Christmas Eve traditions can vary from family to family. My husband, Bob’s family always got together for a chili dinner on Christmas eve. Then they opened the presents, and the kids spent the rest of the evening playing with their new toys while all the parents sat around visiting. Sometimes Santa Clause would even show up, which was always a big hit among the little ones. Christmas morning was a day to relax and for the kids to play, while their parents prepared the huge Christmas dinner, and after dinner, all you could think of was how badly you wanted to lay down and sleep…especially when you had eaten two such dinners that day. Christmas dinner was just that way. It really should be followed with a nice long nap, stretched out on the couch to give the belly room.
As a little girl, Christmas eve was a time when we got to open one gift…always pajamas…which ensured good pictures on Christmas morning. We spent time singing Christmas carols. Our Christmas gifts were opened on Christmas morning. I think I always liked that way better, because the anticipation continued to build all night, and then we still had to wait for Mom and Dad to wake up and get things going in the morning. Of course, we really had no idea that they were awake before we were. I think they were just as excited as we were. When it came to Christmas, they were big kids too.
For my grandparents, Hattie and George Byer, as well as my niece, Raylynn Williams and her husband, Doug, Christmas Eve meant celebrating their wedding anniversary. For Grandma and Grandpa, a Christmas Eve wedding was probably more a matter of having family already gathered, and a wedding being held so people didn’t have to travel twice. For Raylynn, getting married on Christmas Eve was a way of honoring her grandparents…a way of sharing something special with them, even though they were both in Heaven by the time she married. It was like having them there at the wedding, and I’m sure that was exactly what Raylynn was thinking as she planned her special day.
Our daughter Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin, and their kids like the tradition we have of opening one gift, and then the rest on Christmas morning, and they have the added excitement of going to Kevin’s mom’s after our house. It really keeps them hopping. Our daughter, Amy Royce, her husband, Travis, and their kids like to watch a movie while eating cheese and sausage with crackers after the gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. For Bob and me…after the rush of Christmas Eve chili with the Schulenberg family, and of everyone coming for the traditional Christmas Eve gift opening session, it’s time to sit down and relax a while before everything starts in the morning, because Christmas dinner is held at our house now. Since my sisters, our families, and I have a party a week or so early, like the Byer family, we all spend Christmas with our own families now. With my parents in Heaven, the big day shifted to us. We love having everyone share it with us. Traditions change as families change, and it will continue to change in the future. The main thing is to enjoy the tradition, while remembering the reason for the season, the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As Christmas arrives, I am reminded of so many Christmases from the past. As a kid, I think the earliest memory I have of Christmas was the big celebration we always had when decorating the tree. The day we decorated the tree became a family party. We made snacks and played Christmas music. We sang Christmas carols, laughed, and munched. We always had a real tree in those days, because artificial trees didn’t exist, as far as I know. That meant that the first part of the evening was spent with my dad cutting the trunk of the tree to remove any unneeded height. The fragrance of the spruce tree filled the air. It was an incredible scent, and one that I still love to this day. The real tree lives in the past for my family now, and I can’t say that I’m totally sorry about that, because they are messy, and a fire hazard. I will take the trade off, and the fragrance of the spruce tree will have to live in my memory files.
Christmas eve was another family night, with singing, and of course, the one gift that we got to open that night…our new pajamas. I’m sure that was to add a nice fresh touch to the Christmas morning pictures, but it didn’t matter, because we loved getting those pajamas…and the excitement if opening just one gift on Christmas Eve was what it was all about anyway. These days with my children grown up, I’m not the one to give pajamas, although, we did it when our girls were little. Now they always know that at Grandma’s house, they will receive an ornament, so what is the mystery in that. Well, it is what kind of ornament, of course. I try very hard to be creative with those, and I think I did great this year. We had gone to Alaska on a cruise this past summer, and the kids all received an Alaskan ornament. I was so excited about those, that I had to get one of my own.
Christmas day always brought excitement and awe. It didn’t matter what you got, it was just so exciting to open the long anticipated gifts to see what you got. It always seemed that at this time of year, people were listening carefully so they could hear what you wanted, and then they headed out to get it and surprise you with it. My favorite years were the ones where we got something extra special for my parents. It was amazing to surprise them with something they never expected that we could afford…like the toaster we got them when I was the only one with a job. The rest of the gifts were hand made. They were so shocked. Then there was the year that we were sending them on an Alaskan cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. We got them a video camera for the trip. They were so excited. Yep, I think the best Christmases are the ones where you give amazing gifts. It is about giving rather than receiving. I guess that was how God felt too. After all, He gave us the greatest gift of all…Jesus. And that is the greatest Throwback Christmas of them all. Merry Christmas everyone and may the greatest blessings God has to offer be yours this Christmas and all year long.
In our family, as in lots of others I’m sure, when Christmas rolls around and the kids are all excited about presents, the chance to open a present early is a big deal. My sisters and I were no different. We wanted to open a present on Christmas Eve every year, and since my parents were just about as excited as we were, we always go to. There was, however, an ulterior motive for opening one gift early. You see there would be pictures taken on Christmas morning…and it was going to happen before anyone got dressed for the day, so the logical Christmas Eve gift was, of course…pajamas.
Every year we knew what was in the package before we opened it, but we were excited nevertheless. It was always so great getting new pajamas…that soft, new feeling. And even though we knew what the gift was, we didn’t know what they would look like. They might have been a night gown, or a top and pants, Baby-doll pajamas, or T-Shirt pajamas, it didn’t really matter. They were new and we always loved them.
When my girls came along, Bob and I continued the tradition. They always loved their new pajamas, and sometimes they were really special, because their grandma made them for the girls and their cousins. Really, what could be more cozy than being all snuggley and warm in a pair of flannel pajamas in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter night. Those were special days. The presents were all wrapped and the kids waited…impatiently for morning to arrive. The very air was filled with electricity.
It was always so hard to wait for Christmas morning to arrive, and even today I find it difficult. Watching my kids, and now my grandkids opening the gifts that I have searched high and low for, is so gratifying. And when you have found the totally awesome gift the anticipation makes it even harder to wait. So here we are…Christmas eve has arrived, and while I don’t give pajamas anymore, there will be a gift opened tonight, because it is tradition, and with each tradition comes the memories it creates, past, present, and future. Who knew way back then what those Christmas pajamas would start.