It’s almost here: my second favorite day of the year. (In case you were wondering, my most favorite is September 4th, my birthday.) What’s so special about Christmas Eve? Well, first of all, I refer to all of December 24th as Christmas Eve, not just the evening part. And there is something about that day: the light seems different, the air seems different, the very house seems different.
Once the kids were old enough to open presents in the evening of the 24th, I established some customs. Most importantly, on that day, everyone was to stay in the house and have fun: no going out for last-minute shopping or errands, no cleaning or laundry. Cooking, baking – especially more cookies-and having friends drop by was not only permitted but encouraged.
Sometimes there was a necessary exception as the year we went to the pound (Now called animal shelter) to get our crazy dog, Wulf, but that is a story for another day! Mostly we stuck to the plan. And having friends over proved to be riotous fun. Especially memorable were the years that Trivial Pursuit and its variations were in vogue. I believe that even today if you went back to our house on Sunnyside and it were possible to tap the walls and let out sounds, you would hear the shouting, the friendly arguing, and, especially the laughter, lots and lots of laughter.
Because I always wanted to be involved in the fun, not distracted by preparing a meal, we took to having just appetizers, lots of appetizers, and cookies, always cookies, over the afternoon and early evening. I came to call this period of time – the holiday lights on, all the beautifully wrapped presents arranged under the tree – everyone having fun -the “space of possibility.” It was still possible that each package under the tree contained something the receiver really liked and that when the opening was all completed, no one would be disappointed.
Almost as soon as total darkness fell – which seemed to take forever for my excited daughter, even as an adult – we tore into the presents. House rule: take turns opening one present at a time and holding up or passing for all to see.
Rarely we went to a church service. That happened more after all the kids were gone and then after I moved to Hanover and the grandkids were older. To have one whole family sitting in the row with me, raising voices in song, despite a difference in religion, filled my heart to bursting. The beauty of the sanctuary lit only by candles, the abundance of poinsettias, the much-loved carols, sometimes with instrumental accompaniment, and the ever so familiar Bible passages wrapped it all up for me.
And then, one more thing: when Christmas is over, the holiday is over. But when Christmas Eve is over, you can still look forward to Christmas Day. And in our house that meant opening stocking presents and enjoying popovers and strawberries.
Dorothy C. Judd © 2016
Next post: January 2nd, 2017