Countdown to Christmas 2.0 (#347)

Gift-giving and holidays were huge in my family. Life wasn’t necessarily great the rest of the year, but looking forward to holidays and birthdays got us through.

In Andy’s Chinese-American childhood? There was no emphasis on holidays or gifts. If he was lucky, there was lucky money in a red envelope when he was young. When he was older, if he was lucky, his mom might tell him to stop at Foodland and pick up a random cake for his own birthday.

Andy did a great job with gifts when we were first together. But after Baby D arrived, he slacked off.  He forgot about items such as stocking stuffers, which was no big deal when we were with my family, where stuffing stockings is a competitive sport and I got plenty of items from my dad’s current wife or various siblings. But our first Christmas at home alone?

I got nothing. Which was unfathomable to me, the person who spent hours picking out Andy’s favorite candies and bottles of bourbon (big and small).

Gilded calendar in white and purple decorated with owls , deer, and wintery woodland scene.
Original Advent Calendar from Vosages (with chocolates on the inside).

Andy rallied after that, but he has never spent anywhere near the time I do picking out gifts. Occasionally, though, he hit the jackpot. Like the time he found out how much I love Advent Calendars and got me the ultimate adult one from Vosages. Every year after that, he faithfully ordered a refill and restocked my calendar with high class chocolates.

Probably because Vosages sent him a yearly reminder.

For our last anniversary, I got Andy Whistle Pig bourbon, plus a second bottle for 5 cents, because Bevmo was having a sale. (Andy loves getting a bargain. He’s not truly happy with a gift unless I outline the great deal I got after he opens it. This is an absolute anathema to pretentious white people, but I’ve learned to roll with it.)

Unfortunately, when I was wrapping the bottles, I realized they were WHISKEY, not bourbon! I went back to the store had to argue with an employee about exchanging the unwanted whiskey.

Huffy Bevmo Employee: “Well, you should have known better. Whistle Pig doesn’t make a bourbon.”

Me, whipping out my phone and hitting the Google app: “Yes, they do.”

“I have never seen one!”

Picture of Whistle Pig BOURBON

Me, holding up phone: “Now you have!”

Huffy Bevmo Employee: “Well, still, you shouldn’t have—”

Me, interrupting: “Trusted that Bevmo would only put BOURBON in the one locked BOURBON case?”

I was allowed to make an exchange. (Note: Most other Bevmo employees have always been helpful and not pissy while being flat out wrong about liquor. I got the Dunning-Kruger special that day.) Still, I prided myself, a non-drinker, on knowing more about bourbon than a liquor store employee—even though the only reason I know anything about bourbon is because it’s one of Andy’s favorite things. When gift-giving is important to you, you learn as much as you can about what the recipient likes so you can get them a good gift. And you take it back the minute you realize it’s NOT a good gift.

Many of you are probably insisting, “It’s the thought that counts.”


That’s a lie told by shitty gift-givers to absolve them of guilt.

Gift-giving is all in the execution.

Take Andy’s anniversary gift to me: a package from an international chocolatier. I was pretty excited…until I opened it and found nothing but solid dark chocolate. I’m a milk chocolate fan, unless the dark chocolate surrounds nuts or caramel (or both).

Andy: “You don’t like it?!”

Me, sobbing dramatically: “Solid dark chocolate? 70-80% cacao? We’ve been married for more than a decade and it’s like you don’t even KNOW me!”

Andy: “But I thought it was a milk chocolate arrangement!”

Turns out Andy didn’t actually take the time to read through the product description (although he swears it was a bait and switch, like Bevmo and the bourbon). He immediately ordered some Ghana chocolates and apple cider caramels from Lake Champlain Chocolates and insisted they were my real gift.

Last week, the yearly advent calendar refill arrived.

Or so I thought.

When I opened the box, I discovered an entirely new “Chocolate Calendar for Advent” from Vosages. One I’d seen advertised on social media and adored, but quickly swiped away from, because I already had one.

The new Chocolate Calendar of Advent!

The second Andy and Baby D arrived home, I dragged them straight to the calendar. “Look, look! It’s awesome! When I press this button, it lights up! When I press this button, it plays the ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Nutcracker! And then you open it and there are lights inside and bigger chocolates than previous years and did you know it comes with its own charging cable?!”

Andy, looking somewhat dazed, said, “I did not know that. Wow. It has its own charging cable?!”

“But…you bought it. How did you not know?”

“I couldn’t get refills for your old calendar so I bought the new one. But I didn’t…”

“Read the actual product description? Yet again?


“So you didn’t actually intend to get me the amazing advent calendar I’ve been coveting?”

Luckily for Andy, Baby D, whose scowl had been deepening during this discussion, burst out with, “Where’s MY advent calendar?!”

“Dad got you a big Lindt one at Costco weeks ago.”

Andy said, “I’ll go get it!” and fled.

He didn’t need to worry. Andy might barely average a “C” grade in Intent.

But I only grade on Execution:

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

28 thoughts on “Countdown to Christmas 2.0 (#347)”

  1. That’s an awesome calendar. This week I received an advent calendar filled with tea from daughter #3. Maybe it will inspire me to turn from coffee to tea at least part of the time. Number 3 is the only daughter who loves gifts. Daughter #2, like my late husband, buys promiscuously. She likes to shop and buys whatever catches her eye. Daughter #1 hates shopping and doesn’t particularly want anything. If she does, she buys it. The sons-in-law and grandchildren are also difficult. Every year we decide whether to exchange names or not buy any gifts at all.

    1. I’ve seen the tea calendars–those look nice. Plus socks, advent calendars with treats for pets, beer, wine, etc. I got Andy 2 different 12 day advent calendars–one for hot sauce and one for beer.

