the grinch who refused to craft (or hear about it)

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QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: I married a Jew who hates, HATES Christmas and has been grumbling about it so much that it’s hard for me to even get excited this year – and I so want to because I’m pregnant and need to ornament my nest. He says I’ll just never understand why he doesn’t like it. I get that it’s not his holiday and before I came along it was always something that other people did, but he doesn’t have to be such a grump. I said we could do Hanukkah if he would rather, but he’s not religious and feels like he’d be a hypocrite if we did. I just want a holiday to be excited about and make crafts and cookies damn it! Anyway, I know you’re a Jew who likes her some Christmas and I’m just looking for ANY suggestions for warming him up to the idea of holidays.

ANSWER: “It’s hard for me to even get excited this year.” Your fault, sister. You’re letting him be the squeaky wheel. You need to stand strong. As much as he grumbles, you won’t let the “grinch” ruin your good holiday mama cheer. Soo…

Avoid angels, crosses, and the color red. Instead focus on Old Man Winter. Snowflake cookies, mittens, and baby booties. Sleds and cocoa. Bake cookies (hard to resist his favorites). Throw a cookie swap party! Wear winter whites with arctic themed leg warmers and slippers (Target has them aplenty).

How to soften him up? Do what makes you happy. Be full of joy and love, and you’ll be hard to resist. When he makes a face, pouts or huffs, ignore it. Don’t make it a discussion. Let HIM bring it up if it still bothers him. You are NOT allowed to whine, “Why can’t you just enjoy it?!” Instead, you enjoy it and let him sulk, but don’t feed into it. Let him have his tantrum.

Listen sister, you can’t let him crush your spirit and joy or you’ll resent him. If it does become a discussion, do what I do, tell him it’s not about Christ’s birth and it’s not religious for you, it’s festive and crafty and creative, and most importantly, it’s about traditions. You want to keep the traditions you have had, traditions he had (offer to make latkes and incorporate any of his family traditions, too), and then think up some traditions of your own. Something new that’s just yours. That doesn’t work? Get him piss drunk off eggnog and call it a day.



  1. I’m Jewish, and I say that if this is your holiday and you want to express yourself creatively, go for it. You don’t have to decorate every inch of your living space, (or even have a tree) but something not in-your-face and tasteful shouldn’t be a red flag. Just don’t go overboard.

  2. I agree with the poster above. Just don’t go hog-wild and you should be able to compromise. Not everyone loves this time of year.

    I was raised Christian and even I can’t stand Christmas. I find it stressful and shallow and the season lasts too long. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look you’re forced to take part in some tradition that really only equates to spending money on things you don’t need or even want. If you don’t participate then everyone harangues you.

    Every store has Christmas music, Christmas decorations were up in October in some place, Christmas shopping madness began in November. If people eased up, some of us wouldn’t be such Grinches but when it’s foisted on you 24/7 for 3 months of the year, it gets old and annoying.

  3. Well, this has always been since I was a little girl, so I don’t know how it started. But on Christmas Eve we have dinner at other family members’ houses. Like we’ll go to my grandmother’s house, then to my stepdad’s house. We will open the gifts we got from them, and laugh, eat, then go home. For the rest of the day we’ll watch Christmas movies, relax, and just spend time together. Me and my sister always got to open 1 present on Christmas Eve from under the tree. Christmas day we always got up at like 5 am it seemed. Mom would make breakfast, usually her delicious french toast, and we would exchange gifts, and open Santa gifts. We could always leave our stuff piled in the floor all day Christmas. There would be xmas music, movies, and we’d have a quiet little family dinner. Now, married, me and my husband celebrate Christmas Day alone, and on Christmas Eve, we go to our parents house. We don’t have kids yet, but as when I was a child I will carry on the wonderful tradition that my mom presented to me. That’s what I suggest you do… carry on your own traditions.

