It’s been a long time since I got really excited for Christmas. Usually I get excited about the things I get to do that I really enjoy - like decorating the tree/house. It should be noted that this year I got pretty sentimental about this part of the process. With each ornament that I took out of storage, I was reminded of pivotal milestones that we have experienced in our time together over the last ten years. That was special and it was also the first moment that I started to immerse myself in the spirit of the season.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the process of thinking about gifts to get that will mean something to the person I’m buying them for. I love watching someone open a gift and see the joy on their face when it’s something they can really use and enjoy. The giving is a fun part of Christmas. Getting becomes less important with every passing year. Don’t get me wrong - I can’t wait to get my Christmas present this year. But if I didn’t get it, I’d cry live. Okay, actually, I’m pretty excited about the getting this year, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually wanted something enough to get really excited about opening my own presents on Christmas day.
This year, because of some changes to extended family plans, we’re spending Christmas day at home for the first time ever. Just the three of us. At first, I wondered what we’d do. We’ve never had to spend a holiday alone before so it’s a real adjustment, this not spending the day with extended family. Then I decided that this is the perfect time for us to establish some new traditions of our own. To create memories that will build anticipation for future Christmas celebrations.
I’ve really missed some of the traditions I grew up with - like stockings. Matt and I have never done stockings because he didn’t do them in his family. With just the two of us, it didn’t seem to matter that we didn’t do them. But Brandon’s getting to an age that I want to start introducing him to the things that I enjoyed and in my family, we loved the Christmas stocking. Filled to the brim with candy and special little (mostly) inexpensive items, we always looked forward to dumping them out and foraging for hidden treasure amongst the pile of chocolate and mints as we munched on our Christmas candy treats.
In our house, the stockings didn’t match. There were no names on them and we didn’t always get the same stocking every year. We also had more stockings than we had family members, so if we had a guest, there was always a spare for them. The only way you knew which stocking was yours was because they were hung in the same order Dad, Mom, Brother 1, Karen, Brother 2. Oldest to youngest.
Every Christmas Eve night, just before bed, we begged to be allowed to open one gift each. Eventually, it became part of our family tradition - one that I don’t think my parents were ever too thrilled about. But it was fun for us kids and I think it may have even netted the house a half an hour of extra sleep since we’d already whetted our appetite for gifts. I don’t think I’m going to institute this tradition just now. Perhaps in a few years if Brandon decides to ask.
On Christmas morning, we mixed it up. Sometimes we could convince our parents to let us unwrap presents before breakfast, but never before we read the Christmas story. As soon as we read the Christmas story (and sometimes after breakfast), we would unwrap presents. Another tradition in our family was that Mom, my brothers and I would stay up very, very late Christmas Eve wrapping presents. My mom and I in particular would get quite creative and fancy with the wrapping, making them as pretty as possible. We loved creating beautiful packages to put under the tree. As the wrappings came off, we saved every bow to be re-used for years to come (very “green” of us).
Once all the presents were unwrapped, we did any number of things from playing games to playing with our presents, to helping prepare the Christmas dinner. It was never terribly structured - we went with the flow of what everyone felt like doing and enjoyed spending time with family.
This year, I have a two year old to keep entertained, so I’m going to prepare some craft projects to do with him and maybe find a game or two to play with him if and when he gets bored with his gifts. Knowing his reaction to the things he’s getting, we may not be able to drag him away from them for the entire weekend, much less long enough to do a craft project.
As I prepare for this Christmas and the changes it’s bringing, most of all I’m looking forward to spending concentrated time with Matt and Brandon - separately and together. There is truly no better gift than that.
What are your favorite traditions at Christmastime?