Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite day of the year. From childhood, I have absolutely loved Christmas, and Christmas Eve is my favorite part of the celebration. As a little girl, I loved the anticipation…the going to bed (usually on my cot at Grandma’s house), not being able to sleep because I was so excited, and listening for the tiny clatter of hooves on the roof. When my children came along, that anticipation was revived. My husband thinks I am the biggest kid of all on Christmas Eve. Now, I love the anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ birth and contemplating His return. I love the days leading up to Christmas, as we celebrate Advent as a family. I love the choosing and wrapping of gifts for the people I love, and the traditions that we hold dear in our house. But what I really love…is Christmas Eve.
If you know me, you know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. I want to celebrate birthdays on the exact day. I want to bake the same kinds of cookies every Christmas. I want to have special activities that we participate in as a family that don’t vary much from year to year. Each of the traditions that we hold for Christmas have been lovingly and carefully chosen, some continuing from my childhood and some added as we became parents with children of our own. All of them mean something to me, from the most insignificant to the most important. Christmas Eve at our house is filled with tradition…and that is probably why it is my favorite day of the year.
Christmas Eve at our house starts with a smorgasbord of appetizer-type foods, and lots and lots of cookies. This tradition came from my grandparents, who celebrated their wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve by fixing a big spread of such foods, and inviting their dearest friends and family. Growing up, we did this in our home, even in the years we couldn’t travel to be with my beloved grandparents. My children now expect this, and talk for weeks of the upcoming foods (most of which are enjoyed only at Christmas). It’s not fancy, but it’s full of memories and loving preparation. As my grandparents did, we often invite other people to join us, usually people who need a place to feel at home for the holidays, or are feeling alone.
We continue with the reading of the birth of Jesus, often acted out by our children in full costume (dish towels make great shepherd headpieces!). We sing carols, we light our final Advent candle, and we think about the greatest gift ever given. We celebrate the baby, sent to Earth for us, and we pray for His return.
Our favorite tradition is how we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Every year, we each decide what gift we personally will give to Jesus for the coming year. It might be something we want to do for Jesus, or something we want to change for Him. Even the youngest child in our family will think of something they can give to Jesus, such as sharing their toys with their siblings. We then write this gift on a card and wrap them in a box with a big bow and place it under the tree. Every Christmas Eve, we open the box from the year before and share what our gift was and how God used it in the past year. Then we place our new gift in the box and tie it up once more. Each person is then given a helium-filled balloon and a magic marker, to decorate with symbols or to write something to represent the gift we have chosen. When we are all finished, we go outside underneath the stars, sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus” and release our balloons to heaven. I’m sure our neighbors have often thought we were crazy, but we don’t care--we are celebrating our Lord. And what could be a better Christmas present than that?
Feel free to leave a comment sharing your family's favorite Christmas tradition...
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