Gary Chapman says there are 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. He says everyone has a preference, and usually says "I love you" in the ways he/she wants to be told "I love you", and we do better to familiarize ourselves with the love languages of our loved ones and tell them "I love you" in THEIR own love language, and not our own.
My love language is words of affirmation (preferably in written form, as you may have guessed). My husband's is physical touch.
One thing is true, to the best of my knowledge, we had only one extended family member, my father, whose "love language" is gift giving. For the rest of us, "stuff" is the last love language on our list. I have to FORCE my mother to accept a birthday present on December 23rd. If I give her cash she shakes her head is as if I've deeply disappointed her by giving her something. It's funny.
I was thinking recently about this indifference about gifts, and how such has gradually de-evolved over the years to land on this "who cares" 2010 Christmas season. Here's the breakdown:
1. When Mark and I first married we didn't celebrate Christmas for about 8 years, in hopes that it would give us opportunities to talk to others about restoring first-century Christianity. Mark even gave his Christmas bonus back to the grocery store where he worked. Instead of opening opportunity, most people never asked their questions, and assumed we were Jehovah's Witnesses. In terms of other gift-giving times of year, we did what most everyone else seemed to be doing: Surprising each other with gifts we chose ourselves - gifts that were never quite "spot on", but we kept to make the gift-giver feel good.
2. With enough communication, over time we realized it was in no way offensive to us if we took gifts back and exchanged them for what we really wanted.
3. Finally we realized how much time we were wasting by exchanging, and would tell each other what we really wanted.
4. Next we realized how inefficient it was to take two trips: One where we discovered what we wanted, and the other trip of the gift giver to find what we described at any given store.
5. Then it became evident that giving cash to each other to buy for ourselves what we wanted most, made the most sense. It kept me out of army surplus stores and Mark out of girl stores that make him yawn incessantly.
6. Then it occurred to us: What's the point of Cindy choosing and purchasing a gift with the cash Mark handed to her, and Mark's choosing and purchasing a gift with the cash I gave to him out of the same bank account?
7. That brings us to the present "just right" and quite unromantic state of affairs: About this time of year Mark may walk through the door with a new pair of Danner boots, do a quick show and tell before taking them to his closet. I'll announce I'm on the hunt for unique flatware at a bargain price, shop the sales, make the purchase, and immediately begin enjoying my find. (I've heard of couples who purchase gifts together, go home, wrap presents together, then open them on Christmas day. How extra-terrestrial is that?). Ashley and I enjoy shopping together so we often catch some after-Christmas bargains.
In terms of our children, I started off spending an outrageous amount of money at my first child's first birthday (all things educational) and spent a little less every year. As our family grew and money became more tight I would stockpile "new condition" toys and such for my growing children from garage sales all summer, and pile them under the tree three feet high, labeling them with "Frosty" "Rudolph" and other code names so no child knew whose was whose. It was a ridiculously epic mad house blow-out every year. Eventually they each only wanted one bigger ticket item, which then morphed into a desire instead for gift cards and then finally cash only. Which is what we do now. And my 20-year-old son says he doesn't even want that. Christmas shopping barely exists for us. Mark buys gift certificates for his mother and father in law. Shopping for siblings/cousins/aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews/friends is a thing of the past. Thank heaven.
It's a good thing Ashley married into a family that doesn't celebrate Christmas, since our Easter and Christmas traditions are so quickly falling by the wayside and being replaced by our own fresh, new holidays we call "Mathmas" (celebrated on 3/14) and our "Feast of Jubilation" coming up this Sunday night. This Christmas we will enjoy a few days with Brian and Ashley at their house in Gleneden beach, minus Christmas music, decorations, and gift giving. Each of the five of us are choosing two of our very favorite foods. To say the menu will be varied, is an understatement. I know there will be red velvet cupcakes and Kim Chee, for starters. I'm thinking of picking up a couple noncompetitive, conversational style games as well. We'll build a fire and make press cookies, and have ourselves an unconventional, but customized little Christmas. If you want to call it Christmas.