A Plea To My Siblings: Don’t Take Christmas From Me

21 Oct


Christmas is far and away my favorite holiday.

I’ve often worried I would fall in love with someone who had strong family Christmas traditions and our dueling alliances would tear us apart.  I will give my partner any other holiday, ANY holiday he wants, as long as he gives me Christmas.

My family does Christmas right.

There’s the neighbor gifts–salsa.  We all have our jobs, I write the labels because mah handwriting is da bomb, yo, also because I’m terrible with a blender. There’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the novel we read every year growing up.  There’s the Disney Christmas Album and a box full of handmade ornaments, and a yearly Nativity pageant where I am always, always the angel and plan to be such until my own daughter rips the role from my hands.

And then there’s Christmas Eve.

Long ago when my four siblings and I were but young children, curly of hair, extreme of height, Christmas Eve meant the Nativity and Christmas morning meant presents.  These were the days of Barbies and video games and sleepless, giddy nights.  These were also the days when the cheap gifts we bought our siblings got lost in the fray of Barbies and video games and sleepless, giddy nights.

Enter Christmas Eve.

One year it was decided us children would exchange our gifts on Christmas Eve, allowing us to fully enjoy our simple sibling gifts for one night, and then on Christmas Day we would have our parent gifts.

This solution worked like a charm.

Suddenly sibling gifts were a thing.

A very, very important thing.

Back in the early, early days, sibling gifts consisted of our parents handing us $6 as we entered the Dollar Store, $1 per person per gift.   We would walk through the aisles, looking for the best crappy soap possible, furiously hiding our baskets from snooping siblings, and furiously trying to track down what our snooping siblings were getting us.

When money grew a bit more sophisticated, it was all of us at Target, trying hard not to/to run into each other in the aisles.

We would obsess over the gifts we got each other. “Just read the first three letters on the receipt,” we would say.  “What are the first three letters?  That’s all I need to know.” We would shake hidden gifts and give hints and then, once we all went shopping together, we would all wrap our presents together.

This is my favorite part of all of Christmas.

My siblings and I gather in one big room and wrap our gifts to each other.

It’s exactly the sort of madness you would hope it would be.  We furtively show each other our grand surprises.  “Ooooh Jessie,” we say, “you’re going to love this!” and Jessica, who has her back turned NO PEEKING groans in anticipation.

We build forts to wrap presents underneath.  We use love seats as dividers, employ the honor system, and loudly speculate as we wrap a gift.  “Hear that?” we say, “That’s your gift Joel,” and then Joel will be off predicting based on the first three letters of the receipt.

A lot of things have changed since the Dollar Store days, but this Christmas Eve gift giving and wrapping has (mostly) stayed with us.  When Jeff flies in from Austin he brings a bag of unwrapped gifts.  When I return from California my sibling presents are bare, ready for wrapping day.  Ready for this, my favorite family tradition.

And then, one day, without warning, we grew  up.

We added people to the familia.

Hi Lindsey! Yo Andrew! Hello my little nephew/Pride Of The Family Denning!

And suddenly the task seemed bigger.  The gift giving for each, individual person more unlikely.

Last year we tried to end the sibling gift tradition, or I should say a majority tried to end the tradition, and a vocal minority (me) (I’m always the family’s vocal minority) opposed the motion.  Drawing a single sibling name for a single sibling Christmas gift was heartbreaking and painful and every draw I cried out, “I can’t do this!  I feel terrible!”

So our tradition continued another year.

Just one year, it appears.

For recently it was casually mentioned we would draw names and buy one sibling a gift this Christmas.

One sibling gift!

What about all of the other people I love who share my family ties!

How will we wrap nine presents in the same room if we are only wrapping one!

It doesn’t make any sense!

And so here is my plea.

My siblings read my blog.  So do you, great people of the world.  And I am imploring both my siblings and you to make this madness stop.

Comment on this post.  Use that emotion stored in your heart of hearts and convince my siblings they are wrong.


Together we can do it.

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9 Responses to “A Plea To My Siblings: Don’t Take Christmas From Me”

  1. Hilary October 21, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Denning siblings and all mankind,

    In matters such as these I draw upon one of humanity’s strongest assets. Of course, I speak of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: I will not defer. I’ve come before you to resolve this attack on our Christmas sovereignty now! I was not made a sibling to watch my family suffer and die while you discuss this change in a committee! If this body is not capable of creating a new tradition that everyone is happy about, I suggest the old tradition is needed. I move for a vote of no confidence in the name drawing method.

    • jillianlorraine October 21, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      My favorite comment of all the comments in all the world.

  2. Jeff October 21, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    If my memory serves we proposed sibling gifts on Christmas Eve just so we could open gifts earlier–waiting all the way to the 25th was just too hard.

    • jillianlorraine October 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm #


  3. Autumn @ The Unreal Life October 21, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    We used to do the one-sibling name draw (I have four sisters) and I loved it. I hate to tell you…but it gets worse. Just wait. All your siblings will have CHILDREN, maybe even MULTIPLE children and then they will all want to give up sibling gifts to be able to afford niece/nephew/children gift. Meanwhile, us single siblings are left to bemoan the lack of tradition as they chase their children through the kitchen.

    • jillianlorraine October 21, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      This makes me very sad. I see the truth in what you’re saying and it makes me very, very sad.

  4. Fiona October 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Traditions need to be preserved. As twenty-somethings, too many things change. Friends move away, siblings move away, people have babies, relationships end – Arg! Too much change. Let one thing stay – let this tradition stay.
    P.S. And please don’t moan and groan about the effort and impracticality of it – that just steals from the ageless magicalness of the tradition.
    P.P.S. Why just one sibling?

    • jillianlorraine October 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      Thank you for your heartfelt support. (Love the twenty-somethings thing.)

  5. Linnea October 22, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    Ok so – I totally feel you on this. Jeff’s family always wants to do the draw-one-name thing, and I hate it. First, this always comes with a suggested spending amount, which is always way higher than what Jeff and I can really afford, because all the other siblings are grown and have jobs and are not lifetime students. I’d so much rather take the little money I have and try to be creative and come up with something small and fun for each person. Second, if I only get to choose one name I don’t get the fun of putting together something for someone else who I had an awesome idea for, or who is just fun to shop for, etc. However, part of this is me coming from a family very similar to yours (we got taken to the factory mall in Draper, though, and given our $20 to buy gifts for the whole family) where presents are fun but not the main event. Then I joined this family where PRESENTS is Christmas and there are high expectations about how much you spend, so it is totally different and very hard for me. Plus like someone else mentioned, nieces and nephews start appearing and suddenly there are 5 more people to buy for – it’s hard. I get it. I still hate it. I’d rather just say, hey, it’s Christmas, there are no extreme expectations, everyone just does what they are able to in the presents department, and it’s really the thought that counts. And I like thinking about everyone.

    Also, from my own experience with marriage and talking to other friends who are married – unfortunately, everyone is convinced their family does Christmas right.

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