Last week in Sunday school, I was talking with the 13yos that I teach about favorite Christmas traditions. It was fun to hear how Christmas morning works in their homes. How early can they wake up? Are Santa's gifts wrapped or not? Breakfast first (I can't even) or just get to the presents? Open all at once or taking turns?
Some of the kids had never thought about how other families did things, so it was pretty funny to see some of them flabbergasted at other traditions (Why aren't your gifts wrapped? Why do you have to wait and go down together?)
So. For the record, here's how Christmas Eve/Morning goes down at our house:
Christmas Eve is spent as a family, just hanging out, and maybe preparing some food/treats for the next day. At some point we watch Empire Strikes Back, which has become a Christmas Eve tradition somehow. We have Chinese food for dinner (a throwback to my growing up), often takeout. After dinner we watch The Grinch (animated version of course), open sib gifts, watch The Snowman, and read from the scriptures about Christ's birth. Then the kids are off to bed.
We hang a sheet up at the top of the stairs, simply because of how the house is laid out. One little trip to the bathroom during the night could mean major spoilers.
Aaron and I watch A Christmas Story while we do last-minute wrapping/setting up. We have wrapped most of the gifts and set them under the tree before this point so the kids can ooh and ahh and guess, but we save a couple extra just for the wow/magic of Christmas morning.
On the big day: The kids aren't supposed to wake up before 6:00/7:00ish. But really we are flexible on this, we just don't want kids up super early. No alarms, and no waking up of sibs. This year the girl woke up really early, but waited in her room until 6:30, when she heard the boys get up and come in our rooms.
Santa used to leave stockings at the foot of their beds (idea being that they'd let us sleep in longer - nope!), and they'd bring them in our room and open them on our bed. However, that proved distracting for kiddos who tended to wake up early, so now he leaves them by their door in the hall (as they still like them upstairs). Opening stockings on our bed together has become a fun tradition, and allows us a few minutes for our brains to wake up. :)
Aaron and I brush our teeth*, make sure we have the camera ready, and go downstairs to turn on the Christmas lights/music, while the kids wait in the hall for the go ahead to come down.
Santa leaves his gifts (usually one per kid) unwrapped, laid out on the living room rug. Always in the same place each year (Monkey's farthest to the left). The kids check out their gifts for a bit, then sort the gifts that are under the tree. We do opening one at a time, youngest to oldest. We take breaks as wanted, to play with something, read, eat cinnamon rolls (always - sometimes with scrambled eggs), etc.
The rest of the day is pretty chill, hanging out, building lego, reading, playing new games. Usually we head to the grandparents for dinner. We don't clean up all the way, leaving most gifts out in the living room still, so the next day still feels super Christmasy.
I treasure our little family's traditions. I enjoy having time with this special holiday with JUST US. I think that's really important. I love seeing family and all that too, of course, but my family's traditions are very important to me. I also love that we don't have millions of places to go on the big day, not having lots of extended family around. Before my family moved to the area, we used to just stay home by ourselves all day and watch all the other neighbors cars go in and out of their driveways, as they had Grandma's brunch, and Aunt so-and-so's dinner, and cousin gift exchange and all that to go to. Growing up military meant that we were not used to that at all! We have a good balance, and I like that.
*My dad used to make us WAIT while he got ready (showered!) before going to see the tree/presents. That was torture!
**Wrapping Santa's gifts seems... hard to maintain consistency. Growing up, Santa wrapped gifts in red tissue paper, which you can always find, so I liked that, but this is just what we do. Also easier if you want to have something (playmobil, doll furniture, etc) set up.