The New Tradition


The deals were made a few weeks ago.  One hour of negotiations left us all feeling fairly clear on the outcome with the usual caveats written in.  Now all I had to do was wait.

Well, not actually wait.  More like get on with my life, acting as if nothing was brewing, ignoring the anticipation of the upcoming event.

While everyone else around me bounces around excitedly on the balls of their feet waiting for their turn, I merely yawn, bored with it already.

Black Friday and the big sales were of little interest to me because they would offer no relief, because the price tags on the gifts my sons want for Christmas stayed right where they were – the product of a little thing called supply and demand…or simply demand.

In the past few years, surprising them with things I thought were cool – clothes, electronics, games – all met with the same fate of disappearing or being shoved under the bed or a stack of clothes, days after Christmas.  Not that they weren’t cool (I thought they were, anyway).  The gifts were not what they really wanted or held their interest at the time.  So I’ve learned to back off, with their Christmas list in hand.


The holiday seems to have gotten so much like our Christmas tree – cut and dry.   As the boys have matured, so have their taste in gifts.  They don’t want to mess with other people’s ideas of their happiness and I finally learned to respect that.  It saves us all time and frustration.  It’s easier knowing exactly what I’ll be purchasing when the time comes for me to do the deed.  I’ll go to one or two stores, visit one or two websites and I’m done.  No wandering aisles, no wasting gas driving around town.  It’ll be a slam dunk and we all win.

Not much fun in that, I know, but I’ll still find the pleasure in the little things.  Like decorating the house and the tree, finding and sampling a new holiday cocktail, treating myself to a few gifts.  We will definitely get together with friends.   Maybe I’ll even bake cookies (HA! I say that EVERY year and it’s always an epic failure, but it’s now tradition to at least make an attempt).

I know the boys and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the whole holiday/giving thanks deal, so I’ll let this run its course.  Maybe someday the grip of the commercialism of this holiday will loosen enough for them to think of others and to give more than to receive.


Oh, I’ll still sneak in a few unexpected gifts for the boys under the tree, because I’ll never tire of trying to surprise them.

What about you?  Is Christmas still a surprise gift-fest?  Is the list that you carry around born from your hand or from the guidance of others?  Do you have shopping down to a science or is browsing still part of the magic?

About Diana Murdock

California-grown, writer of contemporary and YA paranormal with enough energy to write, raise two boys, run, and dream.

Posted on November 30, 2011, in Christmas, Holidays, Personal and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Nancy J Nicholson

    I learned long ago to give gifts off a list. I’m not always happy with the choices my family makes, but it makes them happy. Every year my son wants PSP or computer games. When he was younger it was Legos. Not much surprise other than which games we actually bought him.

    Instead we try for traditions more than gift that leave a family tradition.

  2. I grew up with lists (cutting pictures of what we wanted out of the Sears catalog) and we do lists. But kids, even grown, are instructed to put a wide range of things on it. The surprise comes from not knowing what’s under the tree because there’s way too much to get everything. (My mother in law tried that one year for her last child, only one home, and it was boring for everyone.) But I also get lots of little things, and their stockings, even now they’re grown, are probably more fun than anything else!

  3. I do a little of both. I have the kids make lists for the family and we usually try to get them to nail down their main ‘santa-gift’ request but other than that, I pick up stuff they need or will make them smile. There are traditions too — Christmas Eve they get to open up one gift and it’s always new sleep pants. That way on Christmas morning, everyone is wearing fun and cute stuff for pictures. Santa always fills their stockings with new undies and socks and always a new toothbrush. haha! So I try to balance some tradition and some spontaneous stuff.

    I think it’s telling that when I ask my 11 yo daughter what she’s going to ask for from Santa that she wracked her brain and ‘didn’t know’.

    We have really backed away from the huge commercialism of the holiday. We have (FINALLY) done a secret-santa name picking for the adults in the family. So nice to focus on one person each and really customize their gift for them instead of having to budget for 20+ people giving them a little something each. We always say each year that the best gift we all have is each other and the fact that we enjoy getting together in this huge group of family and we always laugh ourselves silly.

