3 Joys of Celebrating Christmas With Someone Who Didn’t Grow Up With It

Ask my husband John about Christmas and he lights up with wonder in his eyes. You’d think he spent his entire life anticipating that one magical day of the year, when everything seems possible.

But in fact, Christmas wasn’t even a part of his life until the two of us started dating years ago. People in China don’t traditionally observe the holiday.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed 12 Christmases together. And I have to say, there’s something joyful about celebrating it with a total newcomer to the holiday – a person who brings a fresh perspective on that silent night.

Here are three things I love about spending Christmas with someone who didn’t grow up with Christmas:

1. Playing Santa Claus all over again

My husband John loved how "Santa" brought him an inflatable globe for Christmas one year.
My husband John loved how “Santa” brought him an inflatable globe for Christmas one year.

When I was a kid, Santa Claus was the real deal. We used to sit on his lap in “Santaland” at the local mall and tell him what we wanted, write him letters asking how the reindeer were able to land on our roof, and leave out milk and cookies. It brought a sense of anticipation and magic to the holiday season – one that can easily slip away from you as you grow up into the “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus” reality of adulthood.

Or does it have to slip away? Not if you’re married to someone who loves the idea of Santa Claus – enough to will him into existence into your life all over again. As I’ve written before in my post titled My Husband and His Childlike Christmas Cheer:

The other day, I caught John pouring over his inflatable globe — and couldn’t help but remind him of its origins.

“Remember when ‘Santa Claus’ gave that to you last year?” I said with a wink.

He giggled in response. “‘Santa Claus’ really knows what I like.”

It’s the sort of thing you’d hear a parent ask their child — instead of a wife asking her husband. Yet, even though we both know who “Santa Claus” really is, any talk of the jolly old man never fails to bring a smile to his face.

I have to admit, it makes me smile to see John loving the idea of Santa Claus. He reminds me that you’re never too old to appreciate Santa.

2. Creating new and unique Christmas traditions together

My husband inspired me to hang all sorts of non-traditional -- but fun -- Chinese ornaments on our tree, including one of the mascots from the Beijing Olympics!
My husband inspired me to hang all sorts of non-traditional — but fun — Chinese ornaments on our tree, including one of the mascots from the Beijing Olympics!

In my Midwestern Catholic family back in America, it’s not traditional to have a Christmas stocking with Chinese characters on it. Or hang one of the mascots from the Beijing Olympics on your tree. Or even worship your ancestors on the holiday.

But since marrying my husband John, Christmas has taken on some decidedly Chinese characteristics – all because he never grew up with the typical traditions I did. (See my post titled How To Make It A Very Chinese Christmas.)

Sometimes, it’s just fun to be able to ignore the usual “Christmas rulebook” and create your own new and unique traditions for the holidays as a couple.

3. Discovering that Christmas doesn’t mean the same thing around the world

Christmas in China
For my husband, romance and Christmas go hand in hand.

Is this Christmas or Valentine’s Day? That’s something I’ve wondered after celebrating a few Christmases here in China with my husband. As I wrote before in my post China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas:

Christmas is oh so romantic. At least, that’s what my Chinese husband thinks of the holiday — and I know he’s not alone.

I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when I stepped out onto Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue, and right into a sea of twentysomething and thirtysomething couples, strolling hand-in-hand under strings of soft white led Christmas lights up and down the street. There were so many young people in love all around me, I almost felt like I walked onto a set-in-China romantic holiday movie.

My husband gets all starry-eyed when I ask about what we’re going to do on Christmas. To him, the entire holiday is candy-coated with lots of love and romance, thanks to all of the romantic Hollywood and TV movies about Christmas that have come over to China.

Granted, the Christmas I grew up with was more about family than falling in love (or falling in love all over again). But on the other hand, there’s something lovely about having a husband who gets all excited about all the romantic things we might do together this year on Christmas – like sharing coffee and Christmas cookies for two at Starbucks, or holding hands as we stroll around the West Lake all bundled up in our winter best.

Sigh.

Have you celebrated Christmas with someone who didn’t grow up with Christmas? What joys have you experienced, thanks to their unique perspective on the holiday?

