Help a pregnant Jewish lady make a nice Christmas for her husband please
December 18, 2017 12:30 PM   Subscribe

We have been going through tough times so I would like to make a festive and pleasant holiday. He grew up in the Northeast and had plenty of lovely White Christmases with his family, and I would like to recreate those feelings if I can!

Here are my limitations:

- I’m Jewish and didn’t have the idyllic Christmas experience, so have nothing to feel nostalgic for in the way that he does
- I will be 32 weeks pregnant and am incredibly uncomfortable
- We live in a tropical climate
- It's just the two of us (his family all lives up north and mine are Jewish and suck at Christmas)

My current plan is to make a special breakfast, have the table set with little Christmas tchotchkes (he likes decorations), have presents wrapped nicely for him, and make Christmas cookies the night before. I was thinking maybe we could go to a neighborhood with nice Christmas lights but I can only manage walking for about 10 minutes. Any other thoughts on how to invoke the spirit of Christmas with these limitations?
posted by tatiana wishbone to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think you're doing a great job. Only other touch I can really think of would be soft Christmas music playing during breakfast. I am partial to the soma fm Christmas stations (esp Jolly Ol' Soul) but Pandora would cover you fine.

Otherwise I'd just encourage you not to stress too much. :) Christmas is also a time to relax and be leisurely with the ones you love.
posted by Knicke at 12:41 PM on December 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Assuming you don't find it offensive, play lots of Christmas music.

Diptyque has a candle this year called Frosted Fir (or similar) that is delightfully piney (and not in a floor-cleaner way!). I'm generally not a huge fan of scents, but if I didn't have my own tree this year I would probably have bought one to bring a similar scent into the home.
posted by praemunire at 12:42 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think a lot of things that wouldn't feel too Xmasy for you but which might be nice would include some of the smells of Christmas: balsam and "woodsy" smells, minty and chocolate smells, simmering cider smells. Also if he is nostalgic for younger Christmas days, having a 'stocking" with some little knicknacks and an orange might be nice. I had a Jewish mom but we still did Xmas with my dad's family and getting up to find a stocking with little nonsense in it was a sort of unsullied holiday joy for me.
posted by jessamyn at 12:42 PM on December 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Talk to him about his favorite Christmas memories. Telling stories and feeling nostalgic is part of the holiday, and you get bonus intel. Start with "How should we celebrate holidays with the baby next year? What did you do when you were little?"
posted by jennypower at 12:47 PM on December 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Maybe start off the day (i.e. wake him up) wearing a silly costume rabbinical beard, black hat, and black coat, with crazed klezmer blaring on the stereo in the background (consider this recording ("Oy to the World") of jewed-up Christmas favorites), and, while bopping in time with the music, offering a tray brimming with candy canes, piping hot cocoa, tchochke-filled decorative socks, and Bing Crosby cds.

Optional closer: Time everything so that when the recording ends, you open the black coat to reveal your naked, protruding belly in the very sexiest pose you can muster, preferably with full vulgar Victoria's Secret-style accessorizing (red and green if at all possible).
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2017 [28 favorites]

A tree. We have a small, artificial, light-up tree (like this one) that I find adds a HUGELY Christmasy feeling to the house.

Also, maybe put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas or something in the background at some point during the day.
posted by gideonfrog at 12:53 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Scents are great, but if pregnancy has you feeling particularly sensitive to smells, test them out first to be sure they don't make you feel unwell. Pine and mint may be easiest, but that will vary, of course.

Perhaps end your night with streaming his favourite Christmas movie and drinking some hot cocoa or cider or eggnog or some other seasonal beverage? (Elf and A Christmas Story are classics for a lot of the people I know, if you want to surprise him, but you could also inquire!)

You can also find videos or streams of 'yule logs'; this could be nice to have playing on a screen in the background, because it's all the coziness of a wintry fireplace with none of the actual heat.
posted by halation at 12:55 PM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

You can always drive around looking at Xmas lights - you can see a lot more than on foot!

Also, Christmas crackers are fun, and definitely add festivity (unless you are easily startled or have easily startled pets.)
posted by 41swans at 12:55 PM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

A mini-tree could be a fun option to add to the decorations but not be overwhelming for you to obtain/carry. Other good options in that vein would be a wreath, a poinsettia, or an evergreen centerpiece with candles (something along the lines of this).

Another fun thing to do would be to put together a stocking with little inexpensive gifts.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:00 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Second the stocking to wake up to: "Look! Santa came!"