      I am not a big shopper, especially not of clothes, but sometimes I do enjoy escaping husband and child and going to places like Cost Plus World Market to look at international foods, teas, and home goods.

      Gift-giving gets harder as people get older, that’s for sure.

  2. This is a great story. I’m in awe of your bourbon knowledge. Living a stone’s throw from KY and having parents who were into bourbon, I know more than most about it– but you have the deets.

    As for the accidental great gift, go with it. Never let him forget how grateful you are for it– even he was an idiot about purchasing it. This is the stuff of good strong marriages.

    1. I think the fact that we can both laugh about it helps. Now, when he senses I am irritated, he runs over and pushes the button to play “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Like he’s reminding me, “Hey, remember how I got you this cool gift you love?” (Or possibly playing music to soothe the savage beast…)

  3. My husband needs precise instructions for gifts. Details down to the where. One year I said that I wanted garnet earrings (my birthstone). I got a purple stone that looked like amethyst but was a purple garnet. He said, “do you know what color garnet really is?” (Of course I do!) He didn’t like the dark red color so did his own thing. We stopped exchanging several years ago. It was too much work for me with all the not too subtle hints I had to leave or risk returns.

    1. I think Andy is passive aggressively attempting a similar maneuver– be bad at gift-giving so I retaliate by not giving him gifts and then we just don’t give gifts at all and he wins.

      But I am too stubborn for that. He will get good gifts forever and be forced to reciprocate, occasionally stumbling onto the perfect one.

      1. You are a stronger person than I am but then again, I wasn’t much of a gift person to start with. It comes from years of giving meaningless gifts at work to people I don’t know or maybe even don’t like and getting weird stuff in return. Some gifts never made it home!

  4. I’ve never had an Advent calendar. I’ll take your dark chocolate the next time you get some. I far prefer dark over milk. Stockings are my absolute favorite part of Christmas giving.

  5. I am not generally a fan of fancy advent calendars, but that one is A-MA-ZING! 🙂

    I’m the same as you, I spend forever researching and shopping, determined to get my gifting just right. I’ve rarely met anyone who makes anything like the same effort in return. Himself buys my (always generous) gift as soon as he finds something he knows I like. I’ve had my current Christmas/Birthday gift since the summer (new camera), whereas I’d have been happy to wait until the Big Day, but the Big Day just isn’t a big deal for him.

    1. No, you are correct, people don’t always appreciate the work that goes into gift-giving–especially not in this age of buying gifts with one click. Though online shopping does make it easier for those of us determined to find the right gift, too.

      Andy just isn’t into gifts in general…at least, not the kind you buy. He does like to surprise me with new food dishes, which is pretty awesome.

  6. Getting a gift for my husband is borderline impossible. He always buys immediately anything he wants/needs. Add that to the fact that I hate wasting and consumerism, and we have the perfect storm, haha. This year I will get him massage vouchers as that is possibly the only thing he misses from China.

    Last month I mentioned that I’d like to have Airpods and I know that’s going to be my gift, haha. He always picks up the hints, at least that’s something.

    I think I’ve never had an Advent calendar myself! But I got one for Baby A. this year. It’s not a tradition here but now it is becoming one, it seems, with shops having lots of different models (not as cool as yours, of course!).

    1. Sounds like you found the perfect present in gift cards for massages. I would love one of those myself, but is it worth risking COVID with cases rising again here? Sigh. I guess not.

      Does Baby A love his calendar? Baby D is excited for his every morning.

      1. Yes!! Same thing, he is very eager to open the little window and get his chocolate every day, haha.

        My husband had covid (for the second time) last month, so for now he can safely go to his massage hahaha. I never got a positive in the antigen test but I lost my sense of smell for a week, so I guess I had it too.

  7. That is one amazing advent calendar with all the lights and music, and it does look like it has sizable chocolates. It really looks like quite the experience opening it each day. I’ve never had an advent calendar, not my thing at all – and my Chinese family aren’t big on Christmas. I’m like you on the milk chocolate, though. Definitely prefer milk over dark chocolate any day.

    If someone is intending to give me a gift over the holidays or birthdays, I make it very clear if I want anything and if I want anything (which really isn’t all the time and have to put up with people insisting on a treat), I will give them a list or a link to the item online. So hopefully it will be easy for them and no disappointments.

      1. Not really. It’s very hard for someone to surprise me with a gift that I like. Usually they get a gift thinking I might like it, like something cute but I would not have much reaction. Then again, not everyone likes lists. I’m stocking up on heaps of milk chocolate this holiday season.

  8. Merry late Christmas! And oh my goodness what an epic advent calendar!!! I might have to ask for one of those next year.

    And good job showing that BevMo employee what’s up on bourbon and whiskey. If he knew you didn’t even drink I bet he would be doubly embarrassed!

    I agree, execution is key. Although I think getting a shit gift is better than no gift lol. Husband totally flaked on Valentine’s Day last year, and I told him: come on, get me chocolate on sale from Walgreens or SOMETHING! ANYTHING! But don’t EVER come empty handed again! Hopefully he learned his lesson!

    And hopefully you got thoughtful gifts from Andy for Christmas this year!

    1. Right? There is decent chocolate to be found at Walgreens! Especially for a pregnant wife. He’s lucky you didn’t send him to the couch. Or out the front door!

      Andy gave me some native California shrubs–one for the butterfly garden and two to put next to asshole cop neighbor’s drive way. Unfortunately, now that his hand is all messed up, I’m going to have to dit the holes, remove the grass, and plant them.

If you liked this, let the white girl know!