If we have kids, will I find the Christmas spirit or be even worse? -GrimmGirl

Comments on Am I a Grinch or will I find the Christmas spirit someday?

  1. Dude, nothing makes a body Grinch-out like forcing yourself to act excited about traditions you’re not into. A Downton Abbey marathon sounds like a solid Xmas tradition to me, especially if it came with a cuddle-buddy and a treat or goofy socks or snuggie you only eat/wear this time of year.

    • “nothing makes a body Grinch-out like forcing yourself to act excited about traditions you’re not into”

      THIS. I realized just last year that one of the reasons I’m grumpy during the holidays is because pretty much all of the traditions are not mine. They are ones that have been handed down through the years and I feel overwhelmingly obligated to participate – lest I offend aunties, uncles, grandparents, etc. I would love to create my own Christmas traditions, but don’t feel the freedom to do so (I live close to family that there are few excuses for me not to participate). I don’t even know what they would be, but just something so I feel like I can take ownership.

      Even just realizing the source of my Grinchyness has helped take the edge off it. Maybe next step is to have a conversation with my family about new traditions. 🙂

    • Much agreed about creating your own traditions, even if it isn’t very “Christmasy” I know my father in law always watches as many James Bond films during the Xmas-New Years season. I know part of it is because he usually take a few days off because he has unused vacation days. I am not sure why he created this self-proclaimed tradition, because it isn’t like “OH EVERYONE COME OVER AND WATCH JAMES BOND!” It is more like we come over for Christmas dinner and he is watching James Bond waiting for us to arrive.

  2. I never had sad Christmas times like you, but I completely do not care about Christmas. If my husband wants to celebrate it, then he has to be the one to get a tree and put it up and do all of that stuff. (Which he never does, btw). If we ever have kids, I am sure I will be the same way. I just don’t dig Christmas.
    Halloween, on the other hand, is a Huge deal at our house. We decorate and dress up to give candy to the neighborhood kids. I hope that you have at least one holiday that you love, and that one can be the one that you make your family traditions around. Your husband can celebrate his holiday and his traditions, but don’t feel like you have to go all-in on them. It doesn’t make you a bad person or mean you will ruin your hypothetical children’s lives. You do you and just be tolerant of the “crazy Christmas” person in your house 🙂

  3. Traditions becomes traditions generally because people like doing them. So try some on. I agree with the above poster. Maybe it IS a downton abbey marathon. I think the key is to talk to your husband and find a couple things you are both excited about. Plays to see? Or even just treating yourself to your favorite restaurant? Cookies or other foods that you can gather and make? Candlelit evenings? People you can plan to see? I’m a little envious of the blank slate you have.

  4. Christmas, for me, has always been one of the best times of the year. I’m probably like your husband in that way. I’d really, really encourage you to attempt to find and make traditions with him – it can be a really fun time! But they don’t have to be traditions that are very, very Christmasy.

    For example, one of my favorite traditions is that on Christmas Eve we eat Chex Mix, chocolate covered pretzels and drink hot cocoa. Maybe start traditions of snuggling up on the couch and watching a movie or Downton Abbey.

    Try to see the fun in the traditions your husband would love, but you don’t have to do them all.

  5. I’ve spent many Christmas seasons pretty Grinchy myself, so I feel you. It’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to get in “the holiday spirit,” whatever that means. The nice thing about the Grinch is that eventually his heart DID grow three sizes, so don’t fret! For my husband and me, what’s helped is re-evaluating our holiday expectations and discarding traditions that don’t work for us. Some years are more fesive than others (2012 sucked so hard that we didn’t even get a tree), and that’s fine. We try and keep the focus on being with each other and our families. Occasionally the focus is just on surviving–and that’s totally fine. BTW, holiday gifts are a major source of stress for me, so I try to do it 1) online or DIY and 2) as early as possible.

    The other commenters are right on in that you have a great opportunity to create your own family traditions! Maybe decorating the tree becomes your husband’s special activity with the kids, while you have your own private ritual. Be honest about just not digging Christmas, take care of yourself, and continue being awesome.

