I am sure that everyone has traditions which are unique only to the Christmas season, be it going to the parade, opening presents on Christmas morning, or just eating a delicious meal together. My family is just like all of yours, we have many Christmas rituals that have become traditions and it just doesn’t seem like Christmas unless we perform them, I don’t care how old my children are.
I know it may seem like we are rushing the season, but we always put our Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving Day. We look forward to setting up the tree and decorating with as many lights as we can fit on our seven-foot tree. Lights are a man thing, so my husband puts them on because I don’t have the patience to fool with them.
Then comes the fun part, putting on the ornaments. Anyone who knows me knows my family is crazy about Hallmark Christmas ornaments. I have been collecting them for over 25 years, long before I was ever married or had children. I love ALL the different types of ornaments. Everyone in my family has a different series or type of Hallmark ornament we have to get every year, and if a series is ended, then we move on to a new one. The longest running ornament series that Hallmark has is call “Here Comes Santa” and it shows Santa riding all different types of vehicles. The series started in 1979 and I am proud to say that I own all 22 of the current ornaments in the series. My middle daughter—Marie—has all 17 of the current toy house ornaments, and my youngest—Christine—has all ten of the current puppy love ornaments. My oldest—Amber—ended her series a few years ago with the 15th rocking horse. She hasn’t been able to decide on a new series, so we have been buying ones that pertain to her life, like the car ornament we got her the year she turned 16. Of course, my husband collects all the car, truck, and toy vehicle ornaments, plus anything else that strikes his fancy. He has been hooked on my collection since we met in 1986.
Christmas present are a big part of Christmas in today’s modern world. When my husband was young, his parents used to hide presents in the Christmas tree, and this is a tradition we have carried over into our lives. Christine loves to hid presents in the Christmas trees, going as far as to hiding a few presents in this year’s Girl Scout tree at the Old Fort Museum. The only problem with presents in the tree is, sometimes, presents get overlooked. We always leave our tree up until after the New Year, and there have been a few times we have found a cleverly hidden present in the tree as we take the ornaments off. What a surprise for the giver and the recipient!
Our Christmas Eve starts with a buffet meal at my parent’s house. We always try to eat at 4:00, because the kids are so anxious to open gifts. They hate it because we make them wait until after the dishes are done before they can tear into their packages. No one can open a gift until everyone has one. Then it is a free-for-all as paper goes flying in all directions. The house always looks like a tornado touched down. After the great clean up and some bonding time, my family heads to Christmas Eve services at church. Harrodsburg Baptist Church always has a candlelight Lord’s Supper on Christmas Eve. This is a wonderful way to observe the true meaning of the season, especially if you have children. For children, it is hard to see beyond the presents, but a quiet religious ceremony can speak to a child’s heart. After church, we will sometimes ride through the neighborhoods to look at all the Christmas lights.
Once home on Christmas Eve, it is time for the youngest to go to bed, but first we have to set up Santa’s treats. Christine is always in charge of the nativity scene and this is where she sets up the treats for Santa and his reindeer. Every year we have cookies and Mountain Dew for Santa, carrots for the reindeer—nine sticks because of Rudolph—and a piece of birthday cake for Baby Jesus. Christine has to light the birthday candle and we sing Happy Birthday to the Baby Jesus. Then Christine goes outside with the magic reindeer food and sprinkles it on the lawn. For those grown-ups who don’t know what magic reindeer food is, it is dry oatmeal mixed with a small amount of glitter that your children can sprinkle on the ground so the reindeer do not miss their house. Of course, after the children are asleep, then Santa can arrive, and just before he leaves our house, he kisses each child on the cheek, and his magic lips leave a kiss mark that is still visible when the children wake in the morning. My oldest girls have long outgrown this tradition, and I just hope it is a few more years before Christine realized that Santa’s magic lips match the shade of lipstick that Mommy wears.
We always open our presents on Christmas morning, one at a time. Someone different plays Santa every year and gives out presents. Paper and ribbon are thrown everywhere, packages and instructions are never where you need them to be, and there is always something that Santa forgot to bring batteries for. After Christmas morning breakfast, we all scatter like the wind. My husband and I along with Christine head to my mother-in-law’s house, and Amber and Marie, being the teenagers they are, head to other family and friends homes.
I know it seems like we concentrate more on the material aspects of Christmas, but with children it is sometimes hard not to. I think my teenage girls are connecting more with the religious side of Christmas as they get older; I guess we all so as we get older. The old saying “Christmas is for children”, will always ring true as long as we have children in the world.
© Bobbi Rightmyer, December 2000