Christmas Gifts: The Unexpected and Expectations (and an 8-author giveaway)


This is not a sentimental Christmas memory … and I do have my husband’s permission to share this story.

Once upon a Christmas time, my husband and I were newlyweds celebrating our very first Christmas together. Our tiny one-bedroom apartment was festive, thanks to the shiny silver aluminum Christmas tree — yes, silver — we’d decorated with a few ornaments we’d purchased. The tree was compliments of Rob’s parents, a holdover from the days when his stepfather sold them to stores up and down the east coast.

On Christmas morning, I was eager to see what romantic gift my husband had waiting for me under our tree. A bottle of perfume? A delicate necklace or a pair of earrings?

Um … no.

Leaning against the wall was a blue hiking backpack with a gift tag on it. (I should mention at this point that, despite marrying an Eagle scout, I had never gone backpacking in my life.) And yes, the “TO” on the gift tag was me and the “FROM” on the gift tag was my husband.

But wait … there’s more.

My husband, who  had a huge grin on his face, handed me two other packages wrapped oh-so-precisely in Christmas paper. At the time, he was an engineer — and he still wraps presents with military precision and right angles. In one package was a gray wool hat. In the other was … long red underwear.

You read that correctly: long red underwear. (My husband informed me the proper name is “union suit.”)

My visions of romantic Christmas presents disappeared in a puff of red wool.

I smiled. I thanked my husband.

To this day, I do not remember what I gave my husband for our first Christmas — and I don’t think he remembers either. We both remember how I cried in bed that night, sobbing out my disappointment about receiving long red underwear for a Christmas present.

My husband: But now we can go winter camping together!

Me: When did we ever discuss winter camping?

I share this memory because through the years, it has become a favorite Christmas memory for my husband and for me. We learned several things that first Christmas:

  • How unspoken expectations can trip people up (friends, family, married couples) at Christmas time and other times during the years
  • How gifts need to be received for what they are — gifts — not judged for what they are not
  • How laughter is often the first step to forgiveness


And just in case you’re wondering: I still have that … um … union suit my husband bought for me. And yes, while we have gone camping together, I’ve never gone winter camping. The red long johns only function as a reminder to accept any gift — knowing each present is given with love.

Christmas Giveaway from me and 7 author friends!

Now to share some Christmas fun with you! Some special writing friends and I decided to put together a Christmas Fiction giveaway for our readers! This will be a fun blog tour that takes you to our blogs for Christmas memories and traditions. You can come back to this post for links to each post as they go live. And be sure to check out each one because many of us will have additional giveaways on our sites. You can enter via the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. Or you can also click on the prize graphic below to enter.

– 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card
– 12/12 – Cara Putman: A copy of Where Treetops Glisten; B&B Works lotion
– 12/14 – Kristy Cambron: A copy of The Butterfly and the Violin or A Sparrow in Terezin (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card
– 12/16 – Katherine Reay: A copy of Lizzy & Jane or Dear Mr. Knightley (winner’s choice); a Lizzy & Jane tumbler
– 12/18 – Katie Ganshert: A copy of A Broken Kind of Beautiful; an audio copy of An October Bride
– 12/20 – Courtney Walsh: A copy of Paper Hearts; Christmas artwork
– 12/22 – Melissa Tagg: A copy of Here to Stay; an It’s a Wonderful Life DVD
– 12/ 24 – Sarah Ladd: A copy of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall; a Pride and Prejudice DVD
*Winner announced 12/26


a Rafflecopter giveaway

[Tweet “Christmas gifts: The unexpected and expectations #gifts #lifelessons “] [Tweet “Christmas Fiction #giveaway from 8 authors #amreading #chrisfic “]

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  1. Jackie McNutt
    December 10, 2014, 5:17 am   /  Reply

    I remember my parents also had an aluminum tree at one time! Back in the day they were popular for a short while ! Love your Christmas story.
    [email protected]

    • December 10, 2014, 11:10 am   /  Reply

      My parents had an aluminum tree too. I remember watching the the lights from the color wheel change on the hallway wall as I feel to sleep.

  2. Connie Fischer
    December 10, 2014, 6:17 am   /  Reply

    Your post brought back memories for me. My husband and married in December – coming up on 48 years ago. As he (we) were headed to graduate school in a cold area, he took me out and bought me warm boots and a heavy coat. It was funny how he was outfitting me to withstand the cold weather. I’m glad he did because it was a cold winter! As a jokey wedding gift, a friend gave us a long nightgown made for two people. What a hoot!