    • On gift stress: for years, my husband and I would go crazy at christmas, spending hundreds of dollars on each other -which was fine, we had the money at the time. Then we bought our house and I lost my job. Luckily we’d budgeted the house based on only one of our incomes, so no big deal a bout paying the mortgage and eating, but suddenly the Christmas budget disappered. By December that year, I hadanaged to scrape together $200, we each then had $100 to spend on the other. We honestly had so much fun trying to stretch that small amount into fun & necessary gifts that we’ve kept it up in the years since (although we’re a little less strict on the exact amount). One tradition I’d kept from my childhood was that every year we got a new Xmas tree ornament, when I moved out my mom gave me a box of all my ornaments from over the years – my husband grew up in a family where the tree was always covered in antique heirlooms so he never had any of his own. He’s grown to love the eclectic ‘memory tree’ although he didn’t like that it didn’t match at first. The first year of the small budget Xmas, I forgot to factor in an ornament, so he has a snowman made from scraps of felt and other stuff from my craft bin.
      I used to hate Christmas, but now that my husband and I are finding our own traditions (either by using family ones or coming up with our own) it’s not that bad 😉

  6. Just an update on me: I wrote this last year just after Christmas Day. I am now 3 weeks pregnant with our first child and scared that I’m going to scar it’s little mind. But I have another year to freak out about that, right?

    • Yes you have a year to “freak” out, lol. I haven’t been super in to Christmas in the last few years. We do a lot of the larger family traditions with our extended families, but haven’t really done much at our own home. When I was pregnant I was a Grinch and we barely even had a tree (Christmas is a big deal for my mom, and we were hosting…so we had to at least have a tree for her).
      Last year, I was honestly more excited because it was my daughter’s first Christmas…but not overwhelmingly so, we didn’t even try to make the Santa gifts special, because honestly she didn’t understand.
      This year, now that my daughter is two…totally different story. She’s excited about Christmas, and because she is excited so am I. The season isn’t necessarily about traditions for us, but about cuddling up and spending really good quality time with family. I’m excited to make her excited. You definitely won’t find an elf on the shelf in my house… but you will find baking, hot chocolate and cuddles under blankets reading books. And this year my kiddo and I are going to do some serious baking for a local homeless shelter, which I think will be our “tradition”.

      I think you’ll probably find your feelings about Christmas shifting when your kiddo comes along. You may not be excited or care for your own Christmas, but you likely will be for you kiddo..especially when they start to understand what’s going on.

  7. For a long time I wasn’t really in to Christmas. There were a few traditions I liked but overall it wasn’t my holiday. But a few years ago a friend pointed out that I’m an adult now and that means that I get to celebrate Christmas however I want! If I don’t like a tradition I don’t have to do it! If I want to celebrate Christmas by eating nachos and clog dancing, go for it! I know it’s silly but that little piece of advise let me relax and enjoy the holiday any way that I want to!

  8. My husband and I have been celebrating Christmas together since 2009, and I love watching how our traditions have slowly taken shape. There was a fair amount of common overlap from our childhoods, but with some differences. Some traditions came without questions (church and presents being the big two) and others have come with debate (stockings and Santa Claus). Others have just kind of happened, like hot chocolate with candy canes on Christmas eve. You don’t have to do every single tradition from childhood, nor do you have to decide on what will be a tradition in your family. Talk out the big stuff, but let the smaller things evolve organically.

  9. I admit, I’m the one who is excited. I love Christmas. I do the decorating, the baking, watch Christmas specials on my own time, listen to the music. I do, however, try to share some of the things that are important to me. I try to slowly add some traditions. We now fill eachother’s stockings and have some Christmas day routine. My Christmas has changed a lot from when I was a kid so I need to hang onto some stability myself.

    In your situation, though, maybe you each need to do a little compromising. You shouldn’t have to participate in absolutely everything he loves but maybe you can try one or two things that you think you could get into. And maybe the two of you can find some space for things that can become traditions that work for you (like watching Downton Abbey). My husband loves the Muppets. So asking to watch Muppet Christmas Carol is not that much of a hardship for him, and he loves eating Christmas baking. I’ve also explained some of why Christmas does it for me (and I know why it doesn’t for him) so we both try to find some middle ground to figure out how we together do Christmas. It’s been slow. This is our third Christmas since we got married, only the second we’re spending together (last Christmas we weren’t able to spend together), so we’re still figuring it all out, made more complicated by my dad remarrying last year. I am hoping that some exposure to a happy Christmas can help my husband find some things he likes without my shoving them down his throat. But I also try to give him space to not be super Christmasy. I’ve been clear about things I want our kids to experience when we have them and it is up to him whether or not he is into those things or if he just lets me have my fun.

