The work of Christmas

Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Christmas, marriage, work | 10 comments

220px-Mr&MrsSantaClausYesterday I read this piece by fellow blogger Jana and it really struck a chord.  She observed that most of the work to make Christmas magical is done by women, but ultimately the credit goes to a man — Santa.  I wondered how true this is for other families.  My husband buys my presents and wraps them, and he helps me pick out and put up our tree.  Weather permitting we cut it down ourselves, and his job is usually the cutting, while I hold it upright.  Once home, he holds it up while I squirm under the stand to try to screw in the bolts (my size and agility making this easier for me).  I do all the decorating of the tree.  I also buy, wrap and ship all presents for family members.  We stuff each other’s stockings.  Because we don’t have kids I think the holiday load is fairly evenly distributed.  If I am doing more it is in large part because I enjoy it and want certain things done, whereas he doesn’t care as much.  I think maybe if we had kids what is enjoyable now could become a chore in terms of teacher gifts, school events and other obligations.

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10 Comments

  1. Growing up, and now, my mother is definitely the Christmas elf in my family, and while she does get great joy from it, I think it is also accompanied by great stress.

    In my marriage I play a bigger role in all things Christmas as well. In some cases I embrace it because traditions are very meaningful to me, and I am willing to do the work to bring them about. I am less thrilled when it means that I am responsible for taking care of presents for both of our families.

  2. I think in most families it is true that women do more of the work associated with Christmas. I think it is about even in my family with my husband doing a lot also, maybe even more than I do. But he enjoys decorating, shopping, and gift-giving. We don’t do a lot of baking or hand-made gifts, unless it is an activity with the children (such as decorating ginger bread houses for FHE).

    I think it would not be right for a woman to look at a situation where she is doing a lot of Christmas-related work and feeling stressed about it and decide that her husband necessarily needs to do more. My view when it comes to Christmas is that less is more.

    • I agree on the less is more. My feeling would be that if a particular tradition or aspect is really important to a family member, that family member should be willing to take on most or all of the labor required. Otherwise, maybe it is a tradition that could be left at the wayside.

  3. I definitely do more. Mike does set up the artificial Christmas tree — that’s his big contribution. But I do all the shopping, decorating, etc.

    • Correction: Reading Spunky’s reminded me: he does do the annual newsletter, which is big job.

  4. When we first married, DH told me he hated Christmas, so he sat around being a scrooge for 3 Christmases while I did everything. Tired of that scenario and his Scrooginess, I announced on our 4th Christmas that I also decided to hate Christmas, so I did not put up a tree, decorate, make anything, or otherwise. This shocked him, and HE finally did a tree– and took over the Christmas cards (our biggest task.) Since then, he is the primary author of our annual Christmas poem and card purchaser, meaning I still do the majority, but he does do something– and without attitude, which is nice. I still find myself sometimes feeling overwhelmed with the burden of finding gifts for my in-laws, but other than that, I have generally enjoyed being the primary decorator and baker.

    • This is a little baffling to me: that you buy gifts for your in-laws. When dh and I married, I assumed that, just like he was the one to call his family every Sunday, he would be the one to buy Christmas gifts for them. Our first Christmas, I sent off gifts to my family and then started stressing about the fact that he had not gotten any for his. I made suggestions, but he never took any action.

      I thought it was rotten that his family didn’t get any gifts that year, so I decided to add them to my list the next year. Turns out, he didn’t like any of my ideas for gifts got his parents and siblings, so I gave the job back to him: his blood, his problem. Its worked well since then. He either gets them gifts or he doesn’t, either way it isn’t my problem.

      I’m always interested that other couples have such different strategies for managing the tasks inherent in a relationship.

      • I’ve been meaning to respond to this comment for way too long, so here goes: I tried doing the his side/my side present thing, but what I learned pretty quickly is a) my husband’s primary love language is gift giving, and b) i suspect his parents’ primary love languages are gift giving and quality time, and c) my husband is a terrible listener, and therefor, not really clued in about what gifts to give.

        What this equation meant was that every Christmas, my in-laws give us a gift- with a receipt, and expect us to return it, or they give us cash. My husband’s gift was almost always to give them cash, too. Sometimes they traded the same amount of money. I thought this was weird. So I started listening.

        I bought a gift for my MIL that year. A kitchen gadget that she had wanted for years and years. She CHEERED when she opened it. Everyone went silent, and then wondered out loud why they had not picked up on getting her that very thing. The next birthday for my FIL was similar, I actually listened to something he said he has an eye out for– and got it for him. It was the first time he said “thank you” and sounded sincere. My husband *can* hear, and I don’t mean to speak ill of him, but some things just don’t register for him the way they do for me. So what came of me taking over gift-giving was that our relationship improved with my in-laws; my in-laws seemed to feel closer to my husband. Mostly, it did wonders for me and my relationship with my in-laws as well. So- listening can be a strong suit for me, and not for him. And the overall benefit and positive relationship-building made it more valuable to our family if I listened and shopped for his side, than if I just left the cash swap up to my husband.

        To be clear, shopping is a chore around the holidays. But in an area where I am more skilled than my husband, it has made me, and him, and them happier when I participate. There are other areas that he shines in, so he does those. This works for us, but I know it would not work for everyone.

  5. I love this post. And Jana’s and your comment above, Spunky. Love it all.

  6. My husband does the bulk of Christmas: outside lights, inside decorating, buys half the Christmas presents for our kids, writes the Christmas letter. I do the Christmas mailing and stuff the stockings.

    Honestly, I’m not a fan of Christmas. It stresses me out, so I’m grateful to have a spouse who is willing to do with our kids what is unpleasant for me.

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