My husband hates Christmas. He grew up in a poor family where they always had their gifts provided by neighbors and their church. He feels like everyone always felt sorry for his family. We struggle financially, so he gets angry around this time of year and says that he hates that Christmas is only about buying gifts. We still don’t have a Christmas tree up, he complains about presents for the kids, and it’s pretty touchy to even go to our kids’ Christmas events. I don’t want our kids’ memories of Christmas ruined by their dad’s bad experiences with Christmas as a kid. It’s not fair to them. But, I can’t bring it up or we’ll get in a fight. What do you suggest?
Your husband’s poverty-stricken childhood doesn’t have to continue to haunt your current Christmas activities. It’s time for you guys to have a conversation about how to reclaim Christmas for your family, regardless of what he went through.
In order to do this successfully, you’ll need to be open to the possibility of having to give up some of your favorite Christmas traditions. He needs to know you don’t have some script for Christmas that leaves out his ideas. Approach him to let him know you’re completely willing to start new traditions for your own family and see where that goes.
Don’t go behind his back and secretly give your kids a Christmas experience. This undermines your relationship with him and your children’s relationship with him. Let him know that he’s more important than a holiday and you want to work together to find common ground that helps you both enjoy the holidays with your family.
There is no law that states every family should have a Christmas tree or give gifts to their kids. Granted, the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas this way, but I also know of many families who have found other ways to make this time of year meaningful for their families.
If you’ve spent years pushing your traditions as absolutes that must be a part of Christmas, then this most likely makes it impossible for him to suggest any alternatives. He probably believes that it’s heresy to suggest your family do something other than the traditional activities typically associated with Christmas.
Most couples have to navigate this terrain when they first get married, as they each come from backgrounds with different traditions. This is the same discussion, except that the pressure isn’t just coming from different family beliefs, but from the larger culture, which tells us how to celebrate this time of year. If those traditions work for your family, embrace them. If you have ones that work better for your family, go with those.
Chances are, you have strong feelings about things in your life that you hope your husband will take seriously. Your kids will benefit more from a unified marriage than from candy canes and stuffed stockings.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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