  4. I’m the kid of a Jewish dad and a Christian mom – so, I’m guessing, similar to what your little one (or ones) will be, and I also hate Christmas. I hate it because it was so often a source of tension between my parents, who were otherwise very happy (and are indeed still together after 33 years). Anyway: the key to winning over a Christmas hater is to not expect him to match your joy. Do crafts and cookies if you feel like it, but do it independently – while, of course, offering him the cookies. You can’t force him to get excited and if you try it will wear away at your own excitement and make him feel stressed – and the point of Christmas is not to feel stressed, right? I also recommend getting involved in something charitable, to remind him that Christmas is not all Jesus and commercialism: while it may be hard for him to get excited about, say, tree trimming, it will be hard for him to refuse to come along and join you for three hours at a soup kitchen. Which will mean that you’re making a new Christmas tradition together, even if there’s no Elmer’s glue or glitter involved. And finally, remember that you guys are married and thus your Christmas traditions will evolve over the course of your many years together. You say he’s not religious so I imagine that you’ve never been asked to take on the Jewish holidays whole-heartedly; you’d probabyl find it a bit stressful, too. So be patient. Maybe when you married him you were signing yourself up for a life in which Christmas was less central to your existence than before you pledged your life to him. But there are 364 other days when you can enjoy each other’s company.

  5. I would start with Christmas Cookies. Who can turn those down? Then, he might slowly get turned onto other aspects – like maybe presents – who would turn down a present? I would go slow, and stealthily. Don’t make an argument, just do your own thing and stepping on his toes as little as possible. He might warm up!

  6. Since my son has grown up and moved up, we no longer do this. But when he was little, we used to sit down a few weeks before Christmas and talk about people in our lives who have helped us through the year. Or wo had a bad year – one friend's house had burnt to the ground that summer – her family lost everything, or it may have been a coach or a friend who gave us rides or provided baby sitting in an emergency. Then we would make them a gift.

    Then we would be up at 5 AM on Christmas and deliver these gifts anonymously. Usually leaving them on the porch, the key was to deliver the gifts and be undetected.

    My son thought this was great fun. And the smile on his face was wonderful when the following year we got invited in the summer to the new house of the people that had the fire and there on their mantle was the box we had painted and the ornaments we had given them that Christmas morning.

    He asked why she had Christmas ornaments out, and she told him about the gift and she had no idea from who, and she started crying because they had lost their heirloom ornaments in the fire and this was the start of the new collection. She said it was the nicest thing that she got that Christmas.

    That very day, he wanted to start planning the next set of gifts.

    He learned to give!

    By the time we would get home, it was 9, we would have breakfast, friends would come over and then we would open our presents. He learned that giving and friends were first over presents.

    He never got much (I was a single Mom, socks and underwear were presents) but he appreciated them.

    Share that with your husband and maybe he’ll understand that it’s so much more to you than a holiday. It’s an opportunity.

    1. What a wonderful mother you’ve been!! Christmas, Hanukkah, makes no difference. You’ve taught your son…and others by extension…the true meaning of generosity. Brava!!!

    2. Rachael – Your story brought a tear to my eye. I love this idea and am going to try to incorporate it into my own family traditions. Thanks so much for sharing!

      – Jenn

  7. Isn’t the general rule for EVERYONE something along the lines of: you don’t have to like it, but you don’t get to ruin it for everybody else? When I was a pissy pre-teen, I recall being reprimanded frequently for my sour puss when I was forced to partake in corny family traditions. “But I’m not saying anything!” Didn’t matter. Sitting in the corner with a snot face on takes away from other people’s enjoyment, so when you care about other people, you put on your best fake smile and stop being such a selfish prick.

    If he can’t do that much, he’d better get ready for an EARFUL on Superbowl Sunday.

