Find a real tree and chop it down with an axe. Find it where there’s snow and sprawl out on the ground to make snow angels. It’s one of the only times you’ll experience something romantic that simultaneously gives you the opportunity to pretend you are a Millennium Falcon passenger during a hyperdrive trip. Thank her for helping you pick the perfect tree, even if it’s not perfect. She’ll know it’s more about getting the tree than a comment on the value of the timber. Show her you can tether it to the roof with adequate knots, even if you’ve never been a sailor or a boy scout. (You need be neither of these — you simply need to be a Google practitioner.) Trim the tree together. Give it a little love.
Shop for your relatives together. Make a big show of separating for a while so you can find her a gift — even if you don’t find something, it’ll show her you’re putting effort into the process. The magic of gift giving can be slightly diminished if the recipient knows that you at least took the effort to put on clothing and leave the apartment to get it.
Get something nice wrapped in a box that makes it impossible to determine what’s inside. Let her shake it if she wants. Make something to go with it — a mixtape, a card, a napkin holder, a necklace made of macaroni, or a plastic model of a French horn you paint blue and hang on her wall. If it comes from your hands, she’ll appreciate it. This was true in grade school, and is true now.
Watch Christmas movies together. Say, “[Girlfriend], you’re such a disease.” Build makeshift booby traps for Santa or burglars. Talk about shooting your eye out. Tell her you’ll give her the moon, so she can swallow it and it’ll dissolve and moonbeams will shoot out of her fingers and her toes and the end of her hair. Ask her if Rusty is still in the Navy. Maybe steal the posterboard move from Love Actually.
Celebrate once with her family. Hug her Mom. Shake hands firmly with her Dad. Bring wine or liquor, but not both. You don’t want to look like an alcoholic. It’s more about the gesture than quantity or quality. Allow her to instruct you on the alcohol purchasing decision. Wear a tie, because it won’t kill you. Make sure you can maintain eye contact, especially with her Dad, even if he looks like he might want to shoot you. Go to church with them if they want you to, even if your celebrations of the holidays are anything but theistic. You don’t necessarily have to participate, and can just sit/ stand there. Many people go to church only on or around the holidays. It’s a thing.
Celebrate once with your family if you’re both comfortable with her coming home to Mom and Dad. Make her feel welcome, and thank her for being the reason your Grandfather no longer starts every single one of your telephone conversations with “Meet any live ones yet?” Apologize to her for his inquiries into her entire life story. If you can, convey this with a look while they’re conversing. This may not be possible, however, because we are not all Ryan Atwood. Words work, too. If your family is old fashioned, set her up in your bedroom. Tuck her into your bed and point out some of the stuff from your childhood, if your Mom hasn’t already turned your former digs into a “craft room.” You always take the couch, or guest room. If part of your gift arsenal is a stuffed animal, this is a great time to present it to her.
Listen to the Bright Eyes’ or Elvis version of “Blue Christmas” one time and one time only. Realize you do not need to listen to depressing holiday music this year. Freak out in a good way.
Just before you go to sleep, alone or with her, feel the happiness that comes with having a significant other at this time of year. Hope holiday season after holiday season is similar to this one. Know that even if they aren’t, you will still have this memory.