When You Should Exchange Gifts With Your Boyfriend Or Girlfriend If You'll Be Apart On Christmas

When I was in college, I'd head home every winter break to spend the holidays with my family and my hometown boyfriend. We would spend Christmas morning with his family and have dinner with mine. I never had to worry about when to exchange gifts because this was usually the first thing we did when we got together in the morning. We've since broken up and all of my subsequent romantic partners have lived fairly close to where I live (I've been burned by long distance before and have no desire to relive that fiasco). That said though, I still find myself alternating Christmas celebrations between my family who lives abroad and whomever I'm dating at the time. Years of experience have led me to believe that the best time to exchange gifts with your partner if you won't be together on Christmas is before one of you leaves and definitely before Christmas Day.

I've done this every time except once when my partner and I agreed on a holiday experience gift instead — a New Year's Eve trip to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Although you might think it'd be more romantic to save your relationship gift exchange for last as something to look forward to when you return, I think getting it done ahead of time has its benefits.

You'll have something to remember them by when you're alone.

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Spending Christmas without your partner can be a real drag, even if you're surrounded by friends and family. Every Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel reminds you of how much you miss them. You secretly wish they'd chase you through the airport so that you don't leave or that they'll surprise you by sitting under the tree on Christmas morning — because why can't your life be a movie, too? It's not just movies, either. The soundtrack to your life has become a holiday-blues medley of "All I Want For Christmas Is You," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and "Baby, Please Come Home."

I've found that exchanging gifts beforehand makes it easier, especially if it's something you can bring with you on your trip away, because you have something to remember them by whenever you're feeling down. That's not to say that you need gifts from your partner to think favorably of them — just that you have a sweet memory together to hold on to every time the totally less-deserving couple on TV has a stupid kiss under the mistletoe.

You'll still be in the Christmas spirit when you exchange gifts.

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My real issue with belated Christmas gifts is, though, that the magic of the season seems to disappear as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Day. It's almost like Christmas is a glamorous horse-drawn carriage that plops right back into an old pumpkin at the end of night. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo-Hoo.

It's hard to stay festive once Christmas Day has passed and even more difficult if you and your partner aren't reunited until the new year. Just like some people celebrate Friendsmas before Christmas (or Friendsgiving before Thanksgiving), I recommend doing something similar with your partner. Have an intimate night in with your own couples' Christmas traditions, starting with a gift exchange. That way, you can go off to your respective, solo celebrations knowing that you didn't miss out on the festivities with each other.

In a perfect world, you'd be stuck in one of those Christmas movies where you get to relive the day as many times as you want so you can spend it with as many people as you'd like. Twelve days of Christmas, anyone? Sadly, unless you've figured out a way to replicate the wishing machine from Richie Rich's Christmas Wish (if you have, please let me know), you're probably going to have to split your holiday time. Don't wait until after Christmas to celebrate with your partner if you can't be together on the big day. Instead, set aside some time before the 25th to have your own romantic Christmas together. The gifts will just be supplementary; it's the quality time that will really matter.

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