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

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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. I realized recently I don’t necessarily hate Christmas like I thought…it’s just that I can’t be bothered to get into the Christmas spirit or care at all until about December 23rd. I just can’t stand the 2-month lead up to the holiday.

    I also recently figured out that my favorite holiday is actually Christmas Eve, and that I pretty much loathe Christmas Day. In my family we always cooked delicious food, played board games and just enjoyed being together. All my favorite holiday memories from childhood are actually on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day in my family there was always too much importance placed on everything being “just right” and it winds up ruining the day because people’s feelings get hurt easily if something isn’t going the way they planned.

    After years of thinking I hated Christmas I figured out how to make it mine and enjoy it on my own very limited terms. I think it’s important to ask your loved ones to compromise. For example, I hate all of the gift giving but will gladly participate in a white elephant or secret Santa gift exchange. I don’t like having the same Thanksgiving foods on Christmas day so I make a few non-traditional dishes to add to the usual spread that my family makes.

    Oh, and someone upthread mentioned The Little Dummer Boy Challenge which I am gleefully participating in this year!

  2. I don’t celebrate Christmas, and haven’t tried to, so it has all worked out for me.

    BUT, I have started doing something I love, which is the Holiday Lights Bike Ride. A group of us cruise all the decorated streets on bikes, perhaps drinking warm drinks from thermoses. This works because biking at night is always two or three times as fun as you expect it to be, even if you expect it to be fun. The crazy light shows are perfect on bike, since you can bypass lines of cars and they aren’t really interesting enough to see on foot.

    I’m telling you, Holiday Lights Bike Ride. Strongly recommend.

  3. Since you mentioned your husband likes church as part of his Christmas tradition I wonder what it would feel like for you two to seek out a special service some churches offer around Dec. 21 that are called “longest night” or “blue Christmas” services. (hehe…the “blue” service makes me giggle…)

    Those services are specifically designed for people who are grieving and/or struggling with a season focused on joy when it isn’t joyful for them. Maybe it would be helpful for him to experience so he can get a glimpse of what Christmas celebrations feel more like for you?

    I don’t know where you’re located but I would think they should be easy to google. I just put in “longest night christmas service” and found one near me easily… (e.g. http://mtzionhighland.com/?q=content/blue-christmaslongest-night-service-122213-7pm)

    • My husband does not like to focus on the past. He doesn’t like to talk about death, past events or anything “hard.” He has a lot of trouble with showing or feeling sympathy. It’s a very weird thing, but it’s who he is.
      I think the service might help me, but it’s not something he’d be into. It might be helpful if he could show sympathy, but he just can’t.
      I’ll check those out, though, thank you!

  4. Growing up, Christmas was always pretty stressful for me because of my home life. When I moved out, I wasn’t all that into it and neither was my darling introvert because of “ALL the people! ALL the expectations!”. We have kids now and while we’re still pretty meh about Christmas, we love decorating and doing fun things with/for them.

    We’ve also created our own Christmas traditions. My favourite is watching ‘The Hogfather’ while wrapping presents, Rugz likes to buy sugary cereal, and we both like to make a big deal out of Santa’s visit. We also have an incredibly fun ‘chosen family’ gathering on Boxing Day, where people come over to relax with us and there are no expectations beyond good manners.

  5. So I know I’m echoing many of the sentiments that have been expressed in the comments here, but…

    In my household growing up, Christmas was decidedly unpleasant because my parents had unhappy childhoods and it reminded them of being forced to spend time with the people they wanted to get away from… and we didn’t have a whole lot of money so pickings were slim as far as presents went. My mother made the mistake of taking pictures of everyone the Christmas I was 12 and my brother was 10, and we all looked downright miserable. That was the last “traditional” Christmas we had (she looked at those pictures after they were developed and said “this isn’t what Christmas is about.”) Christmas for my family since then involved popping popcorn in the whirlypop, adding special ingredients, and watching movies.

    I’ve never decorated for Christmas. My husband moved in three years ago and was floored that I didn’t have a decoration to my name. I told him he was welcome to decorate, and his mother even donated some electric (fake) luminarias for our house that year. They have yet to be put up. If he wants to decorate and take down decorations, it’s on him, and I am open to it. His mother does Christmas up as a day-long party and always asks us to provide a dish and a 12 pack or more of beer, which we always do. We stop by my parent’s place early with the baby (it’s her second Christmas) and watch a movie while my folks get high on baby, then go to my mother-in-law’s party, where we open gifts around 4PM, I get tipsy and talk photography with the cousin of some sort (twice removed?), my husband hangs out with his old Eagle Scout buddies, the child soaks up all the attention, and my mother-in-law beats everyone at Scrabble.

