As a child, my favorite time of the year was Christmas. Not much has changed as Christmas is still my favorite time of the year. Part of what Eric and I loved about the house we bought when we were house hunting is that there were three big trees in the yard that looked like giant Christmas trees. We had Christmas decorations at our wedding (yes, it was in June and I’m sure some people thought it was weird), and we love Christmas music.
When I was a kid, my favorite twenty-four hour period was between noon on Christmas Eve and noon on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve afternoon, the smells of Christmas would waft from the kitchen as Mom prepared food for our Christmas Eve celebration. Every year for the last forty plus years (with the exception of one year when we met on the 29th), my dad’s side of the family has met on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christmas together. The most memorable years were the ones spent at my grandparents’ home in Bridgeton, NC.
To get to my grandparents’ house, we’d have to cross the old Neuse River Bridge, which I loved as long as the drawbridge wasn’t stopping traffic. Mom and I would often sing Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go on the way to our Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve celebrations. When I was seventeen, they tore down the bridge because they’d built a bigger, better bridge. Later, I went with a friend to get a rock from the rubble, just to remember the bridge that got me back and forth to Granny’s house when I was a child. Unfortunately, I can’t find the rock. ~frown~ Anyway, back to Christmas Eve.
We were almost never the first ones there on Christmas Eve, so when we’d open the door and walk into Granny and Granddaddy’s house we could hear laughter, smell the glorious smell of collards cooking on the stove, and we could see gifts stacked far and wide in the living room (which of course made me shiver with glee ~giggle~). The men were usually sitting around in the living room, watching whatever sports they could find and the women would be busily setting the table and preparing for the feast. My job was to guard the gifts and to traverse stealthily around the room and find all the ones with my name on them. My cousins had the same job. ~smile~
Then… we’d eat! And then, we’d eat some more! And then, we’d eat some more…. Now that I’m grown, I can appreciate the excitement generated by a home cooked meal, but as a kid I did not understand why the adults wanted to sit around, laugh, and talk when there were gifts to be ripped into! I mean, were they all crazy? Boxes, shiny, bows, wonder, amazement, the sound of crumpled gift wrap – but they wanted to sit, talk and eat, eat, talk, and sit.
Finally… dinner would be over. The men would continue watching their sports and talking about football. The women would begin cleaning the kitchen and laughing as they did. My cousins and I would go back to our post and guard the gifts. After all, someone could’ve come in the house and taken all the gifts without being noticed in all the laughter and eating!
After the dishes were washed, we would all gather into the living room for the Christmas story. Most years, they would pick one of the kids to read the birth of Jesus from Luke, chapter two. After reading the Christmas story, we would all kneel to pray. This was the final step before exchanging gifts. It always amazed me how my Grandma and Aunt could cry so easily when they’d pray. Our family was Pentecostal, so instead of praying, one at a time, we would all pray our own prayers, out loud, at the same time. It was exciting to hear all the different prayers being raised at the same time. The prayer time usually lasted about five minutes, but let me tell you, as a kid, it seemed to last forever!
Then, it was gift time. The ladies started passing out gifts and we’d all excitedly rip them apart. A few minutes later, the room was filled with paper and toys. After finishing up our gift unwrapping duties, we’d play and sneak back in the kitchen for dessert. After hanging out a few more hours, Dad would pack all of our treasures in the car, and then we’d head home. There was a sense of excitement and wonder in the air as we’d drive through downtown New Bern and look at the town’s Christmas decorations.
My mind and heart would be full as I’d crawl into bed and wait for Christmas morning. To me, there was nothing more perfect than a Christmas Eve celebration at Granny and Granddaddy’s house. The celebration has changed a bit over the years. When I was ten we lost my Granddaddy suddenly. We were a heartbroken bunch, but we continued to have our Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. When I was sixteen, Granny sold her house and moved to an apartment in New Bern. It was best for her at the time as keeping the big house had become an incredible expense. But, it hurt to let go of a house that held so many of my fondest memories. When she moved into her apartment we started using the community room at her complex for our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. It was so different, but we were together as a family. To date, we have yet to miss a Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve celebration.
This year will be our first year celebrating Christmas without Granny. I can’t possibly know how hard it will be yet, but I’m sure I’ll find out shortly. We will still get together. We will still sit, eat, and laugh. We will still read the Christmas story, we’ll pray, and we’ll open gifts. We’ll still be a family, and noon on Christmas Eve until noon on Christmas Day will continue to be my favorite twenty-four hour period of the year.
Eric and I at PreEngaged wish you all a Merry Christmas. We hope your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations are memorable. We pray that amidst all the decorations, food, and fellowship that you take the time to remember the One who made it all possible. Remember that Immanuel was here – God with us. Jesus is the reason for the season. If you have a special Christmas memory to share, we’d love to hear about it (just put it in the comments below)! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
What are your favorite Christmas Eve memories?