Couples bring traditions from their families into a marriage and some of those remain while others get modified or eliminated. My mother and her family always opened gifts on Christmas Eve while my father and his family opened them on Christmas morning. At some point my parents agreed to open our gifts on Christmas Eve. All the excitement began when it was dark. My parents and I would sit in the living room around the tree and hand out the gifts. For a few minutes there was the frenzy of the gifts being torn open and then everything settled back down.
Just as with my parents, my husband and I had different traditions in our families and modified our approach when we had kids. Interestingly, earlier this month Travis, my son, asked why he and his sister open one gift on Christmas Eve and open the rest of their gifts on Christmas morning. I told him that as a child I had opened all my presents on Christmas Eve and Keith, his dad, opened all of his on Christmas morning. I thought it would be good to have our kids open one of their gifts on Christmas Eve, to follow my family tradition. Then, open all the other gifts on Christmas morning to follow Keith’s family’s tradition.
Christmas Eve also has a tradition of completing the advent calendar. This tradition began when my kids were quite young, maybe two years old, and needed help understanding time, in general, but specifically how many days until Christmas. I decided to get an durable advent calendar. After searching unsuccessfully at many stores, I decided to ‘let my fingers do the walking’ and used the telephone book and made some calls. There was one upscale educational toy store on the opposite side of the metro that had one left! The salesperson described it to me thoroughly and, though it was pricey, I asked her to hold it for me. She said it’s called the “Sounds of Christmas” and for each day there is a different musical instrument that you match with an angel who is holding the same instrument and it has a music box that you squeeze and it plays different carols. The added educational aspects to it was a plus yet when I saw it, I was reluctant to buy it because it was expensive & not as beautiful as I had envisioned. However, I really wanted an advent calendar that would begin a new tradition and last many years so I bought it and apparently blocked from my memory the actual price.
I’ve never regretted that purchase and the kids loved it right away. The only trouble we had was ensuring, when the kids were young, who got to be first. They both wanted to be first but we worked it out different ways over the years. Some years one got to match the ornament first then the other played the song first. Then we put it all back and reversed who did what. Some years they insisted on being first for the two-step process (matching the instrument and playing the song) so they took turns being first every other day. It’s amazing how complicated some things can be with kids. Today, whoever gets up first does the two-step process and the other one puts it back and does it again!
I’m sure that words alone do not adequately describe our “Sounds of Christmas” advent calendar so I’ve included a video of it.
We began a new Christmas Eve tradition when our kids were about five or six years old. We call it Christmas Grazing. I’m not sure how it started but I think it began one Christmas eve when the roads were icy and no one came over. Keith had made lots of finger foods and since we didn’t have guests to help us eat the food, we nibbled on it for days. Over the years, the selection has evolved to include lots of candies that I make and other finger foods that Keith makes. We invite our immediate family over and we all ‘graze’ on food for several hours. Then we give our kids one gift to open. Christmas Eve is also when we exchange gifts with my Mom, brother, his wife, & son.