    Things may change as the child ages. They probably will and the truth is, they already have. I loved my mellow Christmases, and my husband loves a little bit of the mellow that I bring. He loved his balls to the wall Christmases, and after three years (fourth Christmas together), I find I actually look forward to the party. But I will never, ever, want to get out there on a ladder, in the cold, to decorate the outside of the house. And I’m not in a huge rush to decorate the inside – though we may get a small, living douglas fir that we can transplant to the yard in spring. Just because they smell nice and we need some more trees in the yard, you know, not because I’m getting any spirit or anything.

  6. I looove Christmas, and was raised in a Catholic family that made Christmas a HUGE deal. Unfortunately that left me with epic expectations of Christmas and my boyfriend, well…he was raised Jehovah’s Witness. So he never once celebrated a single holiday, let alone Christmas. This will be our third Christmas together, and I’ve learned to make some compromises, and so has he. I know we are not going to be decorating the WHOLE house in green and red and garlandy shit, or put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and if I want to listen to Christmas music it better be on my own time. But he’s also great about actually getting the tree now and helping me decorate it, and we do love to buy each other presents. While I love to make a big deal out of Christmas, I was never set so much on “traditions.” I’m not even sure what that would be…tree, lights, presents, and good food are pretty much what I stand by now. And now that we’re expecting our first child, I can see the boyfriend starting to get more into it, for the sake of future excited kiddos. He doesn’t really “get” the whole Christmas thing and the magic it holds for me, but maybe once he sees our son enjoying the magic of it he will. In the meantime, compromise is the key!

  7. Thank you all for all of the advice! I think compromise and new traditions are definitely the name of the game, along with honoring the past in my own way.

    Thank you guys, for everything! This was incredibly helpful!

  8. I grew up with great Christmases. It was always super happy and fun and exciting when I was a kid and I really loved everything about it. As I grew up, though, it somehow lost its magic and luster. I would still celebrate with my family, and it was nice, but that spark of Buddy the Elf-like joy was just…gone. Part of it was that I was an adult and thus no longer believed in Santa, and as much as I love giving gifts I’m not a person who receives gifts very comfortably. My husband grew up with a mother who literally did nothing for Christmas; no tree, no presents, no cookies; nothing that would have required her to put forth any effort at all. So he could care less about Christmas. He doesn’t carry any particular baggage about it, he’s just “meh” about the whole thing.

    When we first got together, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make a “perfect” Christmas for him so that he could experience the magic I remembered. I bought a tree and made him decorate it with me while we listened to Christmas music and drank cocoa. I went into crazy Martha Stewart mode. I forced him to watch Charlie Brown. And while he appreciated my love and effort…he still did not give three fucks about Christmas. It has taken me a while to realize that we’re just not Christmas people. We’re childfree, so the idea of making Christmas special for a little one is not on our radar. It’s two weeks away and I still haven’t even brought out the tree. Last year I didn’t put it up at all, and neither of us really stressed about it.

    I do think that what makes Christmas good or bad for someone is the happy traditions that they remember from childhood. If your childhood Christmas was filled with sadness, or meh, you won’t like Christmas. If you remember the holiday fondly, it will mean something to you. It does not have to mean that you go over the top. Just figure out some Christmas traditions that you and your husband can share with your child, you can make them whatever you want. I will say that it kinda sucks being a “meh about Christmas” person during this season…and that if I had a child, I’d try my best to make Christmas awesome for him/her just to make sure that they have the opportunity to enjoy it if they want and I feel like my husband would probably make an effort to do the same.

  9. I’ve become a total grinch myself and I totally feel your pain.

    My dude is way into his family’s xmas traditions, which include spending every major holiday time at his parents’ house. Which would be fine, except there’s this weird pressure to exactly conform to EVERYTHING his family wants. Which in turn means that HIS stuff comes first, and I’m struggling to even get a dinner at a reasonable hour in with my family (no I won’t keep asking my mum to move dinner back a few hours so it doesn’t interfere with YOUR family AGAIN, UGH). Two days of dinners, brunches, ect on the actual day plus the annual weekend trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia suburbs. It’s just too much. TOO MUCH dammit.

    So if you love him, plan ahead to compromise. Way ahead. For example, put a limit on the xmas activities, and make equal time for whatever it is you want to do.