    • December 10, 2014, 10:15 am   /  Reply

      HI Connie ~ I had to comment… 48 years married? That’s beautiful!!! : )

    • December 10, 2014, 11:10 am   /  Reply

      Oh my word! How funny about the long nightgown for two! I’ve never seen one of those! 🙂

  3. DK Stevens
    December 10, 2014, 7:14 am   /  Reply

    I remember a silver tree too. We had the colored wheel that would shine on it and change the color..
    One year I thought I was getting a too go coffee cup. When I just set it aside, I was told I had to open it up.. there was a Diamond ring inside to celebrate out 20th Christmas together… Awesome ! ! !

    • December 10, 2014, 11:11 am   /  Reply

      A to-go coffee cup — now that’s a clever way to wrap a diamond ring!

  4. December 10, 2014, 7:32 am   /  Reply

    “My husband: But now we can go winter camping together!

    Me: When did we ever discuss winter camping?”

    This made me smile so much.

    I think the best gifts are ones you just know the person put time and thought into…even if the gift is so not, ahem, something you actually want. I, for instance, would have the very same flabbergasted response to someone thinking I actually WANTED to go winter camping. LOL! I mean, I like snow, but I have very definite limits and they pretty much stop at one snowball fight and maybe one sledding outing a year. 🙂 But yeah, those gifts you just know took time and thought on the other person’s part are definitely the most memorable.

    • December 10, 2014, 11:12 am   /  Reply

      I am thankful my husband thought enough to want to keep me warm on the “imaginary” winter camping trip. He was being considerate. I hate to be cold! 🙂 And he did get a lot of wear out of the hat. (And he also bought himself a blue union suit to coordinate with mine.)

  5. December 10, 2014, 7:47 am   /  Reply

    I love this post, Beth. And you are so right! I tell my kids that each Christmas when they look to me and question a gift… Don’t socks, sweaters and an occasional book fulfill every kid’s greatest desires? Anyway, your point is so wonderful for it applies to people as well… And I appreciate the reminder. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    • December 10, 2014, 11:13 am   /  Reply

      My kiddos knew they were going to get a pile of books every Christmas — but they all loved to read, so it was expected and welcomed! They also learned not to say, “I already have this” if they received a duplicate gift from a relative.

  6. December 10, 2014, 9:21 am   /  Reply

    Beth, I’m sorry I giggled. I can empathize. Our first Christmas as newlyweds my husband gave me a… Eureka vacuum cleaner! Yep. That’s right. BUT… in his defense, we really needed one. AND I let him help with that little duty from time to time. (The vacuum worked for 15 years!) 🙂

    Oh–and when I was a little girl, our family had a silver tree with a rotating color wheel that made it shimmer so pretty. I loved it!

    Thanks for sharing your Christmas memory! xo

    • December 10, 2014, 11:14 am   /  Reply

      Cynthia, I am glad you giggled. As I said, this is now a favorite memory.
      We needed so many things when we were newlyweds — a couch, a dining table …

  7. December 10, 2014, 9:23 am   /  Reply

    […] Beth Vogt is kicking off our Christmas Blog […]

  8. December 10, 2014, 10:17 am   /  Reply

    Hi Beth ~

    What a lovely blog post! I so identified with it, about the expectations of the season. (This could go for birthday gifts, wedding anniversaries, etc., couldn’t it?) I’m so glad you shared this memory with us.

    • December 10, 2014, 11:15 am   /  Reply

      Expectations — they’re everywhere, aren’t they, Kristy?

  9. Sparksofember
    December 10, 2014, 10:27 am   /  Reply

    Your story reminds me of my first Mother’s Day. I had given my husband a copy of the movie I Am Sam “from” our unborn daughter for his birthday and was full of expectations to get an equally thoughtful and sentimental gift for my first Mother’s Day. And he gave me a copy of The Last Samurai. I was devastated and he was so confused. “But you love Japanese culture and you liked the movie a lot!” “But it has nothing to do with being a mother or a wife!” Unspoken expectations – now, after 12 years of marriage, we’ve gotten much better at those. But we’re still not perfect! 😉

    • December 10, 2014, 11:16 am   /  Reply

      Such a perfect example of unspoken (and therefore unmet) expectations!
      Thanks for joining the conversation today!

  10. Caryl Kane
    December 10, 2014, 10:33 am   /  Reply

    Beth, I enjoyed reading about your first married Christmas. I so agree that expectations have a tendency to get us into lots of trouble if we are not careful. Blessings 🙂

    • December 10, 2014, 11:17 am   /  Reply

      Agreed — expectations can lead to trouble, but if we unpack them, we can learn more about one another.
      By the way, I love how you spell your name!