  8. I personally am not religious, despite being raised in a very Christian household, and so I’ve come to view Christmas (and the holiday season) as a time for love and family. Which is why I allow myself to be forced to church once a year, because I love my parents and am willing to compromise in the spirit of the season. I suggest you explain to your husband that you don’t want a religious holiday, simply a family-based joy-fest during which you celebrate being together. He should be able to understand a festival of your mutual happiness. This year that you are pregnant is the perfect time to start your own family traditions while the two of you come up with a special way to celebrate that is neither cliche nor bland.

  9. I don’t mean to be cruel — but if you wanted a husband to celebrate Xmas with you, you should have married someone CHRISTIAN. (I’m Jewish, and although some Jews don’t have issues celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth, most of us do.)

    Presumably you knew about his holiday Grinchitude before you married him?

    1. I agree! And maybe she thought he’d “change” after they got married?

  10. Being (born) Jewish is considered an ethnicity. Jewish ethnic cultures have more significance than Christian ones, Jews tend to recognise their heritage more, even if this isn't reflected in their religious beliefs.

  11. how weirdly timely. I read this, thought “I wonder if this is isolated to Xmas or extends into other areas of their life?” then I thought, “jesus it’s 2am, I’m up because my mother is dying of cancer and I’m in that awful place of I’m so-exhausted-yet-somehow-I-can’t-even-sleep and I can’t solve this.” so I popped over to … where I read about the very the same thing. so here is Dear Prudence’s advice (slightly different situation):

    Q. Absolute Grinch: My boyfriend and I have been together nearly 10 years. I love him, he loves me, we’re faithful and happy together. The problem? The man is an absolute Grinch. He absolutely hates Christmas. He hates the lights, the tree, the decorations, the songs, everything about it. He never celebrated it as a child (he’s British but his family is Chinese) and has none of the nostalgic attachment to Christmas that most people do. I, on the other hand, am very fond of Christmas. I’m not a fanatic, I don’t go crazy with decorations, but I do like to have a tree with some nice lights on it and like to give him a gift or two that he’d enjoy wrapped in some nice shiny wrap. I love the sales, decorations, and general feeling that Christmas has about it. I don’t shove it down his throat, but any time something remotely Christmas-y comes up, he gets in a very sour mood, which, I’m sorry, sort of ruins my fun. Again, it’s not like I’m forcing him to participate or celebrate, but I’d like to be able to do a few Christmas things without feeling guilty or bad about it and without making our relationship tense. What should I do? Do I give up Christmas for the sake of keeping the peace, or is there a way to make it OK for both of us?

    A: Christmas doesn’t have to be his holiday, but since it’s yours, his obligation is to make it as pleasant as possible for you and not to destroy your pleasure with his bad mood. Tell him it’s one thing for him to be neutral about Christmas, but actively undermining your joy makes a happy time of year sour for you. Say that you two need a new Christmas tradition in which he finds some aspect of it he can embrace, just out of love for you. Tell him it’s important to you that he doesn’t make you feel Scrooged every Dec. 25.

  12. Oh Dear. Religion is one of those things that really stirs people up from deep within and is hard by most to be accepting of others views. Speak with him regarding your feelings and try to find out what happened to make him so hostile towards holidays. If speaking doesn’t work and you still want to nest, seek out other holiday crafters and ask them how their husbands deal.

  13. I think it is a tough sell to get a Jew on board for Xmas — SK was raised with this holiday plus a mom who is not Jewish so it is not exactly the same. I would make some latkes, light the menorah, and slowly introduce celebratory elements that are recognizable to him since you seem okay with celebrating either, and he is not.

  14. This seems like something you guys should have negotiated before you got married. Do you know what religion you’re going to raise your children? If you’re raising them in your religion, then you should of course feel free to celebrate and decorate (I second what Carole says). If you haven’t discussed it, its a good idea to do so before the child comes along. The issue could be way bigger than how to decorate. Good luck!

  15. I know this seems a bit generic… but handmade cards are the best way to break him in. Everyone feels special when they get a handmade card.

  16. The problem with "odd traditions" is that they are usual for the people who practice them. So I don't know how to answer you.

