My Family & I Don’t Do Holiday Gifts Anymore. Here’s What We Do Instead.

This holiday season, Refinery29 is proud to champion financial confidence alongside SunTrust — the bank providing you with all the tools and resources you'll need to live out your #bestlife. Ahead, hear one real woman's story about pursuing her goals with financial confidence in the midst of the holidays.
Plenty of people will tell you that the holidays aren't really about the presents. But for us, gifts aren't even part of the equation. Instead, our Christmas is about dinner.
Advertisement
My husband and I look forward to our holiday meal with far more enthusiasm than we do any physical object we might gift one another. The whole point of the holiday is time spent with family, celebrating love. And since we met, eating has certainly been a thing we love.
ILLUSTRATED BY TWISHA PATNI
My husband is Italian and grew up eating the Feast of Seven Fishes over the holidays. True to its name, this traditional meal involves at least seven seafood courses, typically served family-style. Truth be told, we don’t have a huge family, and sometimes we don’t even have guests over for Christmas. But it doesn’t matter. Even if we’re only cooking for four (or, really, two, as our two kids will pick and choose which of the fish dishes they’re actually willing to consume), we take care to make our Feast of Seven Fishes feel like a truly glorious, special occasion. 
Let me be clear: This is no small ordeal. Each season, it’s an enormous splurge — typically around $300 for the entire meal. Sure, this is less than we might normally spend on a pile of gifts for the whole family, but we recognize that this kind of money, dedicated to a singular meal that has a finite beginning and end, is lavish. And while we make a point to make regular donations to local charities year-round — not just during the holidays — we know we’re privileged to be able to enjoy something like this. It's a luxury to have the financial confidence to splurge on the things that matter to us.
Advertisement
So what, exactly, makes it all so opulent? We source the best ingredients, traveling around to our local markets for the freshest possible seafood. Then, come Christmas Eve, we spend the entire day painstakingly preparing a meal that will live up to our own high expectations.
ILLUSTRATED BY TWISHA PATNI
Before the fish courses begin, I set out a cheese plate with artisanal cheeses and pâté (all good meals begin with cheese). Then, we begin our fish feast with local oysters. Next come giant shrimp, poached and then chilled, hooked around the rims of martini glasses with cocktail sauce for dipping. Fist-sized sea scallops follow, served raw as crudo or marinated in citrus as a ceviche. A tuna poké arrives after, slicked with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and served with cubes of avocado. Next are the crab toasts, then butter-bathed lobster tails, then linguine with local clams. Finally, we have caviar with blinis, sour cream, and chopped onion. And to drink, Champagne.
But beyond the food itself, we love that this meal creates an indelible memory. Year-round I savor the image of my husband and me working in the kitchen with holiday music playing, while our 3-year-old putters around, helping where he can. Eventually, we know our youngest will do the same.
ILLUSTRATED BY TWISHA PATNI
We still give our kids a few small presents — they’re young, and toys do mean something to them. That said, we know that they look forward to our holiday meal in the same way that we do, with the same sense of brightness and anticipation that most kids get from a tower of gifts. They’re fond, even at their young ages, of the camaraderie and energy in our family’s kitchen, and of what it means to come together at the dinner table on occasions like this. 
For me, this meal feels like an investment in tradition. It’s a way of using my financial confidence to build something amongst my family that’s more permanent than presents. When our children are grown, our hope is that they remember the significance of a brilliant shared meal — and that they continue to indulge in the tradition with their own families. 
Advertisement

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series