  4. Christmas has always been more of a concept than a date in our family. We’re scattered across the prairies, and in younger days, some of the family spent winters in Texas or B.C., so we developed the “tradition” of having Christmas whenever we felt like it.

    When I was a kid, we had Christmas in October (complete with tree and feast) before my grandparents left for the States, and then again in December. When my parents were wintering in B.C., we often had Christmas in November and then again in December. Now, we usually have a couple of Christmases with family and friends sometime in December.

    We keep gifts pretty simple. My siblings and I don’t exchange gifts anymore, and we don’t have kids, but I like to buy a small thing for the nieces and nephews and accompany it with a cheque. They’re all teens and 20’s now (the youngest is 15), so they appreciate money more than anything I could buy for them anyway.

    Hubby always manages to surprise me with something imaginative and perfect – the man is a gift-giving genius. I wish I could do the same for him, but he never complains (which is more a testament to the kind of guy he is than to my gift-giving talents). 🙂

    It’s nice not to get wound up in all the Christmas gift-giving stress – I get to truly enjoy putting up the decorations and doing the baking and Christmas cards.

  5. I find myself shifting gears like you… when my kids were younger I made all of their gifts, over the years I’ve gradually started creating less and buying more of their gifts because, frankly, a sewn replica of Soul Calibur IV and a wooden non-transforming transformer just didn’t seem to go over well… My kids are 3, 5, 7, and 9, so the older ones get more bought gifts but I tend to still make most stuff for the younger ones… tough to break old habits.

    I hadn’t really thought of the concept of simply negotiating and fulfilling a ‘list’ of sorts, as they get more picky it makes complete sense though! Maybe in a year or two or just for the main gift I might do that. I certainly would relish saving the time, it would allow me to procrastinate on more pressing projects!

    Now…. outside of my kids, I pretty much always make the gifts. My theory isn’t about surprise though, it’s just simple logic: If it’s expensive, it’s doubtful I’ll buy it for them because I’m thrifty, if it’s not, then they probably already bought it for themselves or could easily do that. A simple handmade gift is usually more meaningful to them and more fun for me, and that sounds like a win-win!

  6. Diana, I’ll send you my shortbread cookie recipe. It’s foolproof! With all of our children growing up and having their own little ones, Christmas gift giving has gone through several transitions. We do a secret Santa type exchange for the adults that is fun and everyone received a nice gift (no gags). The main thing is to enjoy the gift of family and the time you spend together.

  7. Great post, sista! 🙂

    We work off the lists. Always. The kids make their own lists (even my Kindergartener who thankfully already reads and writes really well), circle items in the toy catalogs, and look online for what really appeals to them. I approve the choices, and then send the list out to the extended family. We receive the lists from the nieces and nephews as well, and the whole process is easy and almost pain-free 🙂 I order most of the items online, and only visit stores if I absolutely have to.

    As for the cookies… I don’t really care for eating or baking them. I grew up with a different Christmas tradition, and this year, for the first time in many years, I’m gonna stick with it: in Poland we bake various cakes for holidays. My American husband’s family always gets together for Christmas, and everyone contributes cookies. I will bring a couple of yummy cakes, precut into bite-size pieces. Cookies are not my thing, but with baking and eating Polish cakes I will at least feel more close to home 🙂

  8. Johanna K Pitcairn

    Xmas!!! Such a deadly word. Lol

    I learned how to hate Xmas thanks to my former in-laws. They loved to buy shit stuff just to have a mountain of presents under the tree. I spent thousands trying to please them but nothing was ever too good for them.

    Now that I’m free again, I love to shop for my friends because I love to give. I like to find stuff I know my friends will enjoy receiving and this in itself is my Xmas gift. Of course I always indulge myself and buy stuff I like too, because it’s Xmas after all!

