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Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband hates Christmas. Neither of us is very religious, though both of us were raised in Christian households. I have very fond memories of the holiday from when I was little, and I want to share those traditions with our son.
I share my husband’s distaste for the idea of telling kids that Santa is watching over them and policing their behavior, and also agree with him that it isn’t necessary to buy our son piles and piles of presents that he doesn’t need. However, I want to do a bit of gift-giving and share in some of the magic of Christmastime with my family. How can we find a middle ground?
Explain to your husband how much your childhood Christmas memories mean to you and just what made them so special. I’m not sure how old your child is, but if he’s in school with other children who are planning to write to/visit/receive a bounty from Santa, both of you may wish to consider adapting the old-school tale but creating a version that works for your tastes. Instead of making him an omnipresent all-seeing elf, perhaps describe him as a helper who works with parents to provide kids a few special goodies on Christmas based on their behavior.
Discuss gifts with your spouse. Set reasonable limits for spending and the number of presents you two will buy for your little one. Agree on creating new family traditions that aren’t centered on consumerism, such as checking out the holiday lights at a local zoo or park, going ice skating on Christmas Eve, or even taking a mini-vacation somewhere. Bake holiday cookies and make homemade decorations. Make goodwill toward humankind the theme of your observance. Talk about what it means to spread good in the world and find ways to do it as a family, be it volunteering at a soup kitchen, making care packages for folks who can’t get outdoors, organizing and donating old toys to children in need, etc.
Don’t let the cheery suggestions fool you—I’m a Christmas hater myself. I take pleasure in letting my kid do the Santa thing and watching her eyes light up while she opens her presents, but I’d gladly skip the whole thing if she weren’t a factor. Alas, the season is really all about kids (well, it’s about capitalism and Jesus too, but largely about kids), and just like we suck up our loathing of Disney ballads, repetitive games, and messy crafts, I think the best thing we can do is to allow them to live it up a little when December comes.