Growing up as a PK I had the chance to attend a great number of Christmas Eve services. As my brother and I got older we were able to choose which service(s) we wanted to attend. Though, some years we would be helping out or singing with the choir or playing bells and had to go to all of the services. One year when I was in college, before my dad retired, we created a candle-themed background for all the hymns so people wouldn't have to wrestle with a hymnal while dealing with their children and lit candles everywhere. That year, since I ran the PowerPoint, I had to go to 5 worship services on Christmas Eve. I love candlelight and the stillness that comes at an 11 o'clock service when all the lights are down and the yellow glow on everyone's faces is just wonderful.
After all the services were done and all of the expectations and we had the chance to get out of the fishbowl that is the church, my family would just like to settle down and have a nice relaxed Christmas day. Though, when we were younger, my brother and I would rush to get up and start this day of days as soon as humanly possible, we now tend to get up at a more reasonable hour to allow for sleeping in and making the gift-giving portion last a little longer.
Once everyone was up - still in the pajamas or sweats that we were given the night before - we would put on some holiday music, get our stockings and sit around the living room taking turns opening a single item until we were all finished. After stockings were over, we would get to share in one of my favorite of holiday traditions: my mom's cinamon rolls!They aren't anything fancy, just some frozen bread dough rolled out with cinamon and sugar inside and some frosting, but they're really good! After breakfast we would move on to the bigger presents, likewise taking turns.
My parents never had tons of money to buy lots of presents with but we always felt that we got a good mix of things on our lists and some surprises too. We always felt loved. Not only to avoid a free-for-all, opening presents one at a time helped us to enjoy the day a little longer too. It added a quality to the experience even when there weren't tons and tons of presents under the tree.
Another thing my dad did to make the day last and to add excitement and anticipation was to institute our annual Christmas scavenger hunt. He would hide our big present somewhere and we had to follow the clues to find it. When we were younger the clues would be simple ones like, "look under the toaster," which would then lead us to the mailbox, and so on until we found our gift in the closet or "magically" under the tree. As we got older the clues got harder. They would be written in code or something that made us really have to work for it. When we lived next door to one of the churches my dad served he would plant clues in Bible passages in a particular pew or in a book on the shelf in his office. Then there was the year, once I could drive, when he had church members put clues on their back doors or under trash can lids and we would have to drive across the neighborhood searching just to end up back home where the gift would be waiting for us behind the couch.
It was always so much fun! I know my brother has already started with a simple version for my nephew and when I have a family of my own I know I'll do the same for my kid(s).
As for the main meal, I know some families have a meal that would rival Thanksgiving in its scope. In the same spirit of keeping the day relaxed and casual, we would simply set out snacks and chips and Chex mix and sandwich makings as a buffet so we could nibble throughout the day instead of going through all the effort of making a large dinner.
Only occasionally have we had extended family over. My brother and his family have spent the morning with us before heading to the in-laws' house, or vice versa, but we generally have set aside some time before or after Christmas to exchange presents; and we'll do that this year since they are going out to visit my grandfather in Omaha. I will be having my parents over to my apartment this year for Christmas. They came over a few years ago for my first Christmas at my old place so it's time for me to host them again.
What are some of your Christmas traditions?