A very little effort here could go far:
- favorite chocolates or candies
- little fancy noshes - many in our family are pleased with smoked oysters, paté, honey, jams, jellies, mustards
- little goofy wind-up toys
- tiny bottle of maple syrup
- the smallest bottle of his favorite hooch
- a little printed photo of you or the both of you in a little magnetic fridge or travel frame
- a little game - a deck of cards, or just some dice with directions for Farkle or some such
- a nice little pen and notebook
- a hand-made gift certificate for a favorite dinner place, a back or foot rub, or some other private fun

So much of the fun is just pulling little surprises out of the stocking. He's lucky to have you.
posted by conscious matter at 1:01 PM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Quisp Lover you are a legit maniac
posted by tatiana wishbone at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2017 [40 favorites]

Agreed on a Christmas movie if you have access. Some other classics would be A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 cartoon version - a must in our family), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. There are many, many movie versions of A Christmas Carol. I'm partial to the 1951 Alistair Sim version. The Muppet Christmas Carol is also very popular.

A tree would be a lot of work, but if it wouldn't be too much for you to put up lights around the window, that would be awesome. Alternatively, some places sell artificial tabletop trees - that would be fun.

This is really sweet of you.
posted by FencingGal at 1:05 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you ask his family what traditions they had, and choose one (or more) to recreate? I think lots of these things are very personal.

For example, a stocking with chocolate coins and a chocolate marshmallow Santa (both just cheap grocery store chocolate) is wonderfully nostalgic - but that would be really difficult for someone else to guess!
posted by MangoNews at 1:05 PM on December 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Nthing stocking -- and if you do it, be sure you put an orange or a tangerine in the toe of it. It is Tradition.
posted by halation at 1:06 PM on December 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

You are doing an amazing job already! I agree with the above ideas for stocking, tiny tree, and holiday smells (if you can stand them). Regarding the walking to see lights: in my family it was tradition to wake everyone up at like midnight and we’d all pile in the car in our pajamas and slippers and blankets, maybe bring a thermos of hot cocoa, and we’d drive around for like 30-40 minutes looking at everyone’s light displays before going back home to walking required! I’d say to go that route if you can, that way you don’t tire yourself too much. Have fun you guys!
posted by FireFountain at 1:07 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding MangoNews about asking his family if there are any family-specific traditions. If my husband snuck into the other room on Christmas Eve and rang sleigh bells (pretending that Santa is coming), I legit would cry happy tears. Ditto old fashioned full choral versions of British Christmas hymns.
posted by pammeke at 1:08 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may try doing a search for drive-through christmas lights in your area - some cities or towns have drive-through (or shuttle rides through) displays, or there might be neighborhoods near you that are known for having lots of lights.
posted by amarynth at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, if either you or your husband likes Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" (Jeremy Brett Holmes, season one) ranks up there with "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in true and pure spirit. Find a copy and feel your heart grow three sizes.
posted by praemunire at 1:37 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: if you're both readers, there's a thing going around my friends list (that i am sure they found on the internet) about some swedish/nordicish tradition of each person getting a pair of PJs and a new book and some chocolates, and then you put on the PJs, take your chocolate and go read in bed until you fall asleep.

also figure out a tradition that you think both you and your husband would like that you could then include your kid in next year. maybe a picture of each of you and your pets in front of a wall, so you have a once-a-year pic of each of you on the same night, and can see the progress. christmas eve tends to have a magical and happy feeling, so it might be a great time to capture that.
posted by koroshiya at 2:51 PM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

If drinking is okay for him, eggnog with crushed ice and coffee liqueur is very tasty, and you could have it without if he doesn't drink; eggnog tasted like Christmas. Also, candy canes, gingerbread(easy to make, even the boxed versions taste pretty good). A festive mid-afternoon meal, roast chicken & stuffing, maybe, perhaps a pie. More lights - LED lights strung over a the tv, with a youtube fire and the stocking.

If his family has Christmas music or movies that they always played, that would be great.

Stocking traditions vary, in my family we didn't wrap socking gifts. A nice gel pen, new toothbrush, chocolate Hanukkah gelt, clementine or orange in the toe, maybe a silly windup toy, paperback book, playing cards, socks, nice soap, small LED flashlight, nice-smelling candle, tin of mints, are good stocking gifts. If he could use a new phone charger for home or car, that's a good stocking item.

Agree that now is the time to start traditions. Not too late for a Hanukkah menorah and latkes. If I had Christmas in a tropical place, I would def. get some Hawaiian shirt Santa decorations.

I hope the tough times are behind you, and Congratulations on the coming baby.
posted by theora55 at 4:05 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Talk to him about his favorite Christmas memories. Telling stories and feeling nostalgic is part of the holiday, and you get bonus intel. Start with "How should we celebrate holidays with the baby next year? What did you do when you were little?"
There have been a lot of great suggestions so far, but I think that flat out asking your husband (or secretly asking his family, if you have that kind of relationship with them) what childhood traditions/memories make it Christmas for him is the best overall strategy.

