Ever since I was a small child, Christmas Eve has been one of my favorite days of the year – if not my favorite. It is difficult to capture in adulthood the magical feeling I experienced in those days. On Christmas Eve morning, I could hardly contain my excitement. Tonight, is the family Christmas party! As my mom prepared food and juggled the 100 items on her to-do list, all I could think about was hanging out with cousins, eating yummy foods and desserts, and, of course, ripping into those presents!
The day would drag on and I would nag Mom and Dad about when we were leaving. Finally, we would pack the food and gifts into the car and head across town and over the Neuse River bridge to Granny and Granddaddy’s house – often singing, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”
Upon arrival, it was not uncommon to see my cousins, and sometimes my uncle, out in the quiet street throwing the football around; and, even though I was not a part of the “game,” I loved sitting on a tailgate and being with them all. Those “big” boys will never know how much I adored them.
If I learned one life lesson during my childhood Christmas Eves, it was this: adults are slow!!! Once the meal was ready, we would sit down to eat – some at the kitchen table, others in the den on TV trays, and us children in the side room at the kids’ table. We finished our meal in record time every year and immediately made our way into the living room to sniff out our Christmas presents.
Meanwhile… the grown ups kept eating, laughing, and eating some more! The real fun was waiting under the tree. These fuddy duddies did not know how to live! To make matters more frustrating, the ladies would do the dishes immediately following the meal! Why? They were still laughing and talking while the young’uns (as children are called in the South) hung out in the living room, growing more anxious and impatient with every passing minute.
When the kitchen work was finished, the family would gather, and someone would read the second chapter of Luke – a passage which warms my heart ever more as I age – and then we would kneel and pray.
Then… the magical moment arrived. Presents!!! Barbies, Micro Machines, Transformers, Cabbage Patch Kids – Walmart, Roses Discount Store, and K-mart spewed forth into my grandparents’ living room and it was amazing!!!
When the gifts were all open, we would show off and play with our newfound treasures. The night became relaxed. We might watch a movie. We might sit around and talk to each other. Eventually, we packed the car and drove back across the Neuse River bridge (which I miss so much), through our brightly decorated downtown, and back home to our cozy corner of the world – our hearts and tummies full.
Get in Touch with your Younger Self.
Some days, I miss young Heather and the way she viewed the world before the cares of adulthood arrived and started weighing down her mind. If I could talk to my seven-year-old self, I wonder what she would say? Probably something like this:
Dear Old Me,
It is Christmas Eve! I have been waiting all day to go to Grandma’s house, but Mom says we still have a couple of hours left before we leave. Ugh! This day is taking too long. Tonight is going to be so much fun! I hope Aunt Peggy makes macaroni and cheese this year. It is my favorite! Granny’s house always smells so good. I hate eating collard greens, but they smell good! I don’t know why all the grown ups like them. They are green and mushy. Oh well.
I just got done counting the presents under our Christmas tree. I feel certain Mom and Dad are hiding some more. I went outside to ride my bike to kill some time, but I got bored after five minutes. All the neighborhood kids are gone. Probably to their grandma’s house. Is it time to go yet?!
So, I guess I am supposed to remind you of that good ol’ Christmas feeling. I am not sure what that means. Christmas is awesome! It is bright. People laugh! There is, like, so much food. A lot of it is gross, but there is so much of it! And, desserts are everywhere. And, Mom lets me have more than usual at Christmas (or maybe she just doesn’t notice me sneaking more treats while she’s busy cooking).
I found out Santa isn’t real. Mom and I talked about it and it doesn’t really bother me. The story never did make sense and we don’t have a chimney anyway. I still like to see his picture everywhere, though. He’s fun. But, please don’t make me sit in his lap. I hate that. I’d rather sit in Dad’s lap. He’s cuddly and when I tell him what I want for Christmas, he tells Mom and she goes shopping. (She always worries that she isn’t getting me enough and that I am going to be disappointed, but I never am. She does not need to worry.)
My kid-sister doll, Jennifer, and I are playing now. Did you know we have matching pajamas? You probably remember that. Anyway, she’s great. My neighbor’s granddaughter completely messed up her hair and Mom was unhappy about it. But she fixed it. Jennifer looks good again.
Oh, Christmas. I forgot what we were talking about for a second. So, I love opening presents. I love it so much. And, if I forget to go around and thank my aunts and uncles, Mom always reminds me. I don’t mind it. I know it makes them feel good because they smile and sometimes hug me. Even if I didn’t say thank you, I think they would know I was thankful by the gigantic smile on my face. But Mom says she is training me to be a good grown up someday, so I still thank everybody.
The kids get several fun new toys every Christmas Eve, but the grown-ups don’t get much. It is kind of sad, but they don’t seem disappointed. I don’t understand. I would be so disappointed if everyone else got cool stuff and I didn’t get anything. Anyway, they still smile and laugh. I even heard one of them say they liked the food more than the presents. That can’t be true, can it? Am I going to get boring like that when I grow up?
I will let you in on a little secret. Even though I do love the presents, I really look forward to being with my family. They get busy and we don’t get to see each other as much as I would like. Christmas Eve is when no one seems to be in a hurry and we can all be together. I like that. It makes me feel warm. I’m not sure how to explain it. And, even though they can be mean to me sometimes, I love Brad and Chuck. At Christmas, it’s like we’re friends. I like that too. And, my cousin, David is so grown up. He’s nice to me. I follow him around, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I wish he was my brother.
I get sad when Christmas Eve is over, but then I get happy again because I remember Christmas Day is next! What is Christmas like when you are grown up? Is it still fun? I hope so, because Christmas is my favorite. I hear some people don’t like Christmas. They say it is just another day. How can that be? It is not just another day! It’s the best day. It’s Jesus’ birthday.
Mom just got out the aluminum foil. She’s about to cover up the food! That means she is done cooking and it’s almost time to go! I hope your grownup Christmas Eve is fun. I can’t wait to get to Granny’s! She always gives me a bear hug!
Dad’s packing the car. Gotta go! Merry Christmas!
Heather Jones – December 24, 1989
P.S. There is so much snow!
New Traditions. Same Sweet Feeling.
This particular Christmas Eve, I am gathering with my husband’s side of the family and enjoying different, but precious, traditions of which I am blessed to be a part. I am watching my nephews and my beautiful niece – who are all growing up way too fast – enjoy that same magical Christmas feeling I reveled in as a child. Let us be so thankful for the children in our lives who keep our memories of childhood Christmases alive.
Wherever you are today – with your family, with friends, with your significant other’s family, or your work family – we hope you can take a moment, reach back in your mind to yesteryear, and enjoy a simple childhood Christmas Eve.
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19, ESV)
We at PreEngaged hope you have yourself a magical and simple little Christmas.
How are you and your sweetie celebrating a simple Christmas this year?