    If/when you have children, please encourage them to remember/memorialize the family you’ve lost. Xmas doesn’t have to be all about consumerism/decorations/feasting.

  10. In Germany Christmas isn’t just one day, it’s a whole month filled with joy and happiness. What I love about christmas is going to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market), drinking Glühwein (mulled wine) and eating Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Stollen. Celebrating the 6th of December with St. Nicholas’ filling the socks with chocolate. Opening the door of my christmas calendar, lighting candles up on the Adventskranz. We traditionally celebrate Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) on the 24th of December just with our closest family. Having a simple meal instead of a big dinner, having Bescherung (opening gifts) after ringing a bell and maybe going to mass. We also believe in the Christkind and not in Santa Claus! It’s also called “stade Zeit” meaning “quiet time”. It means the whole month is about relaxing, having time for family and friends. Christmas is all about celebrating with your loved ones. Of course not everyone is into Christmas that much, but I guess everyone loves at least going to the Weihnachtsmarkt and drinking Glühwein ;). I guess we have so many traditions, so there is something for everyone. It’s my favorite holiday of the year because it’s all about having time for my family and friends. (Maybe we Germans are so crazy about Christmas because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Halloween ;).)
    I guess the best thing for you, is to find your way to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas. Pick traditions you like or make your own. Make Christmas about relaxing and having a good time (what we Germans call “stade Zeit”).

    • My grandma always did the stocking thing on the 6th. I didn’t realize it was a German thing, but that makes sense. That whole side of my fam is reallllly German, hence “GrimmGirl.” These are cool, thank you!

      • Yes, it’s a real German tradition. Actually the Christmas Tree is also a typical German tradition. There are quite a few to pick from.
        I found this link very helpful:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weihnachten
        So you might connect to them in some way.
        If you search online you can find many many more :).

  11. I’m the one in our family who loves christmas, and my husband doesn’t. He is (or I should say was) most decidedly a grinch, for various reasons including some childhood issues and the hatred of all things material and commercial. I love everything about this holiday–the beautiful lights, delicious food & cookies, mistletoe, holly, eggnog, you name it! I’ve tried to tone it down a bit for his sake but he doesn’t want to suck the joy out of it for me either. So there are compromises but mostly we try to find a middle ground so neither of us is put out from it. I do all the decorating & fun stuff (I don’t even ask for his help since I don’t mind doing it and I know he’s not into it like I am) and we’ve cut out gifts completely since we don’t *need* anything and we prefer spending money on things we do together as opposed to objects, so in my family we’ve started the tradition of putting money into a pot instead of buying gifts–this goes towards renting a cottage or lake house for a long weekend in the Spring that we can all spend time together. It’s a great way to focus on what really matters (each other) and not buying into the whole consumerism craziness that so much of the holidays have become. Cutting out gifts went a looong way to curing his hatred of the season.

    Our extended family has also started some newer traditions too, like playing games on Christmas night (drinking & party games, who doesn’t like that?) and now, bowling on Christmas Eve since we’ve grown much too large to all spend the night at my grandmother’s house every year like we used to.

    Also, he noticeably and dramatically changed his tune after we had our first child (who is almost 3 now). He even surprised me that first christmas as parents with a real tree all set up in the cleaned & decorated living room (even though we have a nice fake one in the attic). Seeing the joy our daughter gets out of it, the magic & wonder of this special time of year made his grinchy heart grow at least 3 times 🙂 So, focus on what’s important to you and your loved ones, create your own traditions that you will love coming back to throughout the years, and you might just be surprised when you realize you’re looking forward to this time of year.

    • I absolutely agree. Watching the joy my children get from Christmas makes it even better for me. I’ve always loved it, and I don’t mind any aspect of it at all. I love how excited they get and I absolutely feed it for them. It’s a magical wonderful part of childhood and although I know they will grow out of it as they get older, I really hope they retain the childlike joy of it as they grow.

  12. I grew up in a house where I felt that my parents were on the “Grinch-like” end of the spectrum, though we did definitely celebrate it and had good times. We didn’t get trees until super close to Christmas (Christmas Eve sometimes), some years we were super poor, but that makes for good stories now because we got things because folks took pity on us. However, it seemed like it was never Christmas until my parents had yelled and threatened to take our presents back at least once. I always worried that I wouldn’t get any. (Terrible to do to a kid). So, I would say that if you are not a fan of Christmas but your husband is, and now you’re pregnant, you 2 definitely need to talk about what you want for your child and whether or not your house will be a Christmas house or not. If you decide mutually that maybe Christmas won’t be a big deal in your house, then you can decide what to do and how to incorporate that, if at all. If you decide mutually that it would be a good thing to really do Christmas up and make it special for your child, then you need to decide what and how to do it. The important thing is though, if you’re doing it for the child, you absolutely need to make sure that even if you’re not into it yourself, you at least try to make it good for your child, because they will eventually notice if Mom hates Christmas. From my own experience with my daughters, kids don’t really “get it” with holidays until about age 3. That seems to be the age at which it all “gels” in their minds and they understand more about the concept and can really get excited. Before that, they are just too little, so if it takes a little longer to decide how your home celebrates, then that’s ok.

