When a Halloween Person Loves a Christmas Person
I love love love Halloween. My birthday falls on October 27th and I spent most of my childhood (and some of my adulthood) having costumed birthday parties in my parents’ creepy, unfinished basement, full of concrete floors and dark, dusty corners. As children, we’d make toilet paper mummies of one another, paint our faces, and eat cupcakes decorated like eyeballs.
My mother taught me to sew and make clothing and costumes when I was about 8; I’ve turned that knowledge into a long run of Halloween costumes, Renaissance Festival garb, and anime and comic book cosplay. There is something magical about getting to play pretend as an adult and to see the look of joy and wonder on children’s faces when a iridescent-winged fairy fills their pillowcase with candy on October 31st.
And then I met my partner. He loved Halloween, too, but he was seduced by the hypnotic siren song of Christmas. His birthday falls on the New Year, interestingly, and he feels attached to the yuletide spirit. He adores putting up the tree, decorating cookies, and watching people tear into gift bags that hold presents he slyly bought for them.
Sounds great, right? Wholesome? Everyone loves a good holiday, don’t they?
Well, not this grinch. Me? I do not like Christmas. Honestly, I pretty much hate it. In theory, it sounds great, but we get so trapped in the capitalistic drive to spend money to try to make people happy that gift giving becomes obligatory… which isn’t the point of the practice. It’s also a time of year where we get guilted into spending time with our families — and for some people, toxic familial relations become quickly destructive as problematic power structures are reinforced during family get togethers.
Racist uncles, holiday shopping crowds, angry fathers, guilt trips to visit home, critical mothers, empty bank accounts, dead trees in our living rooms, and societal pressure to perform familial love for a judgmental audience? Everything about Christmas makes me downright uncomfortable. There’s a reason (actually, more like a dozen of them) that the holidays stress people out horrifically.
So how can we bridge this gap, he and I? How does someone who loves Christmas live and celebrate with someone who despises it? We both adore whimsical holidays meant for children, but they’re wildly different things. Sure, they’re both about making kids happy, but I find Christmas has a dark underbelly of greed that Halloween only faintly reflects.
We have to compromise — that relationship tool in which no one really comes out happy. If it were my choice, we wouldn’t give one another gifts at all and I’d take my day off of work to watch movies and make an elaborate dinner feast to show my love the only way I seem to know how: through cooking. That’s it. End of story.
But that leaves him with nothing at all. He adores giving me gifts while I don’t like material possessions and find displays of capitalism to be distasteful.
Hey, at least we have a fake tree instead of a real one. Small favors, right?
Last year, he jammed the base of the tree with presents for me — and I, having just moved in and painted (leaving me with no real money to spend on presents), had two gifts for him: animal pajamas and a piece of art I commissioned from a friend. He watched me unwrap present after present and I felt increasingly worse about myself. The scales were off balance and I felt like my Christmas performance was abysmally poor. What kind of impression was I making as a partner? As a person? As someone special?
And then I got angry. The display of money being thrown around (I am a saver, he is a spendthrift, so that’s already rough) made me feel awful. A few days before the holiday itself last year, I snapped at him and told him how upset the tree flooded with gifts was making me feel. Can we say awkward? No one felt good after that talk.
Where was the middle ground?
I think we found it this year: a reasonable budget that we may not exceed for one another’s gifts. I even went with him to the store to buy a new fake tree and programmable LED lights. Now, he put that up a few days before Thanksgiving, which is a bit early in my books, but who am I to take that joy away from him?
Of course, that means I get to throw a huge Halloween bash for my birthday next year, right? Right. Maybe I’ll bring toilet paper mummies back.
How can you love Christmas when you hate almost everything it’s come to stand for in modern society? You find ways to rewind the clock and get back to the roots of Yule: love and feasting and time spent with the people you care about. It’s time to reclaim this wintry hellscape holiday and make it a genuine light in the darkness again.
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Deidre Delpino Dykes, an author of speculative fiction, may actually be three birds in a trench coat. She is the co-organizer of the Columbia Writers critique group in Maryland and a passionate player and GM of tabletop role playing games. She is working on a novel-length manuscript and enjoys writing short and flash fiction, some of which has appeared in Wizards in Space vol. 1, Ghosts on Drugs, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Deidre tweets as @DeidreDykes and previously worked as a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine.