Christmas Memories and Traditions with the Family

Christmas means different things to different people. For children, it means Santa Claus will visit and leave them toys and maybe some goodies. It means a break from school for older children. For adults, it means some time off from work and a chance to reconnect with family and friends.

Santa Visits but What if…?

Like other children, I would get excited when Christmas came. I would have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve thinking about what would be under the Christmas tree the next morning. What happened if I had to go to the bathroom? What if Santa Claus was there?

(L-R) My brother, Santa, me.

“Then, you go really quick and get back in bed,” I remember by father telling me one Christmas Eve before my siblings and I went to bed. My sister’s bedroom was downstairs, but on Christmas Eve, she slept in the room my brother and I shared. This safeguarded the family from any mishaps. We were told if Santa saw you out of bed, he left immediately. No toys. Game over until next year. My sister willingly stayed in our room and moral support was offered if anyone needed to get out of bed to use the bathroom.

Opening presents in the morning wasn’t the end of Christmas, though. After the presents, we got dressed and went to church. The family came home, the kids played with their presents, and the parents took a little rest. After the rest, we got back into the car and went to my grandparent’s house for more presents, including presents from their neighbors. Some lunch, some mingling with friends and family, then back our part of town where we see my grandmother and all ten of my dad’s siblings. In those days, my brother, eventually my sister and I were the only niece and nephews in the family. Those were the Salad Days.

Christmas Growing up

Enjoying one of my gifts on Christmas morning.

Different Christmases were memorable to me for different reasons. I remember getting a toy Batmobile on the first Christmas I remember. A Batman and Robin came with it, so it was ready to go through the streets of Gotham City (my living room) and save the good people from the deeds of The Joker and The Penguin. The next Christmas I looked at my presents and thought about the Christmas before that and thought about the presents I opened in my “First Christmas” and what I would find under the paper during that “Second Christmas”.

An epic Christmas morning.

I don’t remember much about the next Christmas, except that one of my parents got a gigantic Hershey’s Kiss. I kept looking at that present and wondered if they wanted to trade. Then again, there wasn’t any of my presents I was willing to part with, even for a piece of candy that would take me a week to eat. That would be the last Christmas in that house. We moved across town the following summer, and when Christmas came, I think my brother and I (translation: me) got my parents out of bed before 7:00. It was the only time my parents caved and let us wake up early.

I got Sick on Christmas

The next two Christmases were memorable, but not for Christmassy reasons. I’m in the third grade now, and this was the Christmas I got the Chicken Pox. This was a most inconvenient time for me to get the Chicken Pox and I was hoping I could go through life without the Chicken Pox. Alas, that was not to be. I survived my illness and the itching that came with it. That Christmas was the first time I ever heard of Calamine Lotion.

Christmas and the Chicken Pox came and went. The next Christmas I had a fever. I spent the morning trying to open presents while keeping a blanket wrapped around me. It was tough, but I managed it. My mother stayed home with me while Dad and the sibs went to my grandmother’s.

I (and Mom) missed out on seeing my aunts and uncles (and her in-laws), and all of the food that was spread out in the kitchen: the turkey, the ham, the lasagna, the “mud pudding” my aunt makes for every get-together. It hurts just to write about it. I didn’t miss out on the presents, though, and my father returned home with a big trash bag full of presents just for me. That made the illness a little more bearable.

Christmas Changed as I got Older

At this point in my life, I’ve become an altar boy at church. The mass schedule became critical. I could handle serving a Christmas Eve service or even a Midnight Mass. Anything in the morning, though, would cut into Christmas Morning. I couldn’t have that. Luckily, I wasn’t called away from my home on Christmas Morning. The Spirit of Christmas was watching over me.

I moved from elementary school to junior high school and Christmas Break became more appreciated. Something happened in high school. I’m not sure what it was, but I went from wanting to get out of bed and opening presents to seeing how late I could stay in bed. “The presents were there,” I told myself, “They’re not going anywhere.” But I was outvoted, and I got out of bed to see the gifts that were patiently waiting for me under the tree.

Elf on the shelf

Now I’m a parent. Christmas is still fun, but the challenges have changed. Instead of the stealth missions to and from the bathroom without Santa noticing, I need to help Santa make his way through the house without disturbing the cherubim. Wife and I divide our time between attending to presents from Santa and making sure everyone is still in bed sleeping. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there’s the issue of these elves who constantly visit us and end up in different places every day.

Jingles, Mario, and Pancake. Don’t ask me who’s who.

This, I think, is the highlight of the morning for The Boy. He never had trouble getting out of bed before, but the chance to find the elves and see where they’re hiding and how far they traveled from the previous day makes waking up in the morning a little more fun. Then they leave just as secretly as they appear in our house and move around.

No one can explain it, but that doesn’t stop The Boy from asking how they move or where they went. The questions keep coming. Did Santa like the cookies. I assure the boy Santa did indeed like the cookies. How do I know? I ask The Boy if there are any cookies left. He tells me there are none. I tell him, if the cookies weren’t good, he wouldn’t have eaten them all.

I Like Christmas

“The Night Before Christmas”. A Christmas Eve tradition with Wife’s family.

Like you, Christmas routines have changed for me over the years. I’ve gone from waiting for Santa to making sure children are in bed ready for Santa. The Oppressed has been promoted to “Magic Maker” and has her specific duties in getting ready for the big night and day. We visit Wife’s family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There’s always a fantastic meal when we visit. We see relatives, some of whom we haven’t seen since Easter or last Christmas.

Holiday wishes from friends and family alike.

My parents have a tradition of hanging the Christmas cards we receive over the doorways of our house. I’ve continued that tradition in my own home. I also love sending Christmas cards. There are people I haven’t seen in years, but I still send them a card. It allows me to send a quick hello and wish them well.

And I wish you well. I hope your Christmas is a merry one. I hope you are able to spend it with the ones you love, and I hope you have the chance to make someone’s holiday a little more merry.

“A Collection of Short Stories” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.

Author: bravedaddy

I am a househusband and stay-at-home parent. I offer this sanctuary to any parent, new or otherwise, to let them know they are not alone in their daily struggles and challenges to their sanity.

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