  13. My brothers and I are pretty “meh” Christmas. Trees? Lights? Presents? Carols? Could not care less. My mother on the other hand, always tries to “do it up BIG”, even though we don’t really care, so we just go through the motions for her. (We keep trying to get her to celebrate Kwanzaa instead, but she won’t go for it.)

    The best part about Christmas has always been having dinner with my family – actually, that’s the best part of any holiday for me. Maybe find one thing about it that you love, and let the rest go. It might make a huge difference in your perspective.

  14. Ohh ah whole blog of fellow christmas phobic travellers.
    My parents never went nuts for Christmas and for me it lost a lot of appeal after all the kids grew up and Mum and Dad were gone. This year I look forward to spending time with my sisters, nieces and nephew, Aunts, cousins and all their families, but its not “the most wonderful time of the year”.
    In fact Xmas ranks only 2nd in difficulty after August, when I miss my Dad a lot, as his birthday falls the day before mine.
    So I find “making merry” uncomfortable still, I dont expect everyone to get it, but its appreciated when its respected.

  15. My partner and I used to be in reverse of this: I grew up with Christmas being the BEST time of year, seeing family, the house being an explosion of glitter…I can remember my mum pulling out the box of Christmas videos she had recorded down onto VHS…My happiest childhood memories are of this time of year. For my partner, it was very different. His family suffered a terrible loss over Christmas many years ago, and they have struggled to cope. For him, childhood memories consist of his parents drinking the holidays away, and being dragged round to see every distantly related relative, rather than being able to play with his new gifts. He hoped when he moved out of the family home he’d discover a love of Christmas, but his very atheist girlfriend wouldn’t allow him to display any of his religious belief during the holidays. Sure enough, he started drinking the season away too. So he associated Christmas with alcohol, misery and meh.

    I’m not religious at all, however I believe that if you are, denying and concealing those beliefs is awful, and possibly half the reason he had such a grinch mentality. So the first Christmas we had together, he was able to do all the things he had felt ashamed for wanting previously – midnight mass for one. I don’t know whether it was because he is truly happy, or perhaps because I have a young child, but he’s really got into the Christmas spirit! To the point where on the 1st December he was itching to get the Christmas CD out and decorate the tree – HE even dragged ME out Christmas shopping!

    I lived with his folks for a while, and during the 6 months, Christmas came. They didn’t do decorations on the ceiling or a huge tree, wrapping presents to Christmas music etc. It was funny to see their reaction to what was totally normal to my daughter and I…and also kind of sad. But over the last three years, I’ve seen them slowly coming round and loving the holiday too 🙂

    I hope you find your Christmas spirit! It’s a holiday that’s really for kids IMO, and your childhood memories really do set the standard. But even if your Christmases as a kid sucked, you don’t have to let that still be the pattern – especially if you have kids of your own 🙂

  16. One thing that I do to help mitigate the pressure put on one day is to plan things I enjoy throughout the season. Next week I might go caroling with some other singers, just for fun, then next Saturday I’m hosting a holiday brunch with some close friends, etc etc, that way even if Christmas day leaves something to be desired (time with the in-laws can be quite meh) I don’t feel like the holidays are completely screwed. The holidays aren’t just Christmas day, and you can create all kinds of traditions throughout the season.

  17. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness so I have no emotional attachment to Christmas. While I turned my back on the religion over 14 years ago, I still have not been able to find the joy in Christmas.

    In fact I resent it as a time when I’m strongarmed to buy overpriced flights to visit extended family on my husband’s side. I would much rather go visit family when I don’t have to risk getting stuck at an airport due to snow, and when I can have a flexible date for cheaper prices.

    My husband’s family gathers around the piano and sings Christmas carols, which quite frankly weirds me out. I find the tradition of Santa Claus strange and creepy. I’ve tried to get over it. I’ve had numerous debates with friends that always end in them insinuating that I’m a horrible person who wants to deny children the feeling of wonder and magic, but it stills makes my skin crawl.