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11 thoughts on “3 Joys of Celebrating Christmas With Someone Who Didn’t Grow Up With It

  • December 15, 2014 at 6:24 am
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    My husband is Japanese and to him Christmas (more specifically Christmas Eve) is also a kind of Valentine’s Day. It’s about couples, romance, and beautifully decorated, birthday-like (and yummy) Christmas cakes. We never really celebrated it the Dutch family-oriented way when we lived in Japan and the States, but now that we live in the UK and my Dutch family comes over for Christmas I’m trying to teach my husband about Christmas the Western/Dutch way. It’s fun.

    Reply
  • December 15, 2014 at 8:50 am
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    I have celebrated Christmas with my husband for several years now and I think the first Christmas we were together, my friend and I made a big deal of my husband putting the star on top of the Christmas tree. And from that year on, he has always put the angel or star on top of the tree.

    And my brother-in-law was so interested in Christmas the first year he joined our huge Christmas feast. He was taking pictures of the Christmas décor and was so interested in the cooking of the turkey. That year his facebook page was plastered with photos of Christmas as many of his friends hadn’t experienced Christmas before.

    So, I guess Christmas in Taiwan is kind of like the sharing of the holiday with others .

    Reply
  • December 15, 2014 at 2:50 pm
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    I remember the time we spent Christmas with Momzilla – it was her first Christmas ever and I still remember how happy she was decorating the Christmas tree 🙂

    Reply
  • December 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm
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    It is wonderful sharing your lifelong Christmas traditions with someone who hasn’t had the chance to experience it before and I can’t wait to create some new traditions! I’m definitely thinking apple pie and custard on Christmas Eve 🙂

    Reply
  • December 15, 2014 at 9:57 pm
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    I am a boring person… I have never been very fond of Christmas and I have never celebrated it in China! No tree, no decoration, nothing… Well at least this year I will go to a Christmas dinner with my new colleagues, we are also doing Secret Santa and our office is so decorated it looks like a mall! They really made a great job (and spent a lot of money on lights and decorations!), I should take some pictures.

    Your husband being so excited about Santa Claus is so cute, hahaha!

    Reply
  • December 16, 2014 at 3:37 pm
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    When my husband and I recently visited Ikea and he saw all the Christmas decorations, he said that he’s going to decorate our home with lots of red once we’re somewhere more permanent.

    I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with my Chinese family in China. This year, we’re living out of suitcases, so we won’t be much in a holiday mood, but we plan on celebrating it next year.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2014 at 1:23 am
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    My wife never celebrated Christmas before as I stated already in another article. However each time we spent Christmas in Germany before with my family we celebrated it 🙂

    Starting next year we will try to create our own little Christmassy world in our apartment. THis year we didnt try as our little son would just try to eat everything around, not even the tree would be safe…

    Reply
  • December 17, 2014 at 8:31 am
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    It seems your husband really enjoys Christmas.
    Unfortunately, I cannot relate to any of those three points. I cannot find any joy in celebrating Christmas with someone who didn’t grow up with it.
    My husband has no feeling towards Christmas whatsoever. No matter how hard I try to explain it to him, show him, let him be part of our traditions, Encourage him to input some of his Chinese ideas… nothing. He couldn’t care less. But I have to say, that he is actually no fan of any holidays, even Chinese new year. Yesterday I asked him what if he would living in a country without Chinese new year, without all those holidays and traditions he grow up with… his answer: “I wouldn’t care”.
    So yeah, no joy for me here. I am longing to go home and celebrate with my mom, with good old German Christmas traditions…

    Reply
  • December 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm
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    I’ve actually never celebrated Christmas nor has my boyfriend. It something I never did growing up because of religious beliefs. During the holidays all that matters is that we are together and we have our relationship to look forward to another year.

    I think it’s great that you and your husband are combining both cultures to create new traditions. It’s really charming. I always enjoy sharing little things about my culture in my relationship. We learn to embrace the unique things in our lives like music. I think he is slowly developing a taste for Latino films and mariachi music.

    Reply
  • December 24, 2014 at 7:03 am
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    Christmas has been less important for me starting about ten years ago but I’m hoping to change that in the future, especially for our child. My relative gave us a book on creating your own traditions along with piles of ideas and that’s a start. It’s fun to figure out how to create traditions that blend our backgrounds.

    Reply
  • Pingback:On Spending Christmas in China, and Missing the Holidays Back Home | Speaking of China

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