    • I agree that it’s all about compromise.

      My boyfriend and I both LOVE Christmas, so I thought it would be easy peasy. This is our first Christmas in our own place and I’ve been looking forward to decorating, only to find out that we don’t agree on anything…except the fact that we love Christmas. All of our traditions seem to clash. I want rainbow lights and ornaments and he wants white. I like mish-moshy homemade ornaments and decorations and he wants a classy theme. I open presents on Christmas Eve and he does on Christmas. We don’t watch the same movies or eat the same foods.

      Compromise is the name of the game now. Even if the things you want to do aren’t Christmas related at all, you each get something you want. Downtown Abbey one night and A Christmas Story the next. You might not feel as Grinchy if you get to do what you want half the time and him the other half.

      We have white lights and rainbow ornaments and you know what: it looks beautiful :).

  10. A good friend of mine has basically completely distanced herself from her parents (they haven’t spoken in a decade – trust me, they left her no choice) and had no really great memories of Christmas as a kid, so it sort of lost all meaning for her too.

    Now, we are over 40, so, she’s had a lot of christmases to work out what works for her after quite a few years of ignoring as best she could.

    For a while she just treated it as her ‘special day’. She would be very good to herself on Christmas. Whatever that meant at the time, she didn’t feel a need to repeat things, just what would make her happy at this exact time in her life. Maybe go to a movie, or be prepared and make a fabulous dinner, sometimes she would go to friends’ or a boyfriend’s (if she really wanted to, not because she ‘should’.) She made cookies for people she loved, because she enjoyed doing that.

    Over the years she has gotten into more of the traditional christmas stuff because she decided she liked certain bits and pieces. She is very content with her personal celebration. Maybe you could adopt that way of thinking – a personal celebration that has some meaning for you (whether that’s connected to traditional christmas or not.)

    For you, I would try to derive joy from the happiness of others around you. You don’t have to be the one out buying a special ornament every year, but you can graciously allow your husband to do the things he loves. Don’t force yourself, but you may (or may not) find a niche for yourself in his traditions. Maybe it will come to pass that you are the one to make specialty hot chocolates while he decorates or something.

  11. I don’t like Christmas, and I haven’t for a long time. However, I find that somehow my 3 year old is bringing out a little bit of the spirit in me. I’ve found that if I focus on the things I kind of like (decorating, cooking, looking at Christmas lights, spending time together) it makes it tolerable. Yesterday my son and I decorated our little 2ft Christmas tree with lights and we made “snow” around it (a mat made out of paper with cotton balls glued to it) and we are going to just keep adding to it. Seeing how much he loves the little crafts and stuff makes me happy, too. He is also loving the stories and the songs which is warming me up to those as well. I really hate the shopping/present pressure/receiving gifts…I swear, receiving gifts from people outside of my husband/bestie/son/brother circle is really stressful for me and is a lot of pressure, I know that is crazy, my brain is broken or something…so we just choose not to focus on that. My husband and I aren’t even exchanging gifts with each other this year. I buy the small amount of gifts we do give online so I don’t have to go real-life shopping and turn into The Hulk. I’m sure if we made that part of it a big deal, I would be fucking miserable.

    I guess my point is, Christmas doesn’t have to be anything to you that it’s not. Let hubby do his thing and maybe someday, some little glimmer of love for Christmas will surface. Or maybe not. When it comes down to it, it’s just a damn day with a tree and shit. It’s cool if it’s never gonna be your thing.

    Hey…Downton Abbey has a Christmas special, so that at least counts for something, right?

