Have you ever made a surprising discovery about your family? I did recently. It turns out my husband, sons, brother, and father were all in on it. I never connected the dots until this year when my mother and I suggested the “smallest” change to our family’s gift exchange method. It was then the astonishing truth came out…
Men are really sentimental about Christmas.
Maybe it’s just the guys in our family, but I doubt it. Over the years, I’ve learned there are three Yuletide events you don’t mess with…
The Tree— I admit, our firs have morphed over the years – from large, majestic spruces, to big artificial trees, to small real ones (I called them ‘fun size’) and finally small fakes. My husband and sons did their best with these adjustments, until recently.
I crossed the line two years ago when in a state of holiday pique, decorated a Ficus tree in our living room. Yes, I did up a big houseplant. That’s when my oldest son Patrick stepped in, declaring he’d oversee all tree operations from now on. Patrick and his brother, Paul, went to our local farm and selected a big evergreen, the kind from their childhood. They brought it home, decorated it, even had Christmas music playing. I saw then how much tradition meant to my guys (although I was grateful to let this task go).
The gifts – My mother and I were talking the other day, lamenting how Christmas has become too materialistic. “Let’s just fill each other’s stockings this year,” I said. “No gifts between you and me.” Mom readily agreed. It’s when we shared our plan with the men that the drama began.
My husband and brother Eric looked like we’d suggested throwing St. Nick in the East River. “You two aren’t doing Secret Santa?” Eric asked. “Are the rest of us getting presents?” Randy queried, aghast. Mom and I looked at each other, having no idea we’d unleashed such holiday angst. We quickly backpedaled. “Of course, we’ll have gifts, Secret Santa, whatever you want. It was just a thought between us.” Everyone sighed with relief. My God, I thought, I had no idea my husband and brother were such present purists.
The meal – The meaning of this holiday rite was poignantly pointed out several years ago, when my late father lay in a hospital bed on Christmas day. We visited him later as he sat there, hooked up to various machines. Despite being sick and infirmed, Dad wanted to know every detail about the holiday, especially the dinner.
“Did you have beef with gravy?” he asked in a weak voice. We assured him we did. “Did Paul whip up his mashed potatoes, the kind with the extra butter? Did Mom make her creamed onions? Did Randy open a good bottle of red wine? Did you have a box of chocolates and that cherry pie I like?” We said yes to all, and I saw then how much those little details and rituals meant to him. They brought comfort, stability, and a sense of continuity.
I’m not saying women aren’t sentimental. Some of the most beautiful holidays I’ve seen are put out by females. But I also have girlfriends with a more steely-eyed, practical approach to this season, more willing to alter tradition to save time and energy.
Are men more sentimental about Christmas? I guess that’s up for debate. But come to think of it, I’m glad they are.
Who’s the most sentimental in your family during the holidays? Comments are always welcome and if you’d like to share, please do!
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