  11. Katrina Epperson
    December 10, 2014, 10:42 am   /  Reply

    Beth, thank you for the morning smile. What a wonderful story. I loved it. I have received, shall we say, some gifts that I had no idea what to do with, but never long underwear. I appreciate the thought of each gift, but when my children were little I had to wonder what were they thank you for sharing.
    Christmas Blessings
    [email protected]

    • December 10, 2014, 11:17 am   /  Reply

      Children — they give some of the most surprising — and hearfelt — gifts ever!

  12. December 10, 2014, 11:01 am   /  Reply

    My grandparents had an aluminum Christmas tree. They had a revolving spotlight on it with red, yellow, blue, and green. My dad hated it!
    Great story.
    tlw131 [at] gmail [dot] com

    • December 10, 2014, 11:18 am   /  Reply

      So I imagine your mom was the one who insisted on the silver tree?

  13. Shelia Hall
    December 10, 2014, 11:28 am   /  Reply

    I can identify with you as my ex-husband got me longjohns too but for birthday as I was pregnant our 2nd christmas

    • December 10, 2014, 5:00 pm   /  Reply

      It must be a husband thing because the thought “I think I’ll be him long johns” never crossed my mind.

  14. brandi s
    December 10, 2014, 12:01 pm   /  Reply

    It’s the thought right….it never fails I have a kitchen ‘need’ under the tree and one year a new office chair because he thought I would love it. I’ve come to not expect anything and that’s okay. I tell everyone I’m grown I don’t need gifts and it’s true. But I do give the kids (and hubby) little gift – like hot tea, new cozy socks – hints b/c the kids like getting me something.

    • December 10, 2014, 5:01 pm   /  Reply

      I think hints are great — and as they got older, my kiddos (and my husband) caught on. We now do themed Christmas stockings each year — my husband’s brilliant idea! (And there’s a story there too!)

  15. Jackie Tessnair
    December 10, 2014, 2:04 pm   /  Reply

    This just brought back a flood of memories.My mom and dad divorced when I was young,but one of the few things I can remember is the silver tree with the color wheel underneath it.Thanks for bringing this memory to me today.

    • December 10, 2014, 5:02 pm   /  Reply

      I am sorry your parents divorced, Jackie. Mine did too, when I was older. It’s hard.
      But I am glad this post brought back a good memory for you.

  16. December 10, 2014, 2:33 pm   /  Reply

    I don’t recall 1st Christmas gifts but was married Dec. 21st, so probably time in Chinatown San Fran. watching Flower Drum Song which had just come out.
    However, I’ve studied and taught survival training, edible plants, etc., and have camped out at 20 below in the Canadian Rockies for a learning situation I could pass on to others. Absolutely the coldest longest night of my life, and while I’ve built igloos, snow survival shelters, etc., and had fun, I have never wanted to camp out in such conditions again.

    • December 10, 2014, 5:03 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve seen Flower Drum Song, Dee!
      And your stories — your life! — amazes me!

  17. December 10, 2014, 8:52 pm   /  Reply

    That was such a dear story. My office did a retro Christmas party a few years ago complete with a murder mystery game and we had an aluminum tree that one of my co-workers found at a Goodwill. I was so bummed when she ended up trashing it. My parents had one for a few years when I was little. I totally would have nabbed it. Thank you for sharing a peak into your life. 🙂

    • December 11, 2014, 10:03 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, I can’t believe they trashed that retro tree!

  18. Janet Estridge
    December 11, 2014, 8:23 am   /  Reply

    My Grandparents had a silver tree that turned pink, blue, red, and green. Wish I had that tree now.
    Thanks for the opportunity to enter your giveaway.

    • December 11, 2014, 10:05 pm   /  Reply

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Janet. I love being part of giveaways and having contests for readers. And my parents’ silver tree had a color wheel with green, red, blue, and orange colors.

  19. Melissa Romine
    December 11, 2014, 11:17 am   /  Reply

    I LOVE your first Christmas story!
    Oh those silver aluminum trees. My grandma had one with the rotating color wheel. She had a daycare in her home so she had it sitting on a silver dining table up off the floor. 🙂

    • December 11, 2014, 10:06 pm   /  Reply

      My Christmas tree is now sitting up on a table so that my GRANDgirl cannot get to it. 🙂 Some things just work, you know? 🙂

  20. Bonnie Roof
    December 11, 2014, 11:36 am   /  Reply

    Beth, loved your Christmas memory!! It brought back some of my fave memories: watching the color wheel on my grandparent’s aluminum tree, my grandmother baking numerous kinds of Christmas cookies to pass out to neighbors as well as family members, my grandfather passing out a huge platter of numerous kinds of candy after our family Christmas dinner every year and my grandparents using coffee can lids to purchase a special walking doll for me one Christmas!!