    Xmas shd be about love, not materiality. So much can be shared around a nice dinner or a cup of hot chocolate. The price tags and the torn paper wraps under the tree leave me cold as ice unless they mean something to the person who’s opening each gift and truly enjoying the love that has been put in each of them.

    And yes despite being on vacation I still can’t live without reading your blog. I haven’t seen any beautiful Brazilian yet by the way, but I’m not losing hope. I’m only leaving Sunday.


  9. I know EXACTLY how you feel. Our girls are the same. They have very specific requests, and for me it saps most of the joy of exploring and trying to surprise them with a “gift” in the true sense, rather than just an order fulfilled. But like you, I’ve had to learn to let go. Maybe I was being selfish because hunting for their presents gave me such pleasure. I still do a little of that with their Santa gifts, and they tend to choose/order the main present themselves.

  10. I am a total list person! I create a long list of options for hubby and the family so that the element of surprise is there (cause lord knows they could never buy me everything on the list) but it also ensures that they are buying me things I will love and adore. I try to do the same for them although lately I’ve found that “some” members aren’t putting a lot of thought or effort into their list. My Mom actually sent me THREE things on her list that she wanted (and all were Gift Certificates based)!
    And that list went out to all the family, her hubby and her two biological children and three step children?!?! Not cool! Not helpful. Luckily I know her tastes well enough to buy her things I’ll think she’ll enjoy. For those who don’t provide me a good list with lots of options, they get what they get and it’ll be hit or miss…either way, they’ll be surprised but I’d rather KNOW that what I spent my $$$ on was something they really wanted and could use!!!
    My step father REFUSES to shop off a person’s list (or give a list) and so…most of the time he gets us things that aren’t really what we want or can use. They are more often miss than hit and then I feel bad because I know he’s spent hard earned money and is trying to SURPRISE me (which I always AM) but…I’d have loved to have been surprised with something I was hoping to get…
    So…I know it’s hard…I know you want to totally shock them with that WOW gift but, if they’ve asked for it, trust me, they’ll be surprised and love it because you listened and made their wishes come true…

  11. I remember the years of trying to get just the right gift for my three kids and even the few years of trying to explain about where money comes from. My daughter once told during a difficult period to just go write a check– “You have a lot of checks, Daddy.”

    We’ve been very lucky that our children were never overly demanding in what they wanted. It surprised me at times.

    We now live in Thailand where Christmas is a few Santas in the big malls but little pressure. What a relief! I still try to send gifts to a few but postage is more than the gift so I use the internet. I do miss the get togethers but not the shopping.

    Wonderful post, Diana!

  12. I spent my first 13 years having everything I wanted at Christmas time…lots and lots of presents. The year my parents got divorced my mother explained to us that Christmas would be much different- we would get one big present and one small present. I remember crying when she told me that. Seriously, I cried! Not because my parents were getting a divorce, but because we only got two Christmas presents. I was so upset. One day, a week before Christmas, my mother had taken a day off work and when I came home from school, the ENTIRE house was decorated like a winter wonderland and the house smelled like Christmas cookies! It was so magical and has became one of my favorite memories! Somehow seeing only two presents under the tree for me didn’t bother me as much and Christmas took on a new meaning. That was the turning point for me as a kid…when Christmas goes from “all about getting” to “all about giving to others.”

    To this day, my mom goes all out to decorate her house with Christmas decor and baking cookies and tamales too! Yum!

    Thanks mom…for making Christmas such a magical time for me!

  13. You nailed it. I deplore the crass commercialism of Christmas, taking more joy in the process, which doesn’t entail fighting for a parking space at the mall. I love the smells of holiday, the pine scent, cookies baking in the oven. I enjoy the ritual of making tablescapes and decorating the house. I’m hosting thirty plus people for Christmas Eve dinner and the annual gift exchange. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I’m looking forward to it!

    My mom had my nephews circle what they wanted from the Target Wish Book. They circled every boy-centric toy. No surprise there! I buy them Legos every year because it’s the only thing they continue to enjoy.