  12. It’s only Grinchy if you try to spoil the fun for others. You don’t have to be super into it- just let your husband be Captain Christmas since he cares so much and has a certain way he’d like things done, maybe buy a few gifts or help with dinner, and sit back and relax. Maybe you’ll eventually be “into it”, maybe not, but your husband and kids can be into it with minimal participation from you as long a you tolerate it 😉 And see if you can’t insert some of your own traditions, like subbing out music or movies you love for some of the most twee Christmassy ones (we watch PeeWee’s Christmas Special, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a Bloom County TV movie from the 80’s called “Opus n’ Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work.” To hell with Rudolph. Though in fairness those WERE our childhood Christmas movies…)

  13. I agree that you shouldn’t force yourself to participate in traditions that you’re not crazy about or feel like you have to show all this fake enthusiasm. But since Christmas has negative associations for you, maybe this is a chance to form some positive ones as well? You could always try out a couple of traditions and see how they feel, or just come up with your own. Sometimes doing one small thing like baking cookies might make you interested in doing other things too – or that might be enough. Either way you have a chance to come up with traditions that are as meaningful to you as your husband’s are to him. 🙂

  14. I agree with so much of what’s already been said. And I noticed that no one has mentioned the solstice yet. My theory is that there’s a celebration in late december because it’s a depressingly dark time of year, and societies have needed a reason to have a party to cheer people back up, and really, we still need a reason to have a party even with our electric lights keeping the darkness out of our houses. So maybe you would want to celebrate the solstice instead – the tilting of the northern hemisphere back towards the sun is a pretty big deal, and the darkest night of the year might resonate with your grinchy heart. 🙂 Also – I think it could be meaningful to find some way to continue to respect your family’s traditions of honoring your departed grandparents. Maybe not day by day, but by lighting a candle for them, or setting aside christmas eve to remember how important ancestors are. And finally, part of the fun of Christmas to me is making something magical happen for kids. So your heart definitely might grow three sizes when you see how much fun you can have playing with your baby’s head – reindeer with no wings can fly – what?! (Congrats, by the way!!)

    • Yes, I, too wanted to suggest still finding a way to remember your loved ones who have passed. I don’t think you should force yourself to ignore the departed just because it’s a “festive” holiday and all that. I agree that setting aside some time on Christmas Eve could be nice–and I also like the idea of lighting a candle for them. Maybe then say a prayer, or tell stories about the loved ones who have passed, to keep their memories alive for your family.

      I do understand not enjoying the Christmas holiday, though. For me, while I love some traditions, over the years, others have overwhelmed me, like decorating. Now, I love holiday decorations, but as a kid over the years, my parents increasingly left me with the overwhelming responsibility to decorate around our house to the point that I actually really don’t enjoy schlepping all of those boxes up from the basement and trying to find everything that goes out and on the tree and things. Luckily for me, my husband is Jewish, and we opted not to celebrate Christmas in our home. We still go to my parents’ house, but at least I’m not stuck doing all of the hard-core crazy decorating. We don’t have a ton of decorations for Hanukkah and I’m cool with having an easy winter decorating season.

      Also, like another poster noted, holiday shopping is insanely stressful, or at least it is for that poster and for me. I, too, start my shopping months in advance, keeping an eye on sales and when I find the right thing for my loved ones, rather than trying to cram it all in between the end of November and Christmas. It also makes it easier to budget out all of the gift shopping. Having said all that, I’m hoping that over time we can all cut back a little on the holiday gift craziness and instead focus more on spending time together, especially as our families expand. I would rather we focus on gift exchange (though again not crazy levels) for the kids, instead.

    • Yes, I think it is nice to acknowledge ALL of the feelings and remember your loved ones. I have a similar issue with Thanksgiving, having lost a grandma, grandpa, childhood friend all on the holiday (and my mom’s birthday often falls on it–she had a twin who died as a teen, so her birthday was already a mixed bag before losing both her parents). So death is a huge part of Thanksgiving for me. Sometimes I felt like it was “ruined” but now it seems super obvious to me what the universe is trying to say–be so very grateful for these people. I think Christmas and the solstice could be beautiful times to feel the warmth amidst the cold, rejoice the light returning to the dark, and contemplate the preciousness of life due to the inevitability of death. Just be real about what you feel and experiment with opening up to receive joy or new experiences that might trickle in via your husband. One day, that duality may dissolve and allow you to integrate your experiences into a rich meaning.

