It's a day to muse about traditions. As I grew up, our Christmas holiday was steeped in tradition. When we were young, we would go to bed on Christmas Eve, practically vibrating with excitement. We would be torn between going to bed early so we could go to sleep and make Christmas come faster, or refusing to go to sleep so we could hear Santa coming through the front door (no chimney). We each had a stocking that would be hung at the foot of our beds - this was, in retrospect, the only way my parents could sleep past 4 AM. Not surprisingly, I was up that early even then. Also, in retrospect, my incredibly light sleeping habits must have caused my poor parents to have to out-last me, finally filling our stockings at a wee hour, when I had given up the battle and had fallen asleep. We would wake up and shriek as quietly as possible, going through every precious object in our stocking. One year, when I was 7, I got a miniature tool kit - the hammer to which I still have. We got chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper, a tangerine, socks, and other small, inexpensive items which thrilled us no end. One year we all got Troll dolls and that kept us occupied for years!
Once my parents gave up trying to sleep through the kerfufle, we were herded - wide-eyed (and rapidly trying to size up our piles*) - past the Christmas tree to the kitchen, where we had to have the obligatory breakfast. My middle sister and I wolfed down our food, while my poor youngest sister, piddled around with hers. I think the entire experience must have been traumatic for her - there was nothing worse than my slow-eating sister being between me and my Christmas gifts. Once we had all eaten and my parents were up to their second cup of coffee, we raced into the living room. But, no tearing of paper and rending of boxes for us. We had to each open one, then we would take turns taking a present to each of our parents. Then we had to write down on a list who gave us what for the thank you notes. And there was no giant pile of presents, either. We each got a few 'practical' things - socks, underwear - then we would get a smallish surprise and then one larger surprise, and some small things from aunties. It was a long, drawn out morning and it was wonderful. After a decent interval, we were sent off to get dressed and then we played with whatever treasures we had gotten from Santa for the rest of the day.
Our traditions shifted around as we got older, moved away from home and my sisters had families of their own. As our needs grew fewer, so did our need and desire for 'stuff'. My youngest sister moved to the West Coast, and my middle sister now has a challenging job that sometimes (as in this year) requires that she works holidays. We have adapted by downsizing our tradition to food. Every Christmas Eve we have oyster stew and a hot, Italian sandwich. Now, thanks to yours truly, we are shifting again. The oyster stew stays, but the sandwiches are out. Same deal with Christmas Day - standing rib roast, vegetable, Yorkshire pudding - has morphed slightly to SRR, vegetable and roasted fingerling potatoes. Such sacrifice. :)
As the years have passed, our focus has become more on the fact that we can enjoy each other's company, have a fire in the fireplace, holiday music playing, share a meal, and reflect on the year past. That is a fine tradition.
I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas - a holiday filled with family and friends, steeped in love.
*Not that this will come as a surprise, but I was such a pain in the butt as a kid. I would ferret out any and all presents that my parents tried their best to hide until Christmas. I could have been a professional second story (wo)man. There was no nook, no cranny that was safe!