For me, the anxiousness revolves around excitement for certain traditions. I’m one that loves tradition. As the youngest in my family, I was kind of the keeper of tradition—the one who, growing up, was desperate for the holidays, the siblings it brought home, and the memories we could make and relive.
Christmas Eve is where it’s really at for my family. We have countless traditions—tying off the banister with ribbon to prevent trespassers downstairs; covering the banisters with blankets so no one can see what Santa has brought; sleeping in one room together. I’ve become more flexible with age (really, 10 grown adults and their children sleeping in one room doesn’t really work anymore), but there are still certain things that need to happen on Christmas Eve for me to feel the Christmas spirit:
Nativity reenactment. We take our parts, wear towels for headdresses and bathrobes for clothes, and my dad reads the story (and directs us to our lines), with my mom or a sister on the piano for Christmas hymns. This is the most special part of the evening.
The dinner. Each person chooses one thing they want to contribute to the dinner—the first Christmas my parents did this it was all chips and dip. Thereafter, baseline fare was ham and rolls, and we’ve added other must-haves (such as frog-eye salad and Dad’s macaroni salad) through the years. A brother-in-law recently added Bagel Bites.
New pajamas. I never realized how unremarkable opening pajamas on Christmas Eve was until I went to college. I wouldn’t be surprised if some department store ran a promotion back in the 50s encouraging “new pajamas for your kids to sleep in on Christmas Eve,” resulting in millions of families adopting the tradition and passing it on to succeeding generations. (As a result of this tradition, I have an entire dresser drawer dedicated to pajamas.)
A screening (in new pajamas) of George C. Scott’s Christmas Carol. This is the best version, in my opinion. I always get emotional when Scrooge begs the Ghost of Christmas Past to tell him if he still has time to “sponge away the writing on this stone.”
If you’re reading this list and find a couple familiar-sounding ideas, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve found that my own experiences color the ideas I suggest for LDS Living. Not long ago, we ended our 12 days of Christmas, with the 12th day offering a kid-friendly nativity script. I volunteered to write it, having had so much experience with it. And while I tried my best to make it short and sweet, I couldn’t leave out the beauty of the language from the scriptures themselves (which is the way my family has always read it)—hence, two scripts.
Today you might notice that we have Christmas Recipes from LDS Living readers. We asked this question in an e-mail after I thought of how important food traditions are to my holiday—and how I’ve seen this true for many others. Check it out! Maybe there’s a new recipe there for your family gathering. (I’m thinking about the recipe for “That Apple Cake.” Mmmmm.)
This year, for the third time in my adult life, I will be spending Christmas away from home. The traditions will be different, but one thing will be the same—family. And while I know I’ll miss my own family’s unique blend of Christmas activities and spirit, who knows? I might find something new to make Christmas even better.
What about you? What unique things your family does on Christmas or Christmas Eve?