  17. Yeah, I’ll be the bitch. Religion & money are topics #1 & #1 that a couple planning to marry should feel comfortable about before marrying. I cannot fathom marrying a person who is actively hostile toward something that is a part of me. Sorry.

    Happy 4th birthday, beans!!

  18. Sorry, sounds like you married a dick. Anyone who begrudges the mother of his child some simple fun/decorating a goddamned tree sounds like a douche lord. Do what you want and don’t worry about his ornery ass. And if he still complains go ahead and crank up the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music. If that doesn’t shut him up, try some Alvin and The Chipmunks carols. Opa!

    1. Wow CC, could you insult the guy any more? You only called him a dick, a douche lord, an ornery ass…

      All because the guy isn’t into a holiday that’s beyond commercialized? As someone Jewish (and I agree with Jodi below, who also wasn’t comfortable with a person being referred to as “a Jew”) I am not into Christmas. It’s only ever the Christmas-celebrators who claim Christmas is secular, as if that is an excuse as to why it would be acceptable for stores to start putting Christmas-related things out in September.

      Halloween is way more widely accepted to be a truly secular holiday and even Halloween stuff is never out before Labor Day.

      I am not a particularly religious person, but do appreciate the traditions that go along with the Jewish holidays. I find a lot of the Christmas decorations to be pretty garish and tacky, and assume that is why I don’t like them. Green and red DON’T go together in my mind, and when I think of a prettily decorated home for Christmas, it’s old school New England that I see – a white candle in each window, a simple wreath on the front door, a tree decorated with gold and/or white lights, and that’s it. I honestly would be offended and uncomfortable by having tons of Christmas decorations in my own home (yes, it’s your home too, but presumeably you discussed this before moving in together).

      Perhaps the solution would be to ask the husband to list a few things which completely squick him out, and a few that he’d be comfortable with, telling him “all of it” is not an acceptable answer. Everyone deserves the right to be comfortable in their own home.

  19. First of all, I would have preferred if the writer had written that she married “a Jewish guy” or “a Jewish person” rather than “a Jew” — sounds nitpicky, but there’s something perjorative about it. As if the fact of his Jewishness is literally the only descriptive word she has for her husband. (“… a Jew who likes her some Christmas” is downright offensive. Stephanie is the child of an interfaith marriage. Haven’t we learned anything about sensitivity, people??)

    Surely they’ve been together for at least a couple of years, so it’s a mystery why the writer is so astonished about her husband’s lack of enthusiasm for both Christmas and Hanukkah. Wasn’t this discussed before they married and decided to start a family?

    You don’t have to be Christian to enjoy the decorations, food and spirit of the holiday season. This woman married a grump and now she’s whining that he won’t change. Boo hoo!

    But here’s something important for her to discuss with hubby: becoming a parent means putting someone else’s happiness ahead of yours for many, many years to come — and honey, I don’t mean yours, I mean the child’s. So unless this man is willing to be enthusiastic about visits to see Santa, trying Grandma’s latkes or anything else that might be part of the festivities these final weeks of the year … she has way bigger problems ahead than a grinch in her bed. Daddy needs to grow up, and fast.

  20. Yowza – seeing as you HAVE married this guy, it seems a little mean, unhelpful and unChristmassy to be telling you what a mistake you’ve made. That said, I don’t think there’s too much you can do to “make him” like Christmas – he’s a grown-up,and if he’s taking such a strong viewpoint on it, I daresay his mind is made up (he might even take pride in his contrary viewpoint). Any attempt to coerce him into thinking otherwise could have the opposite of the desired outcome.
    What I would do is be very firm on my own right to enjoy this holiday, expalin that it is very important to you, and you intend to enjoy it. Make it clear that you won’t stand for negativity from him ruining things for everyone else…..and it’s probably a good discuss what’s going to happen when/if you have kids. Good luck on this one, and I hope you enjoy your Christmas.

