Christmas Eve and Family Traditions

No links political or scientific today. Instead I’ll indulge on what’s happening now, and what happened in my childhood, on Christmas Eve.

Last night we had dinner, at a restaurant, with Y’s elder son James, and his Wife H and their son Nicholas, and a nice place in Alameda. It was fine, though the child kept banging the table, tilting it back and forth, and spilling our water glasses, and the parents did nothing to stop him. Just drink your water, so it doesn’t spill, was H’s advice.

Today we were both at home. Y went shopping, for ingredients for dinner tonight and tomorrow.

I’m thinking about my family traditions, when I was growing up.

We celebrated Christmas, in a traditional way, though not overtly religious. My mother sang in the church choir, singing “Messiah,” but not I think on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

We observed Santa Claus. For quite a while — I was the eldest of four, and the youngest, my brother Kevin, was only 5 by the time I was 19.

But my parents varied their approach to Santa Claus. The standard plan was that presents would appear under the Christmas tree as they were wrapped, in the days before Christmas. But then on Christmas Morning — new presents would appear, unwrapped, as if Santa had come down our chimney and left them under our tree.

But that scheme wasn’t consistent. In some years, the “Santa” presents were wrapped.

Our tradition was that on Christmas Eve, we could each open one present. But only a relatively minor present, like one from a brother to a sister. And the rest of the presents — along with those from Santa, that only appeared on Christmas morning, were opened Christmas morning.

I remember in my deep childhood, when we visited Cambridge Illinois one winter (this would have been in 1961, when I was 6), we children had to wait upstairs on Christmas morning until a cousin, or an aunt, arrived from wherever they lived. I sat on the stairs, waiting. It was unbearable. What would be under the Christmas Tree?

Another family tradition was that we would have a full-scale dinner on Christmas Day, almost as elaborate as the dinner on Thanksgiving Day, but on Christmas Eve we would do something lighter: snacks, chili, fondue.

And we would open one Christmas present on Christmas eve. This is one tradition I maintain, to this day, with Y and me.

more later

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