Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tradition. Tradition. TRADITION!

You should be singing the title to this post Fiddler on the Roof style which, I know, is hard to translate into writing but, eh, whatcha gonna do?

Actually, I am not a gal who is so much into tradition. Not that I have anything against traditions, per se, I just think that one should leave herself open to doing whatever feels right in a situation, not simply doing things the way they’ve always been done “just because.” Our wedding was not full of customs that other weddings generally follow, for Thanksgiving we grilled out since I don’t eat meat (no turkey in the household), and next year we’ll probably do something different entirely, and we often celebrate what we call “Christmas” on a day other than Dec. 25, depending on our plans for that year (which always vary).

But, we are traditional when it comes to the holidays in some ways. We do always deck the halls (though I don’t have any balls of holly) – putting up a tree, hanging stockings and (usually, assuming I can convince GAR to do it) stringing up the lights on the front of the house – and we NEVER do it prior to Thanksgiving (that’s sacrilege in our house). We bake cookies, send out holiday cards featuring photos of us and the pups, and wrap presents – every year. And we likely watch a few holiday tv specials too. These are traditions I suppose, though we’re not insistent about how we do them or when … we could let one or two slide without much notice … but mostly they’re just things we do to feel “festive.” However we do have one main tradition in our house, and this tradition can NEVER be broken – our gift giving ritual.

We started this tradition a few years ago when we first bought our house. We wanted to keep our Christmas spending small while still getting each other thoughtful, meaningful tokens of affection. So we made some rules (traditions always have rules, which can sound limiting or oppressive but, somehow, we’ve made our “rules” into such a game that it’s completely fun … and challenging – in a good way).

Rule 1: There is a max spending limit of $100 (including tax and shipping for any items purchased – although GAR will often try to negotiate out of including one or the other of these add-ons in an effort to spend a few extra bucks)
Rule 2: Everything you purchase MUST fit inside the other person’s stocking (at least part of each item anyway, there can be some spillover at the top)

We also sometimes make a Rule 3 to challenge us further. Rule 3 includes specifics for the gift content. For example, this year we must have one gift that the other person can wear, one gift that you made and one gift that is symbolic of something we’ve done together as a couple (you could have three separate gifts to meet these criteria or you could have one or two gifts that serve double/triple duty – i.e. a scarf you knitted out of old vacation t-shirts). But we don’t always have a Rule 3 because, as I said, even our traditions have to be a little bit flexible.

I LOVE our gift giving tradition because we each have to think a lot about what it is that we want to get the other person most. We have to budget our money accordingly, shop wisely, get reeealllly creative about how to accomplish our mission, think strategically, and still manage to surprise and delight the other person with our craftiness and consideration. On numerous occasions I’ve seen GAR taking precise measurements of my stocking, plotting and planning what will fit inside. GAR’s stocking is all misshapen now – stretched out from me cramming as much as humanly possible in there in years past. We get crafty and cunning and downright sneaky about our purchases. And, best of all, we’re not blowing the bank with our perfect little presents. However, we do, frequently, blow each other’s minds with what we’re able to get each other on our tight budgets.

This year’s gifts are already starting to pop up. Every few days I look and there seems to be something new that’s appeared. Here’s where we stand today – Dec. 1. Only 24 more shopping days to go (or, since we’ll actually be celebrating Christmas on Dec. 23 this year, 22 shopping days really)!

I can’t wait to see what this year’s stocking madness brings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, GAR and I are off to do some shipping for another little (fiscally responsible) holiday tradition we have – The Dollar Store Christmas. Each year our friends all get together for a “Secret Santa” style party where the gift you give to your assigned recipient must come from the Dollar Store (or cost no more than $1 + tax, if purchased somewhere other than the Dollar Store). Again, you’d be surprised what you can get for a single buck. I used my $1 copy of Sanjaya’s memoir (from "American Idol" – didn’t you know he has his very own book?) to trap a snake in my house earlier this year, I have a $1 recording of the Michigan State (my alma mater) fight song on CD and, should the need ever arise, I can take a $1 pregnancy test (though I’m not sure I’d trust the results on that one).

So yeah, some traditions really are worth keeping around (as long as they don’t cost me too much moolah that is). Happy holidays!

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