  21. sorry – I didn’t see the bit about you being pregnant – you definately need to talk about what is going to happen once baby is old enough to know about Christmas

  22. If he’s not even religious, what is his problem? :-/

    I understand you want to celebrate but also not “go against his will”, but I honestly think he’s the one who should “give in” in this situation. Especially because it’s go no religious meaning to him, so I don’t understand what the fuss is about. And yes, this is something that should be discussed before your baby is born; you’ll have plenty of Christmases to celebrate together afterwards and you don’t want to go through this excruciating process every year, do you?

    Put some candles here and there, some gold, some red, some silver, whatever is your favourite Christmas colour… and every year you’ll introduce a new “piece”. He’ll get used to it, and if he doesn’t, too bad for him, because I’m sure your child will love it!

  23. plenty of people treat xmas very secularly, so I always fail to see what the big deal is for non-religious/non-christians. Honestly – how many people out there actually know the religious significance of an xmas tree or any of the other paraphernalia? Why can’t it just be about good food, pretty decorations, and hot chocolate? Unless you are trying to set up a manger scene and have hymns piped into the living room, I don’t see why he can’t suck it up and enjoy it as a winter holiday.

  24. Ummm, is there a reason my post from yesterday wasn’t cleared? It was similar to many of the others’ — wondering why this couple didn’t work this stuff out in advance.

  25. This was so lovely, it completely warmed my heart as I read it. Thanks for sharing it, Just Rachael!

  26. WOW!! Just Rachel, your whole story is awsome!! i’m going home tonight to talk to my girls (2-4yrs) and find out who we can appreciate and surprise this year. What a great way to teach them about giving and i specially like the part about making them wait for their presents!! THANKS FOR THE GREAT IDEA!!

  27. As a Jew currently annoyed at her roommates’ Christmas decorations everywhere (but not making a fuss), I don’t think it’s very sensitive to have a “how do I make him come around” attitude. Maybe it’s as simple as him feeling left out, but maybe he’s never going to like Christmas, is always going to resent any fuss you make about it, and it’s not really a given that he should “give in” just because Christmas is a culturally dominant holiday.

  28. Actually, Christmas Day is my birthday, and no, it doesn’t suck, as everyone assumes. I was raised Catholic and just married a Jewish woman. Neither of us are religious (we’re actually kind of anti-religion), but we celebrate the holidays as a time for family and friends. To us, Christmas is a tradition more than a religious holiday. My wife gets more excited about Christmas than I do, and if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t even have a tree.

    My mother-in-law’s significant other is Jewish and he refuses to even take part in anything to do with Christmas, as if he’s offended by it. My (also Jewish) mother-in-law comes to my mom’s Spectacular Italian Christmas Eve Seafood Feast (TM) without him. His loss.

  29. In a similar situation: I am Jewish and he is not. neither of us are religious and we are expecting. I can’t stand the commercialism (as a journalist I used to “cover” Christmas assignments as early as September). Also the religious significance is not mine, but it is the winter solstice season (in the northern hemisphere anyway) a dark cold time of year when people have been gathering together for centuries to stay warm and sane. It is the end of one year and the start of another. It is designated family time in this culture no matter what your religion. My family did not celebrate Christmas but we did spend the time together in a traditional way – we did the NY Jewish thing – go to Florida for the week and then Christmas day was Chinese Food and a movie. Non religious, but family oriented just the same. As an adult I don’t bring Christmas into my home unless I was living with others who celebrated it. I even spent one Christmas in the African bush in a Muslim village. There was no Western Christmas but there was family, food, dancing and fun. I welcome invitations by others to be a part of their homes and families this time of year. Now as part of my own budding family, I look forward to family time. We go to his family for Christmas celebrations (and this is two 5 hour plane rides.) I get Thanksgiving with my family(Yay!) Christmas is their celebration and I don’t only respect it, I enjoy it. I will not go to Church with them but I certainly will indulge in the importance of family time and enjoy every moment of it. My parents will be in Florida and will likely go for Chinese food and a movie…together.

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