Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, when does your family open presents?
The answer to this question is just one of the many Christmas traditions people have. Other traditions may include enjoying a specific meal each year or attending a candlelight church service on Christmas Eve.
For my family, our primary gift exchange was always on Christmas morning. There was nothing like getting up and seeing the selection of presents Santa left under our tree after I went to bed on Christmas Eve.
However, when it came to traditions, our Christmas Eve celebration was steeped in them. Each year, we spent Christmas Eve with my paternal grandparents. We were joined by my aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad came from a family of six and there were a total of 11 cousins. So yes, it was a full house.
As soon as you came in the door, you could smell the kettle of oyster stew simmering on the stove. I have to admit, I am not a fan of oyster stew or the broth. I don’t know how that became the annual meal, but I have had several other friends say their family also had oyster stew on Christmas Eve.
Fortunately, chili was also added to the soup options, which was a significant relief for me and at least one of my aunts.
Once the presents for my grandparents and my dad’s two goddaughters were placed under the tree, work started on the next family tradition. If we were enjoying a white Christmas, my cousins and I headed outside with buckets to gather snow to pack the homemade ice cream maker.
The ice cream maker was placed in the basement laundry room and churned out the creamy vanilla ice cream we enjoyed later that night. I was always fascinated by how the ice cream maker worked and enjoyed getting to help add the snow. Maybe it was just because idyllic notions I had about Christmas, but the homemade ice cream always tasted better when we could use fresh now rather than ice.
After supper was finished and the dishes were done, the family gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents. Once all the gifts had been exchanged, the cousins went off to play together. Once my parents left the farm and moved to town, we would conclude the night by attending candlelight services together if the weather allowed.
As I got older and spent Christmas on my own, some of these traditions fell by the wayside. However, one that has remained is opening my presents on Christmas morning. It just feels right and brings back so many wonderful memories. That may be the best gift of all.
No matter how you celebrate Christmas, I wish all of you a safe and merry holiday season.