    Every year I pretend I’m an alien as I dissect traditions around me with an anthropological mind set. I guess I have a tradition after all.

    • Yes! I was raised with Christmas but I also have been re-examining everything, like many of us, to see what makes sense for me and my family. Turns out that amongst other things- school doesn’t make sense to me (so we’re homeschooling/unschooling) and lying to my kids about a guy called Santa doesn’t make sense to me either. People think we are so crazy too, but looking at it objectively it just seemed like such a weird idea to me! We get our kids like two presents each- and I’m not giving the credit to a stranger in a red suit! Haha 🙂 And yeah we are also into minimalism/ anti-consumerism, so the thought of getting more crap we don’t need, and spending money on getting other people crap they don’t need is just insanity- I can’t even get my head around it. So the last couple of years we have just been going away as a family unit for Christmas, and making clear to our families that we wouldn’t be ‘doing’ Christmas with them before we left or after we got back. Luckily we live in the same city as both our families and see them regularly, so there’s no reason that we can’t skip Christmas. I’m sure there was some disappointment for them, but what’s the alternative- I spend lots of time, energy and money on doing something I really, really don’t want for myself or my kids? Clearly I’m not a people pleaser! LOL Not bagging other people who enjoy it- to each his own- but we all have to find a way to do what feels right to us 🙂

  18. Holy moly, I commented on this last year. Hope you’re finding some solace in the comments! As it’s changed from my daughter being 1.5 to 2.5, I do worry that my husband and I are not providing her with the “ideal Christmas experience”. But I have nothing but movies to base that ideal on, and my father recently told me that one of the reasons that his childhood sucked, especially the holidays, is because his parents tried so hard to feign “perfect” while ignoring their own issues. So… my best advice, a year removed, is to come to a balance that makes both you and your husband comfortable… and the future kids will love it because it will be home, without any sort of negativity.

    • 2 years after I originally wrote this post:
      I now have a beautiful baby girl and it’s like a switch has flipped in my brain. I’ve been watching Christmas specials, singing carols, drinking eggnog and planning gifts. I caught myself staring at a Christmas display, musing about how beautiful it was. It was such a weird thought for me I even said aloud “the f*** is wrong with me?” The store clerk just looked at me funny, then went about her day. I even begged (yes, begged) my husband to take her to see Santa at the mall. I hate the mall.
      Not really sure what that little girl did to me, or if it will last, but I’m just going to go with it for now. I’d like her to have happy feelings about Christmas. Mostly, I just want her to be a happy kid, and enjoy being a kid. I feel like that’s what was really taken from me. I never got to be a kid. I definetly do not want that for her.

  19. Once upon a time, I adored Christmas. It meant chaos, rows, my maternal Nanna getting in a huff at some perceived slight, my Gr-Auntie drinking too much whisky and getting hiccups, lots of food, lots of presents and just lots of time spent with my extended family, it was never that simple but thats how the collective memory felt.

    Even as I got older, married, had kids and lost my Nans and GrAunt, I still loved it and it was a delight to take over the tradition and be the host for the day, my parents started coming to us rather than we go to them.

    My mother’s birthday is the 17th December, which was always the real start of Christmas in our house, the tree would go up and we’d start the fun. My December salary was always paid on or just before Christmas Eve so I’d take the last shopping day off and go mad first thing and loved that feeling of retail therapy followed by present wrapping and all the veg preparation in the evening with maybe a Christmas Eve party.

    Then in June 2008, my Mother died which made for a very somber and difficult Christmas for us all, followed by my marriage falling apart just after New Year in 2010 which also meant my finances fell apart spectacularly and it’s been pretty tough ever since.

    Following my marriage breakup and my Dad finding another partner, Christmas has become a very different beast. I now struggle with my Grinch-like tendencies, although I developed a love of making hampers as presents rather than buying expensive gifts, initially that came out of lack of cash and now it’s a new tradition. I’ve just taken receipt of 3kg of chocolate to make this years gifts and my freezer is full of frozen fruit for jam which will be converted over the next week.

    Since meeting my fiancé, we’ve had to adapt again, the first 2 Christmases were spent apart, last year was our first actual Christmas together and I got back a little of that feeling of chaos and fun, this year he’s cooking and I’m antsy about the whole thing. My inner control freak is not dealing very well with the idea but we’ll find our way through it and we’ll go off on Boxing Day to see his Mum and sister whilst my kids go and spend time with their Dad.

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