For some reason, Christmas Eve has always meant more to me than Christmas. Perhaps that’s because it’s when my immediate family always held our Christmas celebration.

I realized this year how much the tradition meant to me, when I had to figure out whether I wanted to a) work on Christmas Eve or b) take it off without pay and not get paid for Christmas Day and the day after. Apparently if you take unpaid leave the day before a vacation, that’s how it works in our system (and being a new employee, I have no annual leave).

It wasn’t even something I hesitated over. Between my blog and consulting and Micah’s income, we’ll be fine for the three days anyway…but even if it was a stretch I doubt I’d hesitate.

So I thought I’d tell you a bit about how we celebrate.

Things begin around 5pm. When we were kids, my sister and I used to be frantic with anticipation until then. I remember Mom having us rake the yard at least one year, and cleaning the house another year. More recently, we’ve helped out with the cooking.

At about 5pm, we have dinner. Because I hated turkey as a kid, we’ve always had something non-traditional. No turkey or ham, we had goose, duck, and occasionally lamb. (Goose is actually quite traditional!)

After dinner, some people start clearing away dishes while others ritually bring out our gifts to each other. Gifts we’d received in the mail and the like were already under the tree, but we all had our own hiding places for gifts we were giving.

Once things settled down, the family would gather in the living room for our own version of a Christmas Eve service. A handful of carols (sister and I accompanying with our piano books from ages ago…basic stuff, but it works) and then a reading of the Christmas story. Possibly followed by a few more carols.

Then maybe a prayer.

After that, my sister and I get down by the tree and start handing out gifts. It started when we were excited kids and now our backs our better anyway!

When everything has been unwrapped, we help mom get the cookies out on the table. There are cookies and sometimes cakes, and we sit around talking about or playing with our gifts and nibbling on cookies.

Our Christmas Eve has had a few shakeups, but it’s still the same as it always was. When my grandparents moved to Delaware, they got invited too. When mom was recovering from major surgery, we girls just did most (all?) of the preparations and I think she had a couple naps. Now that I’m married, we head off to Micah parents’ around 7:30-8pm (when everything is over).

That’s my Christmas Eve. And I hope it will be for some time to come. May yours fill you with as many happy memories.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily@remodelingthislife December 24, 2008 at 8:13 am

Merry Christmas, Mrs. M! Christmas Eve is my favorite too even though our big celebration and gift opening is on Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays!

daddy t December 24, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for sharing your wonderful family tradition with us. I’m sorry you have to lose the workday pay however. I remember as a kid I knew some classmates who also opened presents on Christmas Eve, and even though my fam didn’t, the day was still exciting. Have a great time with your traditional family celebrations.

Funny about Money December 24, 2008 at 9:24 pm

How excellent!

Merry Christmas, Mr. & Mrs. Micah!

Cath Lawson December 25, 2008 at 6:57 am

Happy Christmas Mrs M. It sounds like you have a wonderful time on Christmas Eve. We have five children between us, so we usually spend the evening wrapping gifts. Can’t wait until they’re a little older and just want gift certificates.

Ron@TheWisdomJournal December 26, 2008 at 4:44 pm

That sounds a lot like how we celebrated Christmas when I was growing up and throughout my young adult life … then came the children and we had to get them in bed!

We now do everything on Christmas Day but in a few years, when the youngest no longer “believes,” we might revert back.

Janice December 26, 2008 at 7:16 pm

My Christmas Eve was very much the same as yours for years and then out of the blue this year, the children who are grown could not afford the plane tickets home, and I sat here alone. It seems that when we grow old we are forgotten. I pray that no one else has to spend any Christmas alone. My Christmas wish this year was that I don’t live for another, it was way too painful.

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