For as long as I can remember we opened presents on Christmas Eve. My father owned a business where he held an open house each year on December 24th. He’d bring home the extra food combined with whatever my mom had prepared and our family of four celebrated by eating and opening presents. But not just any eating, we kids got to pick exactly what we wanted for this once a year celebration. If it was a plate of cookies, then that was dinner. When I was very little, Santa Claus came and left gifts for my brother and me on Christmas morning.
When I married, I wanted to continue the same tradition for my family. My husband was a Christmas morning present opener but I convinced him by Christmas Eve of our first year that the twenty-fourth was the appointed day. It is also a very special time, just for the immediate family. There is no extended family or friends, just us surrounded with memories and love.
After my girls’ arrived, the institution was maintained with their own special additions. They are now adults and have yet to start their own families but they have added their own traditions for Christmas Eve. One of them gets to put baby Jesus in the manger and they keep that straight from year because I’ve long since lost track. They have to have exactly the same amount of gifts from us, which I didn’t figure out that was a “has to be” once they were grown and it has sent me scrambling late in the shopping season to keep things even.
And in the custom set forth by my father many years ago, we each fill our plates with “whatever” and enjoy the real meaning of the season.