    One of my favorite things is packing up the holiday packages for soldiers. Lots of holiday themed candy and cookies, Santa hats, silly toys like chattering teeth and Nerf guns. Putting a smile on someone’s face who’s far from home makes me grin like an idiot.

    The mailbox is jammed with catalogs, but I treasure the few holiday cards I receive from friends who’ve taken the time to write a note inside. My most memorable Christmas was the year my folks faced financial hardship. There were only a few gifts under the tree, but we gave each other the best gift of all, hope.

  14. My mom demands my Christmas list in August and finishes her shopping in September. Unfortunately, this year she got too excited and couldn’t wait to give me my Christmas gifts, so I already got them. Christmas for us has also become less of the sneaking around and piling surprise gifts under the tree. Maybe it just works better with kids. Also, my love language is not gift-giving, so I’ve never been good at that aspect of Christmas, neither giving nor coming up with a Christmas list.

  15. Hi, Diana. I am so behind in my blogging…can you tell? 🙂
    At some point, I guess, things transition away from trying to surprise the kids over to simply enjoying the season and spending time with one another. My oldest son will graduate high school this coming year, and my youngest son from junior high. I have to twist their arms to get that list and then there isn’t much on them. Part of the problem is the fact that we pretty much get what we want when we want – all year long. That kind of robs the fun out of the Christmas giving. My wife went to black Friday, but came back with boots for herself. *sigh* She’s the hardest one to shop for out of all of us because she doesn’t really want much.
    Me, I’m easy: give me a stack of dvds and a couple of iTunes gift cards and I’m yours!! 🙂


  16. Are you kidding me? I have an almost 21 year-old (December 18th! Yikes, how the heck did that happen?) and a 13 year-old that I STILL threaten Santa with. I’m a full-on surprise them kind of gift giver, but I also get lists. Well, in my daughter’s case, we went shopping on Black Friday and bought all her gifts. The cool thing about that is she usually forgets by the time her birthday and/or Christmas comes around. So she’s all surprised and happy on the actual day. She’s so funny!

    The hardest part is the grandparents… I always say gift cards, but they fight me on that. My son finally told them, “Look, I don’t always want a ton of stuff at once, so this way I can buy something cool throughout the year.” Kind of hard to argue that!

    Happy Christmas!

  17. We optimize, lists or surprise works. Sometimes we’ve even been known to go the “physical” route and haul people out for adventures. My husband took his mom on a helicopter ride for her 65th birthday. I like working from lists because there’s so little that I want or need these days and a load of “stuff” isn’t so appealing.

    I’m not overly fond of gift cards even though I love having them in my wallet, primarily because it seems like all the gift-givers should just swap $20 bills or high five each other and shout: “$50 bucks at ya!”

    As the generations in my family have aged and time has spread us far apart, I miss the togtherness the most. The gifts are fun but the squabbling and teasing just isn’t the same without the entire crew. Cooking and telling stories, reliving the “old” days and the house filled with multiple generations are the best memories from my childhood.

    But, having said that, I’m not moving home to Missouri and y’all can’t make me go!

  18. I know this is from last year, but lets face it, people are already buying for this xmas!! I long lost interest in xmas when I realized how commercial it all is!! When Moli was born (now 7) I was excited, the boys were a bit older, like your two, they weren’t into the fun and games of it all, let alone the giving and love of the time of year! When Moli was about 4 I learnt about the santa claus effect, how we lie to them as kids about santa, the tooth fairy… lalalaaaa…. and then we expect them to trust us when they are teenagers. How can we expect them to trust us when we have lied to them their whole lives?
    I then had to tell Moli the truth, and I am so glad I did, she sees the season for what it is, we are thankful for each other and what we have and she gets just as excited.
    This year I have told my kids it is going to go like this…
    They will have, one thing they want… one thing they need, one thing to wear and one thing to read!!! That way, we do not have all the crap!! But like you, I like surprise, there are so few surprises in life, so I will get them 2 things they want! As Moli gets older, what I would like to do it go to homeless shelters and residential homes to help out… find some real feeling, love and joy… xxxx

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