Last year, I told my family I would like to pick names out of a hat for Christmas gift-giving, because there are quite a few of us, and, partly for financial reasons, I thought it would be easier. This year, my sister announced that she is getting gifts for everyone, irregardless. I care for my sister, but find the whole gift-giving thing inconvenient and not particularly joyful. I don’t think she means badly, and I know she enjoys the whole buying and giving thing. I’m not going to stop her, but now I feel impelled to have to get her something, and I really don’t care for it much. Could you please address this in your column?
Unmerry in Canton
I’m so glad you’ve brought this up. There is so much pressure at Holiday time to feel united, in synch, and conflict-free with our families…sometimes, this just isn’t real. Here you are, in the heat of a classic family conflict: your sister wants to get into the full abundance of Christmas in all it’s glory, while you would prefer to be in efficiency mode. There’s no right or wrong way here, but how do you deal with the conflict?
My grandmother was like your sister. At every opportunity, she liked to shower us with gifts – sometimes a dozen or more at a time. Finally, after realizing we could never match her in gift-giving, and needing a way to assuage our guilt, we just started kidding with her, “is this all you got me?”
Your challenge, likewise, is probably less what you should actually buy your sister, or even how much money you should spend. The question, as I see it, is how you should deal with either Guilt (if you don’t do as much as she does) or Resentment (if you do?) It’s these negative emotions that can go far towards ruining the Holiday spirit.
However, my dear friend, these feelings are there. Pat them on the head, accept them, treat them like familiar friends and invite them into your mental house. If you do this, and don’t think of them as wrong or unacceptable, they won’t fight back and possibly hijack you into being mean to your sister. It’s really not feelings that ruin our lives as much as it is where they can lead us. So give your sister a great big hug on Christmas and remember: this is neither the first nor probably the last time she’s going to give you headaches. As a matter of fact, to all my readers, I’m sure you will all have your share of headaches this season, too…So on that cheerful note, please, all give yourselves a great big hug. You have my best wishes for a Holiday filled with lots of emotions, all kinds of fun, love, and wonderful food in great abundance.