  15. There’s a certain amount of joy in doing things for the sake of making someone else happy (which is sort of the meaning of Christmas).

    Every year my husband wants to make paper snowflakes. At first, I hated them. I hated the mess of all the little bits of paper all over our house, the tape stuck to the windows, the fact that mine always looked terrible, the fact that he used my nice sewing scissors on paper (that only happened once…). But over the years of being together, and knowing how much joy they give him, I’ve learned to sort of the love them too. It’s now a tradition I treasure of time that we spend together.

  16. I’ve also always been a little Grinchy about Christmas. Not for reasons that you’ve described, but because I’m Jewish and it just never held any positive connotations for me. But I married a Catholic whose family does Christmas _the same_ every year (pizza from the same place after 4 o’clock mass on xmas eve, etc). I can’t say that I’ve been totally won over by the Christmas spirit, but having kids and having kids who are into it really does help. We have a “shelf elf” and the amount of joy my kids show when he arrives and how much they love that little dude really does make my heart grow three sizes.

    But 24/7 Christmas music still makes me want to stab myself in the ear.

    And I agree about making your own traditions. After a couple of years of schlepping up to his mom’s house on Christmas day for a big meal, we decided to say screw it and order Chinese food instead. Now it’s the marriage of two perfect customs. Remember, traditions develop over time, they’re not something that you have to come up with this year. Let him take the lead until you’re more comfortable. (But I see no reason why Downton Abbey can’t be a part of things this year!)

  17. I spent a lot of years saying “maybe next year I’ll be more into christmas”…this year I finally let go of that expectation and I feel a lot better. It’s not that I’m grouchy or want to ruin the fun for people, I’m just not that into it. I do like that someone mentioned the solstice though….I kind of figure that most civilizations and cultures of humans made note of this time of year, and I have found a little bit of fun in considering that part of it. Festival of lights – will-the-sun-please-come-back kind of way (and living in canada, let me tell you that is totally a thing right now).
    I think a downtown abbey marathon sounds perfectly acceptable. I also think that freaking out about this for the sake of the future is probably not going to help you feel better….there are lots of things one can do with a child to acknowledge the season without it involving door to door caroling…lots of charity at this time of year, from humanitarian causes to animals as one example (I always did this sort of stuff with my mom)…What is right will come along for you. Either way, maybe have a go at releasing expectations of yourself as a tradition..and see how you feel afterwards. We can’t change how we feel just by deciding its “wrong” so just acknowledge what you feel…Peace to mankind and all that, right? It includes yourself 🙂

  18. Christmas was a super happy time for my family growing up (even though we never had a tree and my church didn’t do anything special at that time of year), but now that my siblings live far away and I’ve turned into a hardcore environmentalist/anti-consumerist, it’s not so fun anymore! I spent a few years being depressed about my siblings deserting me, then another year I went travelling in Europe and skyped my family on Christmas day from a husky farm in Lapland. I think that experience helped my heart grow at least one size, since the people I’d stayed with for less than a week were so kind, and even orchestrated a Santa Claus visit to deliver some delightful presents for me and everyone else. It was dark about 20 hours a day there, so it helped me understand why a celebration was necessary at that time of year. It was really lovely to have everyone working on handmade gifts by candlelight (felted husky hair ornaments!) and making cookies and all that jazz. Looking back on it, I think if I came into that with no expectations of what Christmas is, or is supposed to be, it would have been the most amazing thing.

    Now that I have a 13-month-old, my heart has grown another size. I’m still not keen about her growing up with all of the commercialism and consumerism and those aspects of the holidays, but there are definitely things that can be celebrated and enjoyed at this time of year, whether it’s honouring family or recognizing the solstice. And seeing all the excessive twinkling lights and hearing all the overplayed carols through the eyes and ears of my daughter also makes me remember how magical it can all be for children.

    Anyway, I’ve outgrown my grinchness enough that I’m actually going to be spending the holidays in Vegas, of all places, because that’s where my family wanted to go, and I want my daughter to get to know her aunts and uncles that she might not see again until next Christmas. But we’re staying consistent with the idea that Christmas is not all about Christmas day (we’ll be flying home on that day, so there’s not really anything special about it), but rather about whatever you choose to make it.

