There was the tradition of not going down the steps on Christmas morning to see the tree until Dad had gone down first to turn on the Christmas tree lights. Before he did this, everyone, including my two visiting grandmothers, had to be awake. We would then be allowed to open our stockings (In our stockings we always found gold chocolate coins at the very bottom), and just one present each before we all sat down to eat our breakfast. Opening presents would resume with an orderly "one-at-a-time, youngest-to-oldest" pattern which was a fabulous way to draw out the opening of gifts for several hours.
Going to Mass was sometimes different for each family member. With five of us children and later my older siblings' spouses all at home, I often went to an early Christmas Eve Mass with my parents or else I would opt to go with my brother and nephew around 10:00am on Christmas morning. Many of my siblings would attend the special Midnight Mass and they would not get home until the wee hours of the morning. I always longed to do that too, but by the time I was old enough to attend, the "Midnight Mass" was being held at 9:00pm.
But I have certainly upheld many of my childhood traditions too. The children wait for Eric to turn on the tree lights on Christmas morning and we stop for a breakfast break after some time has been spent opening presents one at a time. My favorite tradition however is our annual Christmas Eve buffet. Years ago, in an attempt to make the night before Christmas even more special (and to take the focus off the gifts under the tree perhaps), my Mom prepared several appetizer-style dishes and put on a huge spread for family and dear friends. The dining room table was decorated and the food took over every inch. When Eric and I moved into our home I knew I wanted to continue the tradition, so each year I prepare the buffet. We invite my parents, in-laws, and often a few dear friends of my children. Before they passed, Eric’s grandmothers and Papa always came too.
We’ll gather around the Christmas Eve buffet, say grace, and enjoy the food and one another’s company. As the food is put away, the children will begin writing a letter to Santa and will set aside a few cookies for him. It matters not that they have passed the magical time of childhood when Santa was real. They know the real magic is within the special beauty of family traditions.
Our Christmas Eve Menu:
- crabmeat roll-ups
- stuffed celery
- meatballs & spaghetti sauce
- meatballs & gravy (for Dad)
- phyllo taco cups
- phyllo cheeseburger cups (for Dad)
- cheese, pepperoni and crackers
- chicken crepes (with apples)
- chicken crepes (without apples for Dad)
- steak teriyaki roll-ups with water chestnuts
- shrimp cocktail
- onion dip and chips
- cheese fondue with french bread
- deviled eggs
- pumpkin bread
- banana bread
- chicken broccoli braid
- chicken spinach braid
- peanut butter cookies
- peanut butter blossom cookies
- sugar cookies
- muddy buddies
- peanut butter balls
- frosted oatmeal log cookies
- pretzel-kiss-m&m candies