Let me tell you about Christmas Eve. It's important around here.
As a kid, I had two sets of grandparents living minutes away. We would always spend Christmas Eve with The Trents, my dad's parents. And of course my Aunt Kathy, who, by the way, I have never called "Aunt."
They had a book, "The Night Before Christmas." I'm sure you know it. Their's was a big old-fashioned hard cover with pictures that today remind me of the 1950s. Kathy would read it aloud and it was so special only being there to enjoy once a year. My grandma would make her special chip dip and had a cocktail table laden with chips and dip and snacks that was only brought up from the basement at Christmas time. She had a golden glittery bell that hung in the short hallway of their ranch and when you pulled the cord it played "Jingle Bells." A stuffed elf always perched in the chandelier. The kitchen was smallish and Christmas Eve dinner was always served buffet style with meatballs, lunch meats & cheeses and rice pilaf. Oh, and the green salad with vinegar and oil was the essential of all our meals. My grandpa would have gone earlier with Kathy and me to pick up a case of Town Club pop so we could enjoy the ice glass bottles of Cream Soda, Cherry and Lime. For dessert we'd have ice cream shaped like snowmen and Christmas trees. All treats, all there only once a year and so much the better for it.
The Trent grandparents were the ones to buy the luxurious and frivolous gifts amongst which were tucked warm bath robes, Bonnie Bell lip smackers (Dr. Pepper flavored!) and Love's Baby Soft perfume. Barbie airplanes and talking baby dolls in giant boxes made my heart flutter. The evening never started officially until my mom was given her annual Christmas slippers to open. She'd put them on and then the one of us, Amy, Kathy or myself; would begin passing out the mountains of gifts. Kathy would light her Christmas candle collection while Channel Seven Action News tracked Santa's progress on radar.
That little house glowed with Christmas magic.
As time has marched on, traditions have no choice but to eventually evolve despite our wishes for their immortality. My Grandpa Trent passed away many years ago and my Grandma now makes her specialties and packs them up to bring to my parent's home for Christmas dinner.
Christmas Eve, however, remains magical if changed.
It is the Smith evening now, just we four. With Jay's Celiac Disease to consider, we have happily settled into the tradition of Mexican food on Christmas Eve. With hot fudge ice cream sundaes for dessert. The Mr. does not work on Christmas Eve and often I do, so it is his to prepare. I now come home in the cold Michigan evening to my small slowing house, warm and inviting. We eat our Mexican food from a buffet served in the kitchen and still, we watch Channel Seven Action News to track Santa's progress. Usually in our pajamas early, we will be making tacos and scooping guacamole from heaping bowls.
Once we are overly full and content we'll begin passing out gifts. Without ever making it official, we've settled into a rhythm of watching each other open presents instead of tearing in to them all at once. We all take great joy watching the reactions our careful choices bring. The surprise, the smile, the laugh...It is like giving and getting a gift all at once.
This too will likely change as traditions do. Perhaps we will lose our boys on Christmas Eve to the homes of their girlfriends or wives families, they too will have their traditions I am sure. Then again, we will stretch and bend to accommodate the possibility that we can have tacos at midnight or at noon. We will sit back with our own gifts piled in front of us and someday watch our grandchildren open frivolous toys amongst warm bathrobes. And maybe I will hold a baby on my lap again, inhaling their sweet scent as we watch Santa's progress on Channel Seven Action News.
I might worry about the end of our Christmas Eves but in all my forty years, they have changed but never become unmagical. Because it is not the arrival of Santa that we depend on, nor the golden glittery bell that carols "Jingle Bell" nor tacos and ice cream sundaes. It is Christ who comes to blanket us in peace and the announcement of our great redemption that lays the foundation for the decorations we hang on our trees and on our lives.
I wish you a happy Christmas Eve.
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.