    And traditions can be broken or changed! My family used to watch a cheesy holiday movie every year before everyone moved away, but one year when we were all together again we just argued about what movie to watch, and at least one person stormed out of the room at some point, and probably someone cried, so… that’s not really a tradition anymore.

    In conclusion, I’m pretty sure there are some pretty great Gilmore Girls episodes about this problem, sooo… look them up :).

  19. I married a man who had Christmas traditions galore, and they were super inconvenient for me…like travelling across the snowy state ON CHRISTMAS DAY to make it to their grandparents cabin for pot roast dinner. And they were obsessed with piles and piles of presents. Ugh. No thanks.

    So while I went along with it, I was really dragging my feet. We had always celebrated a low-key Christmas Eve and really quiet Christmas morning in my family, and had presents but not TONS AND TONS of them. So for the first 4 years of our marriage I didn’t even want to decorate our house. It was like “I WILL NOT BE LIKE THOSE PEOPLE!” and felt like it was really hard to get excited about someone else’s traditions.

    But then, this year I was thrift shopping, and came across this adorable pre-lit Charlie Brown fake Christmas tree for $20 and suddenly I got all nostalgic and sentimental and my heart grew four sizes and I bought it and put it up and am so excited to have even a tiny mini tradition of our own as a family of 3 now. Let it happen naturally, trying to force it just makes it worse!

  20. Christmas is what you make it. There’ll be some compromise- so his family does it this way, and you want to do it that- but the important thing is to talk to each other. See what he wouldn’t mind budging on and you’ll discover the outer boundaries of your comfort zone.

    For us, I talked to my husband about being allowed to bow out early from his insanely loud, judgmental family’s boisterous Christmas Eve celebration. I have social anxiety to begin with and his kin are not at all my sort of people. But he is, and so because it was important to him that we go, we agreed to make a three hour max appearance with the built in option for me to disappear to play with his grand dad’s cat for one five minute stretch and request to leave after two hours. And then we go home and revel in our traditions, which we got to make all on our own.

    Just like any event, it’s a give and take. Find out what the most important things to him are and see how you would feel comfortable fitting in with those. Figure out what you would most like to see happen and request that he participate or at least respect that. And remember that there are likely to be strong emotions involved, so be patient and take time out if you need it.

  21. As a Jew I don’t “celebrate” Christmas, but it is a hard holiday to avoid. I’ve even developed traditions around the avoidance of it.

    I LOVE the Little Drummer Boy game, and make all my friends (jewish or not) play it! (rules here:

    Additionally, it has become such a Jewish habit that it is a Tradition to go to a movie and eat Chinese food on December 25th. This was born out of the “nothing else is open” phenomena, but has truly become the Jewish “thing.”

    I guess what I’m saying, is that even a scrooge-like attempt to avoid Christmas stuff (LDB game) can turn into a FUN tradition. Don’t force it, just see what happens over time.

  22. You are not alone in being very “meh” about Christmas! I mean, clearly you’re not from all the above comments, but I’ll add my voice too. I’m entirely Jewish, and while I was a kid I really wanted a tree to decorate, but my mom was very adamant about nothing Christmas-y in the house. Now I understand better–it is very in-your-face, so as someone who doesn’t belong to that tradition, it’s frustrating and easy to feel left out. One year my dad and first step mom got a tree just for kicks, and we decorated it with every single kitschy decoration we found in a box borrowed from friends. But other than that, it was just like any other school break.

    Now Christmas also happens to be the anniversary of the time conflicts with my current step mom came to a head, and my sister and I ended up leaving late at night to crash at my mom’s. There was a lot of expectation on her end for Christmas to be a warm and magical holiday with all the traditions just like when her kids were little, and I couldn’t handle that much change at once and all the pressure to suddenly be a happy blended family when I was already in college. It’s external pressure too, with all these commercials and holiday cards/newsletters and nostalgia for things that might never have been telling you that if your family has any conflict, there must be something wrong.

