How Gift Giving Has Changed Since Marriage

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Laura and Zach play dreidel
Zach teaching Laura’s family to play dreidel

The weather is quickly changing!  That means it’s time to think about “the holiday season” for 2018. Last year I wrote a post about our first married holiday season, celebrating Hannukkah and Christmas together. Zach and I were just married, and we were figuring out our unique traditions for the season–which of our families’ traditions we wanted to keep on our own or with our families, and what new ones we wanted to add.

This year I’ve been shifting my mindset from “my” family and “your” family to our family. Each branch of our family has things to offer and teach us. One area that still feels divergent is gift-giving around the holiday season.

For my branch of the family, gift giving at Christmas is important. We start asking each other for our “lists” in November. Some of us save the things we really want (new books, clothes, etc.) for our Christmas list. We spend time shopping to find the perfect gift that is useful, desired, or uniquely suited to the person. But, in my experience, it’s easy to take this to another level. I will often wake up on Christmas Eve Day and think one or any of the following:

  • Menorah and Christmas tree
    Last year’s celebration

    “Do I need to buy one more small thing for my sister because the thing I bought for my brother cost more?” 

  • “I have to think of another idea for Mom because Dad is opening five small things from me but I got Mom one big gift.”
  • “Is my friend or co-worker having me over for dinner or drinks so that they can give me a gift? Do I need to get them a gift?”
  • “I forgot to get a gift for that Secret Santa at work!”
  • “Are my high school friends still doing a gift exchange? I can’t remember!”

Christmas gifting can thus quickly accelerate from thoughtful and sweet to attention-consuming and materialistic. So how do we keep the generous spirit of Christmas? Groups like New Dream offer advice to reign in holiday gifting. As an interfaith couple, our inspiration comes from our family’s observation of Hannukkah.

Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah in lots of different ways. Some give eight gifts–one for each night. Zach’s family has always given one gift per person each year. It seems like less of a focus of the holiday. Since his family is spread out, we send the gift with a card or well wishes for a bright holiday season. His family are more laid back about the amount and timing of gifts, which allows us to focus more on the brightness of the holiday and the joy of giving a gift. This experience offers me a different perspective than what I’m used to, in both my family and in the focus on Christmas gifts that the retail industry reinforces throughout the holiday season.

So, what does that mean for our 2018 holiday? We haven’t decided on anything drastic, like not giving gifts or setting a strict gift budget. But our family offers approaches to blend together the thoughtfulness of selecting gifts and the relaxed approach to giving gifts. We plan to give generously and, in true interfaith form, take the best from both of our traditions to bring joy and light into this holiday season.

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About Laura Drescher

Laura is a practicing Catholic navigating life in Washington, DC with her Jewish husband. She is passionate about public service, environmental stewardship, and interfaith connections. Just married in September 2017, she is excited to jump into married life and form new faith traditions with her life partner.