I still remember our first Christmas together. I won’t dare say how many years ago it was. Fine…15. (See, now I’m all sad wondering how 15 years have gone by so quickly. I’ll just push that down until later.) I wanted to impress this new guy. I got so many great, thoughtful, expensive gifts. A remote control airplane, a new hard drive, some cologne, his favorite movies. I was so proud of myself.
I wrapped them so he couldn’t tell what they were. He was always bragging about being able to guess his presents, so I wrapped them in bubble wrap and used giant boxes. He didn’t have a clue on any of it. That alone could have been my gift. I was even more proud of myself for that. It was a fun first Christmas.
Then came the next year.
We’d been together a little longer. Let’s face it, some of the newness wears off in a year. You grow more comfortable with each other. That year I hit the men’s department and made it my mission to buy him some new clothes. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Epic mistake. He warned me he was hard to shop for. He said he could only wear one brand. I wanted to prove him wrong. I could see the horror on his face as he opened box after box of shirts and pants. I was giddy with anticipation, knowing he would look so nice.
I suggested a fashion show.
You know that seam that connects the sleeves, the one that should hit somewhere close to your shoulder? Well, his hit more around mid-arm. You know how pleated pants should be mostly flat? Well, these had more of a balloon effect. It was a little more Mr. Noodle from Sesame Street and a little less of the Matt Damon look I had pictured. (Remember this was 15 years ago.) I had never seen clothes do such things on a person and I never have since. As usual, he was right.
We quickly boxed everything back up, returned it all and never spoke of it again.
After that year we tried different things like a spending limit or giving each other hidden suggestions throughout the year. Our first Christmas after getting married, we made up a game- only spend $10 for a stocking stuffer gift. That was actually harder than you’d think and pretty fun. He got me flavored coffee and a reusable k- cup for my Keurig. I still remember sitting in my cozy pajamas sipping coffee that Christmas morning. It’s a great memory.
The next year we both had the idea to go out for a nice dinner together. That would be our only gift. We both loved the idea and didn’t care about not getting an actual wrapped gift. We dressed up, picked a nice restaurant and had a wonderful evening. We talked, splurged on dessert and it was really great.
So great, in fact, we’ve done it every year since…9 years and counting.
Our only gift to each other is that time together. Just us, eating and talking and reflecting. I haven’t missed opening a gift, neither has he. To us, this is the best gift we could get. This time has been even more special since we have kids. It’s rare to get alone time anyway, so our “only gift” is a time to anticipate and enjoy.
I get it, this isn’t for everyone. I’ve had many people tell me they wouldn’t like it, not having a gift to open and all. Some ask me if it bothers me. The answer is always no. It’s ok though, because we all need to do what works best for us! I will say, if it sounds like something you’d like to try… then try it! Maybe you’ll find a new tradition or even put your own spin on it!