December the most magical time of the year. Santa and carol singing and food and shopping and trying to avoid debt and failing and traditions…….
Traditions. The nice part of Christmas. The part of Christmas that shouldn’t be stressful. I am hopeful this year. The thing is when you have your own family you create your own Christmas traditions and some you bring with you from your own childhood. For some people maybe this works all beautifully and smoothly and life is just peachy for them and there are other people ( I hope) like the husband and I.
We have come up with some lovely new Christmas traditions all by ourselves for our children and then we have compromised on others. Compromise The number one rule for a successful marriage , right? Well the husband and I have managed to be most mature, practical and were willing to compromise from the off on some things. Every year since we are married, we alternate between whose family we have Christmas dinner ( added bonus we don’t ever have to do Christmas dinner). Compromise. On the year where we dine with my family the husband will usually mumble something along the lines of “But but you need seven types of stuffing with the turkey” just for my earshot. His mammy saves him a plate of her dinner and this helped with the fact that various members of my family don’t cook Christmas dinner exactly like his Mammy. All fine. My family is bigger than his. I have always had a busy Christmas day which involves the visiting of at least three homes before dinner time. The husband has never complained with all the visiting that starts at 9am. Compromise.
All good, am I giving the impression we are a mature, together, loving couple? Good. Now I shall ruin that illusion.
There are other things that have taking us years to compromise on. Years. This is our eighth Christmas as parents and as husband and wife. I am optimistic we have finally found our Christmas way. Well almost.
The problem with disagreeing with Christmas traditions and how we want to create our own ones influenced by our childhoods is that it is very very dangerous ground. By ridiculing a childhood tradition of your beloved you are effectively belittling all their lovely rose-tinted childhood Christmas memories. Dangerous dangerous ground.
I have very definite ideas about Christmas decorations that include white lights, nice decorations, some with lovely memories, some made by the kids, a couple of wreathes, a garland for the mantlepiece, candles, real fire over the holidays……Ta Da. Lovely.
The husband has ideas that seem to be influenced by Clark Griswald in National Lampoons. He would wrap the house in tinsel if he could.
I wouldn’t be one for outside decorations myself but after years of saying no, we went to buy some the other day. White ones. He was like a child lovingly looking at the 5ft lit up penguins and snowmen in the display section and kept picking up boxes of blue lights. Blue were not part of the Christmas Compromise Act 2013. I wanted plain lights. We got snowflakes. They are white though.
The Christmas Tree
I remember the first year we went to buy a Christmas tree together. The trees were being sold locally in aid of some worthy charity. There was a little boy helping out with the tree selling. An adorable 8-year-old in his duffle coat and rosy cheeks. We selected our tree and went to pay. The trees were all the same price, €50. The husband turned around and told adorable 8-year-old, right I’ll give you €25. I didn’t understand what was going on. Apparently, you HAVE to haggle when buying a Christmas tree. Nobody told me. I also didn’t get the memo about you have to haggle for a good 15 minutes with a small boy in a duffle coat about the price of a Christmas tree.
I think that was the first and last time we went Christmas tree shopping together. Now he goes alone or with the kids. Thankfully we agree on Christmas tree size so no arguments there.
Then comes the actually Christmas tree decorating. After the big fight of 2009 where the husband ended up walking out ( at the time I didn’t know if he was gone permanently ) we now keep things separate. He buys the tree, brings tree home, leaves room. Myself and kids decorate the tree. I re-do the bit the kids do. He comes back to lift a child to put the fairy on top and we take a photograph which gives the impression we have had a merry stress free afternoon. It only took about five years to get this stage.
In the first years we had some negotiations about where Santa leaves the gifts. We sorted that out. The husband is very generous but would be more realistic when it comes to amounts you spend on
useless crap that wont be played with toys. I would be more of the fuckit we wont really need food, electricity and heat in January.
We do the main shop together every year. Its tense, I wont lie but we get through it. Then I buy the stocking things and bits and pieces. I buy this when shopping and online and don’t really track it. Then I take it out and see the amount on Christmas Eve and I panic and I apologize and the husband sighs and most years, while, it’s again tense, we get through it.
There were two years there were exceptions to this. The husband was sweating away assembling a playhouse as I was monitoring the sleeping children. He was muttering “There is way too much stuff” I was muttering “It’s once a fucking year” Oh it was joyful. Then I said “Oh I got the boy a bike as well” . “WHAT” he roared back. I start talking rapidly about how it was a bargain on Amazon and I just forgot to mention it. He suggested keeping it till the boy’s birthday. I could not comprehend this idea. There were tears. There was war. Santa brought the bike. The boy never used it. He was right. I was wrong.
Then there was the year of the candlestick holder. I don’t even remember how that argument started but I presume it was similar to the above. All I remember is standing halfway up the stairs, grabbing a candle stick holder and flinging it down at the closed sitting room door before collapsing sobbing dramatically like the world was about to end. I could say, in a weak attempt at a defense, that I was probably pregnant at the time but there was no real excusing that behaviour.
Anyway, its taken eight years, but this year, I am determined we are going to get it right and we’ve learned from past mistakes and we will fully compromise on everything and I will reign in my spending and the husband will not mention tinsel and it will all be merry and bright. Before I reign in my spending, I am going to buy us matching Christmas jumpers and we shall sit with our ( tasteful) decorations, drinking mulled wine in front of an open fire and pose for a photograph, which I will smugly post on Facebook. 8 years that is all it took, more time than it takes to become a doctor, to learn how to compromise. Not bad, not bad at all.