As I sit here “working from home”, I can’t help but reflect on the Christmas eves of my youth. I guess when you follow a tradition for 23 years, it kind of gets embedded in the brain.
Christmas Eve in my family was always a big family affair. The activities of the day really depended on whether or not we were hosting the family. My dad is the youngest of three boys, and the boys would take turns hosting the family after my grandparents moved out of their house. If we were hosting at our house, the morning was a flurry of last minute cleaning and food preparation. Then it was a mad dash for everyone to get ready.
Christmas Eve festivities began with the entire family (aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, grandparents and great aunts & uncles) attending the candle light service at the Methodist Church. I love candle light services. Everyone holding their own candle. The way the light spreads throughout the church as the flame is passed from person to person. And, when every candle had been lit, Frank would rise and sing O Holy Night which would give me chills – he has an amazing voice. And it was the only time you would hear him sing. I remember as a kid getting to hold my own candle and the wax dripping through the cardboard guard as I sat there listening to the song. Once it was completed, the minister would say a final prayer, then ask that we distinguish the flame but keep it burning in our hearts.
After church, we would all go to the designated house. There we would eat and be together. In the early days before any of the grandkids grew up, gifts would be exchanged. But, later, we just made it about family. We would hear stories. My grandma’s sisters sometimes came by to see everyone.It was always pretty entertaining as my grandpa’s brothers and sisters would tease their nephews and tell stories to us kids that would embarrass our dads and our grandpa. And, the food was always something to look forward to. Everyone would look at Grandma’s Santa collection she had scattered throughout the house – it was always a hunt for our favorites. My Aunt S making her famous pound cake – and she’d always make way too much and send my dad home with the rest because he loved it so much. My Aunt L would make an assortment of cookies we had never seen before as she loved trying out new recipes. (In truth, I think she was trying to elevate the palate of the family.) My family would contribute my grandma’s sugar cookies….the sugar cookies that we would spend hours making and frosting and putting sugar on them. And, my dad and his brothers would fight over the dark ones…the ones that were in the oven too long. To this day, we all fight over them because they are the best. And, my mom would wonder how they got in there because she had thought she had made sure the cookies we brought were only the pretty ones….but my dad would make sure the “burnt” ones were in there. Family pictures were always taken. My grandma would fake disgust at my dad and his brothers as they insisted that people pose with the family salute (middle finger raised).
After the festivities, people would start going home. Once we got home, the kids would get into their pajamas – and my dad would read us “The Night Before Christmas”. We would leave out milk and cookies, and my parents would remind us of the rule – all kids had to be awake before waking up the parents. And we all tried to go to sleep as we waited for Santa.
I hope everyone has a magical Christmas!