    Thank you and thanks for the beautiful giveaway opportunity!!

    Shared on Facebook!!

    • December 11, 2014, 10:07 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve never heard of using coffee can lids to purchase a walking doll … how interesting. I do remember collecting soda pop lids and using them to get tickets for a local amsuement park in the summertime. 🙂

      • Bonnie Roof
        December 14, 2014, 4:45 pm   /  Reply

        LOL, Beth – I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of submitting coffee can lids to purchase items. This was before your time – I will be 71 years old Dec. 25th.

        • December 14, 2014, 8:10 pm   /  Reply

          Bonnie: A Christmas birthday!
          My youngest daughter is a Christmas Eve baby! She was our unexpected blessing — and I love the birthday God picked out for her!

  21. Connie Saunders
    December 11, 2014, 1:49 pm   /  Reply

    We didn’t have an aluminum tree but our neighbor did and I loved seeing the different colors as the color wheel went around. Thanks for refreshing the memory!
    Merry Christmas!

    • December 11, 2014, 10:08 pm   /  Reply

      Seems like those trees were awfully popular … 🙂

  22. Fran Shaw
    December 11, 2014, 9:16 pm   /  Reply

    This brought back memories! This will be our 45th Christmas together! But we still laugh at our first married Christmas when my very practical husband gave me an iron. And being so thoughtful, he didn’t just give me one gift, but two – an ironing board cover to go with the iron! I think I pretended to like it, but he did receive “counseling” about his future gifts!

    • December 11, 2014, 10:09 pm   /  Reply

      An iron … and an ironing board. A matched set. Wow, Fran.

  23. December 12, 2014, 9:34 am   /  Reply

    I don’t remember my husband’s gifts from our first Christmas. It was only three days after our wedding. 🙂
    But I’ve gotten my share of practical gifts for Christmas, most of which I asked for, though sometimes I wish he’d go out on a limb and buy something spontaneous and romantic. After nearly 24 years, I’ve given up hope of that ever happening, though he does get me jewelry (that I’ve picked out at some point during the year) as a surprise sometimes.

    • December 14, 2014, 8:40 am   /  Reply

      Jewelry as a surprise is nice … 🙂

  24. bn100
    December 12, 2014, 2:11 pm   /  Reply

    fun post

  25. December 16, 2014, 7:53 pm   /  Reply

    […] 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  26. December 16, 2014, 7:54 pm   /  Reply

    […] get a chance to meet them and discover their books if you haven’t already. – 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  27. December 17, 2014, 3:48 am   /  Reply

    […] 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  28. December 17, 2014, 9:09 am   /  Reply

    I have a funny! My husband got me the perfect diamond earrings for Christmas some 15 years ago. Treasure hunt to find them. So sweet. Almost a year to the date I received them, I looked at them together very closely, and they weren’t even a matching pair! Can you believe it? I looked at each one as I placed them on me, but never looked at them side by side. I still had the receipt and they were still under warranty … so I exchanged them. If I had a do-over … I might would keep them! 🙂

    • December 17, 2014, 4:04 pm   /  Reply

      Now this is a story that should go into a novel!

  29. December 18, 2014, 6:04 am   /  Reply

    […] get a chance to meet them and discover their books if you haven’t already. – 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  30. Marilyn Collins
    December 18, 2014, 4:21 pm   /  Reply

    Everyone should have traditions to love and enjoy.

  31. December 20, 2014, 7:14 am   /  Reply

    […] get a chance to meet them and discover their books if you haven’t already. – 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  32. Sharon Miller
    December 21, 2014, 12:37 pm   /  Reply

    Have not read your books as yet but look forward to it. Thanks for the giveaway.

  33. December 21, 2014, 4:43 pm   /  Reply

    […] get a chance to meet them and discover their books if you haven’t already. – 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

  34. December 21, 2014, 10:58 pm   /  Reply

    Unmet expectations. Christmas lists are enjoyable with sizes and hopes and dreams. I remember one year my dad gave practical gifts that weren’t expected ~ a new ironing board, iron, and wicker laundry basket. Too practical.
    I wish each of you a blessed Christmas together with family and friends! The joy of Christmas treasures.

  35. December 22, 2014, 10:44 am   /  Reply

    […] read the rest of Melissa’s post, click here. – 12/10 – Beth Vogt: A copy of Somebody Like You or A November Bride (winner’s choice); a $5 Starbucks card – 12/12 […]

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