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.