As I get older I cannot help but think about what Christmas was like as a kid. The anticipation one felt for opening the presents on Christmas morning. Well that happened in most households but mine was a little different.
We hosted our family Christmas party each year as I was growing up. My mother had 6 brothers and sisters and they and their families would come to our suburban Chicago house on Christmas eve. I think one year I counted over 50 people in the house. Everyone would bring presents for everyone…there was no grab bag or secret Santa for this large group. My mother took over this tradition when her mother decided it was time for someone else to host the party.
My dad and I (mostly my dad..I’m sure my brothers will contend that they helped too, but this is my story) converted our old attached garage into a family room that most of the adults would gather in. The kids would hang out in my room playing legos or talking about what Santa was about to bring them.
At one point of the night all the kids were ushered into my room and the door was shut, as Santa Claus came to the party and brought the presents he had just for us kids. He would talk to the adults very loudly and he sounded a lot like my Uncle Terry. As this was happening we would be listening intently from my room and looking out the window to see if we could see any reindeer. After about five minutes Santa was gone and the kids were let out of what seemed like an eternity of waiting for that ever so blessed pile of presents at the tree. (notice I didn’t say under the tree, because with so many people there were many Christmases when the presents were in fact taller than the tree)
Running to the family room with my first and second cousins and family friends, we would begin opening presents. A lot of families do one present at a time (something I had no idea of until I got married and started to spend Christmas with my in laws), but my family would hand out presents and everyone would just tear into them. Wrapping paper flying every which way with thank yous and hugs flying just as much.
Santa was busy and he only came to our house once. So that meant that this was my Christmas. This is what I got. It was so cool to have my cousins and friends there to share in whatever it was that was the big present. One year an Adam computer, that’s right I got the Colecovision computer as a kid. Another year it was the PXL 2000, the Fisher Price camcorder that took audio tapes ( I still have that). Other years it was legos to add to the collection (which I still have too.)
The coolest thing about Christmas eve was a lack of bedtime. I would stay up to two in the morning playing with my new toy way before most kids have even started to open up their presents.
Some might look at this as Christmas blasphemy to not celebrate this day on the 25th. But for me it was special and I miss seeing my large extended family every year. I don’t remember when the last of these gathering happened. It had to have been near my sophomore year of high school. My parents moved three hours from the bulk of the family and gas prices rose so it became difficult to get everyone together. There are uncles that are no longer with us and cousins have grown and have kids of their own and we all have our new traditions. But for me this will be the magical time in life when Christmas was special. I am glad that I was able to appreciate it when I had it and was allowed to have my Christmas with my family.