I was just over reading Annette's blog and her list of favorite Christmas traditions, and it got me thinking about Christmases in my own life. I remember laying awake at night, trying so hard to make myself go to sleep so the morning would come quicker. We weren't allowed to get up at 4 a.m. -- my parents were very serious about that. They would come in and wake us up when they were good and ready for Christmas morning to begin, so we'd usually get up around 7, after most kids we knew had already ripped through their pile and broken half their toys.
It all really started on Christmas Eve. We'd read the Christmas story, both out of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and then we'd each open up one present. In the morning we'd open the rest. Christmas for us was usually prefaced with a warning --"Christmas is going to be a little bit small this year" -- but I don't remember any Christmas that wasn't chock full of gifts. I know my parents worked hard to make the holidays nice for us, and while we didn't get scads of presents, we sure did have enough.
Now, as an adult, there are certain things I make sure to do every year. I have to watch my Christmas movies. These are, in no particular order:
"Mr. Krueger's Christmas"
"The Nutcracker" with Barishnikov
"The Santa Clause" series
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
If I miss one of these, I feel like my whole holiday has just been ruined. I start on Thanksgiving night, usually with "The Santa Clause." In fact, I'm going to interrupt myself for a funny -- in 2004, we watched "The Santa Clause" on Thanksgiving, as always, and then put in "The Santa Clause 2" on the Saturday right after. We were watching it when my water broke with Benjamin. We didn't finish that movie for several days.
In addition to the movies, we have to go doorbell ditching with cookies at least once. I can't handle the thought of a Christmas season going by without taking cookies to someone anonymously. We've also started playing a game -- not only do the receivers not know who brought them cookies, but the givers don't know who they gave cookies to. That's right -- we like to make up several plates of cookies, drive to a neighborhood where we don't know anyone, and let the kids choose where the cookies will go. Then we park around the corner, our brave daddy goes crunching across the ice and snow, and the cookies are delivered. There's just something about imagining the looks on people's faces . . . "I can't figure out who brought these!" . . . that makes the holiday all the more magical.
My kids have five cousins near their ages who live nearby, and every year they draw names and give gifts to their cousins. They always look forward to who they're going to get and plan their shopping out very carefully.
I also love Christmas shopping when it's snowing outside. Sure, it doesn't do a lot for traffic, but I love the snow and I love being out in it. It's gorgeous. We had our first big snowfall yesterday and I had my errands all mapped out -- and even though my Christmas shopping is pretty close to done, I had the strongest desire to start all over again. The snow just put me right in the mood. And there's nothing like driving along in the snow while listening to Christmas carols.
For me, Christmas is the whole season, it's not just the day itself or the combination of Christmas and Christmas Eve. It's the whole month of December. It's everything that leads up to it and comes away from it. It's the anticipation, the joy of finding the perfect gift for someone, watching their faces when they open it. And it's seeing the lights reflected in my children's eyes. Christmas used to be all about me, but the minute I became a mother, the focus shifted to them. I want them to have wonderful Christmas memories, just like I do.