It’s so easy to get nostalgic about the Christmas traditions of our youth.
I remember having to take a nap on Christmas Eve so we’d be able to stay awake through midnight Mass. On Christmas morning, we couldn’t come down the steps until my dad had his camera set up to capture the chaos of his seven kids tearing through our gifts simultaneously. You’d see the gifts from Santa Claus, without wrapping paper but with our names on them. After we finished tearing open the presents, we’d head off to our rooms with our stash of new stuff, playing with them the rest of the day, aside from a decent-sized midday meal.
I think about it nostalgically now. My current Christmas is nothing like that. When you combine families, you combine traditions. Sometimes you find traditions of your own.
A couple of our girls sing in the choir at church, so midnight Mass has been replaced with the children’s Mass on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
Cameras have been replaced with mobile phones, and we don’t capture every moment. In fact, with “only” four kids, we make everyone watch while one person opens each gift, something that was terribly impractical in the crowded house of my youth.
Santa Claus wraps gifts at our house, with a different kind of wrapping paper for each child. That sneaky fat man even hides a present for each child, sending them on a treasure hunt to find the most cherished presents via a series of clues in white envelopes.
While we have a little while to play with presents, eventually we need to get rolling off to my parents’ house. We cram not just the seven children but now their spouses and children into that cozy living room for that same decent-sized midday meal.
There are other traditions we’ve added. The girls open a present a day from one another the three days before Christmas. It gives them a chance to really appreciate the offerings of their siblings.
This year, we’re adding an after-Mass meal with my father-in-law and his special someone, having them come over to our house to revive one of their Christmas traditions, pulled meat sandwiches on Christmas Eve.
Everywhere you go, someone celebrates the holidays slightly differently. Some people leave a plate for Jesus at the table. Others go caroling. Some drive around to look at Christmas lights.
They’re all different ways to celebrate the same thing, the birth of a savior. They all bring peace and goodwill to the world, just as Baby Jesus did more than 2,000 years ago. They all bring us together to cherish the people God put in our lives.
These traditions are all worth maintaining. Merry Christmas.