Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve in our home is a day of contrasts. We start the day slowly. Everyone sleeps in. Meals are very ad hoc. No one wants to spend the day in the kitchen cooking, so we don't.

We attempt to have all our shopping done before Christmas Eve. We try and spend the day relaxing. We may do a little last minute gift wrapping. But Christmas Eve is a day of puttering around finalizing the last few Christmas details, visiting with family and friends, watching football or napping. This is a tradition that my wife and I have worked very hard to maintain. Growing up Christmas Eve was always very hectic. My Mom ran around all day in a total tizzy trying to make everything perfect. What she usually accomplished was stressing out herself and everyone around her. So we try to make Christmas Eve, a quiet, laid back day. If it isn't done by now, it's not going to get done. Christmas will happen regardless of the little things that we may have not gotten done. So we try not to stress the details. That is what December 23rd is for.

Once the day has passed and we get into the evening, the excitment level does start picking up. We usually have a casual dinner. Again no one wants to cook all day, so we either dine on heavy hors d'ourves and snacks or we order out. Pizza on Christmas Eve is becoming a family favorite. The pizza delivery guys seem to like the idea also. My wife believes that anyone who has to work on Christmas Eve should be tipped well for their efforts. Other meal options include, meatballs, BBQed little smokies, cheeze logs, spinich dip, chips, salsa, cookies, candy, etc.

If you haven't figured out yet, the word diet is not allowed in our house during Christmas.

After dinner we gather in the living room and open presents. This is the exciting part of the day for the kids. They have been watching the pile of gifts under thre tree grow for several days now. We crack down pretty hard on snooping. So there is a lot of standing around the tree discussing the size and shapes of the different packages. There is also a lot of shaking and weighing, but that is all done under the guise of rearranging to make room for other gifts. If you ask the kids, they can probably tell you exactly how many presents for each person there is under the tree. We don't allow them to dig around in the presents but they always seem to know anyway. I guess it's just part of the miracle of Christmas.

After we open gifts there is usually a couple hours to play with the new goodies. But eventually we all climb out from under our piles of Christmas wrapping paper and we load into the car and head for church.

Every Lutheran Church I have attended through the years always has two different services early in the day. These are the normal Christmas Eve services and if you want a seat you usually have to get there at least a half hour early. We have only gone to one of these services in my adult life time. The second year we had three kids we went to the 6 PM service. It was overcrowded, and a total zoo. The kids slept in our arms through it all. So we decided that if the kids were going to sleep anyway we may as well go back to midnight services.

Midnight Service is a misnomer. It doesn't start at midnight. It ends at midnight. I have always enjoyed going to church at 11 PM at night and when you leave church it is usually just a couple minutes after midnight. There is something special about being out and about in the wee minutes of Christmas Day.

I have been going to midnight services my entire life. Most of my oldest, fondest christmas memories are of sitting in church at 11:50 PM the church lights are dimmed and everyone is holding a lit candle. Slowly the congregation starts singing Silent Night. It is the one single moment that seems to really make Christmas special to me.

This year is going to be different. Midnight services have been moved to 10 PM instead of 11 PM. I'm not sure what it's going to be like. Getting home from church while it is still Christmas Eve. Unless of course the start time has been moved because Pastor has a 90 minute Homily planned. I'll let you know....

Update: The 10 PM midnight church service was pretty much the same as it always is. Just one hour earlier. The service itself was the same. But somehow, leaving the church at 11:15 PM instead of 12:15 AM felt wrong. On the plus side, the kids stayed away for most of the service. We lost the twins for a few minutes during the sermon but that is becoming their Christmas tradition. So we wouldn't want to stop it now.

Once we get home we usually get everyone off to bed as quickly as possible. Which isn't hard. Everyone has had a fun filled evening and are usually very tired. So the kids set out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa, a couple carrots for the reindeer and then we all head for bed.

My family pretty much follows the same Christmas Eve traditions that we grew up with. As I grew older and started looking into our traditions I discovered that our Christmas Eve traditions grew directly from the old Norwegian Christmas Eve traditons. According to Nytt fra Norge and her writings on Norwegian Christmas Traditions our traditions of a relaxed day visiting with family and friends and opening gifts after dinner are old Norwegian traditions. They must also be cajun traditions because that is the way my dear wife was raised also.

Check back tomorrow for a run down on Christmas Day.

More Family Holiday Traditions are here.

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