I read today about a poll in which families were asked what they left out for Santa. 48% said milk and cookies, 29% said just cookies, and the rest left milk, cookies, and carrots. It got me to thinking about our experiences with Santa. When we were kids, we always left out milk and cookies, and on Christmas morning we were thrilled to find that Santa raided the liquor cabinet too. He was a messy fellow, leaving crumbs all over the place, and liquor bottles scattered around the dining room table, some on their sides, some on the floor. After the first time it happened, we thought that we could minimize the mess by leaving him brandy as well as the cookies and milk, but that never worked either...Santa likes variety, and although he drank the brandy, he always got into the other stuff too. One year I was doubting that Santa actually existed, so he wrote me a letter in Chinese and that put all my doubts aside. It didn't click until years later that my Grandfather was there that year, and he was raised in China.
I've been thinking a lot about the traditions that we had when I was growing up. We were far away from all of our family, so at Christmas it was just the four of us. My parents worked so hard to make Christmas a special time for us, and it was never just about the gifts. We had rituals that we would do on and around Christmas, and it just didn't feel the same if we didn't do it just right. My Dad and I would spend a lot of time at church, and my Mum and brother would bake, and cook brunch for us on Christmas day. On Christmas morning my brother and I usually slept in (I was tired from a long night at church, I was usually there from 4 till well after midnight). When we got up we would open our stockings, and read the letter that Santa always left for us. We could tell that he was drinking, usually by the end of the letter his writing was illegible. After the stockings, we would have a quick bite to eat, and Dad and I would head back to church, while Mum and Andrew cooked brunch. When we got back from church, we would all sit around the table and eat brunch, and my dad would drink gallons of coffee. He always said "Okay, after this cup of coffee, we'll open the presents" and he always had another cup. After brunch, if the weather was nice, we would all go for a long walk through the neighborhood. Finally we would get home, and open our gifts, one at a time. Usually we would be finished with the gifts around 4 in the afternoon. After that, Mum and Dad would work on supper, Andrew and I would set the table, and clean up the living room, before checking out our gifts a little more closely. Usually we would eat supper at around 7 (we were always late eaters). By time supper was finished, and dishes were done, we were all so tired that we'd just go to bed early. The way we did it, the day seemed so long, and exciting, and fun. I can't imagine how you would make Christmas feel as special if all the gifts were opened first thing in the morning, and everyone went their separate ways.
Now we need to come up with our own traditions for Mary. I'd like to do the same sort of thing for her as my parents did for us. I want Christmas to be more about being together as a little family than it is about the gifts. I guess we have some time before we really need to worry about it. Christmas for her this year is likely to be much the same as any other day...But next year she will be two, she will understand a little bit more, I think.
How did/do you and your families make Christmas special?