As an adult without kids, I have gotten a bit jaded/lazy about celebrating Christmas. But... if you play any of the Christmas albums that my parents had when I was a kid, or show me the CBS Special Presentation Logo that used to run before all the animated specials on TV in the 1970s/80s, it definitely puts me in the proper Christmas spirit. Your husband probably has similar personal little memories (specific music, TV specials or movies, or once-a-year foods) that really make it feel like Christmas for him.

If you don't already have one, a tree is a great idea... I don't think it's anything you even have to set up yourself; if a smaller, pre-lit tree arrived on your doorstep I'll bet that setting it up and decorating it would be a pretty happy project for him. As years go by families accumulate ornaments and part of the pleasure of decorating the tree each year is seeing each one and being reminded of its story.

I grew up in the northeast but moved to a desert climate right after school, and those first few Christmases far away from my family were weird, because I was clinging to what I knew and didn't quite know how to create my own grown-up traditions. You are so sweet and thoughtful to think of your husband in this way!
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:09 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For a lot of families, Christmas means seeing people you haven't seen since last Christmas and whom you wish you could see more often. There are definitely exceptions: lots of people would prefer to just be with their spouse. But if you think your husband would enjoy it, you might arrange for phone calls / FaceTime / Skype with as many of his friends and relatives as you can squeeze into the time available.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:09 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

If oranges and cloves sound ok to your nose, make a few of those. That smells like Christmas to me.

Also we used to make popcorn and cranberry garlands as a family when I was a kid and that's a fun thing to do. Anything where you two are spending time doing something related to the holiday sans devices seems Christmasy to me.
posted by sockermom at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

It may not just be Christmas Day; it may also be Christmas Eve. Christmas is SO tied to it being winter solstice -- everything revolves around it being the longest, darkest night, and thus lots of imagery around nighttime vigils or journeys under twinkling stars (Christmas lights, candlelight Christmas Eve service, shepherds "following yonder star," a star on top of the tree) and also lots of warmth and jollity (hearth, good, family, Ho Ho Ho!).

Christmas Eve is the long vigil awaiting the party to come, the hushed moment of expectation. At church, people hear a story about Mary giving birth while shepherds and kings trek across the desert following a star to find the barn where Jesus was being born. At my church, they would sing O Holy Night and Silent Night in candlelight. Then, if you're a kid waiting for Santa as he treks around the globe bringing gifts, you go home and sit awake expectantly as much of the night as you can.

So the holiday really starts around 4 pm the 24th. I'd have out a plate of cookies -- sugar cookies in shapes like stars, bells, angels sprinkled with colored sprinkles. Have a nice dinner. And then maybe as night approaches, mull some cider or pour a glass of wine, light a candle if you can, and turn on carols.

This is really thoughtful of you to ask!
posted by salvia at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2017

Apparently you can make "frosted" windows with Epsom salts (lots of recipes online), just paint on the glass and crystals form. Nothing says winter like frost halfway up the window.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:59 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pictures! Take pictures, videos, other keepsakes. Make cute tree decorations with your pictures on them, and laminate so that they last for years! Make new ones each year and save them in a special box. Expect your child to get them from the daycare / elementary school / Scouting program.
Make some from pictures of the relatives, too! Can you get copies of pictures from childhood? Imagine taking them out each year -- "Dad, is that you on Santa's lap? Wow, you were little!"

Live evergreens can be a mess, and a fire danger, and a problem for kids and pets. Some holiday plants are poisonous (mistletoe, holly, poinsettias). Instead, get a tiny pre-lit tabletop tree or a "half tree" or flat tree-shaped decoration you can hang on the wall.

A snow globe! Crystals that won't melt all over your carpet, no shoveling the driveway --
now how can you beat that?

Seconding the holiday music, children's cartoons, festive lights and smells and foods. Borrow ideas from friends and make your own personal traditions.

And don't burn yourself out. You already have a magnificent task at hand -- congratulations! Take it easy and let mr. wishbone and the little wishbone create their own holiday cheer.
posted by TrishaU at 3:00 AM on December 19, 2017

Just wanted to chime in to say that this is extraordinarily sweet of you; you should rest up as much as you can; and I deeply miss being with someone who'd do this for me.
posted by arkhangel at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you don't mind going a bit more religious, see if you can listen in on the broadcast (or a rebroadcast) of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by King's College on Christmas Eve. It is an amazing piece of music and at least for me helps reconnect with the sense of wonder for the holiday.
posted by meinvt at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2017

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