Post-Childhood, Pre-Grandchildren: The Adult Christmas DilemmaS

Every year, my mother gives me and my brother advent calendars. And Christmas stocking. And for him, a Playmobil. My brother is now 26. And we're at that awkward period between kids and grandkids. So at Christmas, we're forever 6.

It seems this is not a novel phenomenon. For every adult friend whose family has graduated to collegial cocktails and gifts of discreet checks, there was another that insisted on maintaining childhood rituals, seemingly intent on keeping things going until there are actual kids in the picture, at which time everything will continue without a hiccup.

Plenty, like me, get stockings and Advent Calendars. Others still tacitly stick to getting up at the crack of dawn, even though everyone would prefer to sleep in. And says one friend whose youngest sibling is now in her 20s, "we still descend the stairs in height and age order, singing "Deck the Halls."" As in my mom's case, to challenge these rituals would break tradition-bound hearts around the family.

I suspect this — kid Christmas without kids — is a relatively modern phenomenon. After all, time was people had kids younger. And families were bigger to start with, so there probably were some kids hanging around at any given point. Plus, we're always being told that our generation is infantilized more than any that went before; maybe this is just part and parcel.

This year, my brother cruelly broke with tradition, anouncing that he'll be staying on the West Coast for the holidays. My mom was bereft, but assured me repeatedly that things would go on as usual and be "just as festive." I decided to take the opportunity, at nearly 30, to put things on a more even footing. I privately resolved to present my parents with their own stockings. The only problem is, what does one put in a stocking for adults? I guess I could just ask my mom.