Our family has many Christmas traditions. Holiday songs and traditional carols fill the air. The house and tree are decorated with lights, the teddy bears wear their Christmas scarves, and there’s always a new nutcracker standing by the doorway to guard our home. A handmade, wooden Nativity is set up where the children can see and touch. I send out hundreds of cards and buy too many presents. I prefer to give homemade gifts, but I usually run out of time. But at least one person gets a homemade gift. Last year it was a quilt for my niece. This year it’s a painting for my husband. Everyone in the family gets a personal letter expressing my love. We sing in the choir at church and enjoy the Christmas programs, parties, and music. On Christmas morning we’ll wake up to a mound of presents under the tree, and if I’ve been diligent, homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We open the gifts one at a time, and enjoy the expressions on each other’s faces. We have a ham dinner and too much pie, and we play board games together. Later I’ll sneak off and call my loved ones who couldn’t be with us, and then I’ll dive into that new book that someone thoughtfully gave me.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas happens on Christmas Eve. It isn’t unusual to invite friends, relatives, and strangers to celebrate the evening with us. We start with a candlelight meal of clam chowder, croissants with ham and cheese, salad and pie. Then comes the best part: the Nativity.
When the kids were small, we would all dress up and act out the events that happened on that night long ago, with the youngest boy and girl playing the part of Mary and Joseph. A handy doll became the baby Jesus, wrapped in a blanket and laid in an upside down stool covered in a blanket. The donkey had paper ears, the angels wore sheets grabbed from the linen closet, and the shepherds wore bathrobes and towels secured to their heads with a tie from Sam’s closet. The kings got those nifty paper crowns from Medieval Times and carried a gift grabbed from under the tree. Our dog got to be the sheep. Grandma played the piano as we sang, and the narrator (usually Sam) read the scriptures to accompany the actions performed by the little cast. Aunt Teri usually got a little rowdy, and the jokes about ‘Lo, the angel’ etc. began. Afterwards we would go around the neighborhood, hand out homemade goodies, and sing carols. The dog got to wear antlers and accompany us. Later, the stockings were laid out, milk and cookies set out for Santa, and the kids went to bed after reading aloud Clement C. Moore’s ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ It was great fun.
As the kids got older and the family spread out, we settled for just reading and singing, and afterwards, a Christmas movie, such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘The Santa Clause.’ But I missed the pageantry, the giggles, and the sticky, smiling faces. This year we go back to the traditional celebration: my grandchildren will be here, and we will do the play once more. It will be a lot of fun, and the child in me who never grew up will be very happy.
Whatever your traditions are, I wish you all a Merry Christmas. May peace and happiness be with you.