    Since then Christmas has been very deliberately low-key (oh, and things are great with my step mom now, but I don’t fly back home for Christmas anymore anyway). If friends invite me to celebrate with them, I will, but otherwise I’d go for Chinese food. 🙂 My house of six 20-somethings is forming our own traditions, like getting a tree and having a decoration party where we make cheesy and inappropriate paper and popsicle-stick ornaments with lots of friends. You could have fun with some of your husband’s traditions, but I think the important thing is to start incorporating your own. They can be silly like mine, or something to honor the family you’ve lost, or something simple and comfortable like Downton Abbey in pajamas.

  23. Coming out of my parents house, I was grinchy about all the holidays, birthdays or special occasions since they were never positive times. After moving out, it took me a few years to realize that things like that could be fun, positive, and nonstressful.

    I let myself get swept up in other people’s enthusiasm, doing a little bit here and there like just carving a pumpkin and buying a costume for Halloween, when the mood struck. Christmas is still growing on me, it was one of the harder holidays for me growing up, and this year is the first year we will not be visiting my childhood home. I was greatly surprised by how much more I can look forward to a holiday when I can break with the negative things in the past and create my own traditions. It just takes time.

    My partner’s not particularly ra-ra about any holiday but it took a lot of communication to really pin down why I was so grinchy at times. He had to tone down so I didn’t become overwhelmed. I had to do a few things to meet him halfway and pay attention to the fact that my feelings were because of the past and that in the present holiday things were actually pretty good.

    Christmas traditions for you could be Downtown Abbey,alternating with some cheesey Christmas specials. Like all other relationship stuff, it’s about compromise.

    tl;dr It takes time to build up positive associations with a holiday, don’t rain on anyone elses’ parade but communicate how you are feeling to those who are around you.

  24. It’s the opposite in my house. I grew up in a family where holidays were a huge deal, and even though there were always family difficulties, and they still continue, the importance of holidays has stuck with me, and all the decorations, corny specials and holiday music were always a source of comfort to me. My husband comes from a very different background where holidays just aren’t that big of a deal, and there aren’t a lot of traditions. His mom put up a tree, and they do gifts and expect a family dinner at some point around the holiday, but that’s it. I go all out with decorating, cooking, holiday movies and specials, Christmas carols, and my husband is a bit baffled and stressed by all the kerfuffle. This is our first year of marriage, but we’ve lived and celebrated together for several years. We previously had a lot of strife and arguments over our different expectations of the day.
    The only thing I can say that may not have been said already, is bear in mind that your husband is trying to share something with you that has brought him a great deal of happiness. You absolutely can’t force the Christmas spirit into yourself, and there’s nothing at all wrong with you for not feeling merry, but let him do his thing, and give a few of his traditions a try. You may find you come to enjoy them, especially when you see how happy he and your future children are, and you can start to compromise and build your own traditions as a family. The husband is now into decorating the tree with me, I had to leave town for a performance the day after Thanksgiving, and the husband was concerned about having time to do our tree before I left because he knows how excited I get to decorate the tree. I said we should wait til I came home a few days later and do it then, but it was very sweet of him to think of it. We both like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” so that’s become our tradition, and I try to play the more classical-style holiday music that doesn’t drive him batty when he’s around and save “rockin around the Christmas tree” and watching “Rudolph” for when he’s not in earshot (If you didn’t grow up watching things like “Rudolph” and listening to Alvin and the Chipmonks sing Christmas songs, you probably will not develop a deep and abiding love for them as an adult). Also, as others have said, there’s no reason Downton Abbey can’t be an awesome holiday tradition (my husband agreed to try watching it last Christmas, and we ended up marathoning it). One of the things I’m looking forward to most this year is just sitting around in my pajamas with my husband for most of the week between Christmas and New Year’s .
    Incidentally, I grew up in an Eastern Orthodox Christmas household, where Christmas wasn’t celebrated until January 7th. I wasn’t allowed to believe in Santa Claus (I did anyway for a while, but I never got a gift from “Santa” until my friend’s mom gave me one in high school), and there was a lot of strict fasting leading up to our Jan 7th celebration, so I do understand some of the alienation that our “in-your-face-with-tinsel” celebrations can create.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation