In my house, as a small child, this was a special time of year. We had a tradition surrounding everything – from looking at Christmas lights on the way home from Christmas Eve service to saving all the cards and opening them at once around the dinner table.
We destroyed the house with an unsightly amount of decorations and stayed up late the night before Christmas, wrapping each other’s gifts and watching the Muppets’ Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We baked snickerdoodles. We ate turkey and ham.
We always opted for real ribbon instead of store-bought bows and we never used gift bags. Our stockings got more indulgent with each passing year, but we never failed to get at least one pair of SmartWool socks and a new headlamp.
In the morning, we had a fire burning in the fireplace before we walked down the stairs to lavish amounts of presents around the tree. We played Vince Guaradli Trio as we opened gifts, turn by turn. And we all hated the idea of the moment passing by too quickly, so we all tried our best to slow it down.
In more recent years, our Christmas traditions have had to evolve. My parents, now divorced, live in separate states, as do I and my sister. My dad has remarried and this year, his new sister in-law – fighting a losing battle with cancer – is living with him also. My sister and I both have boyfriends and our time is divided among our houses and their own.
Time is limited. But we still come together. Sometimes we meet in hotel rooms and sometimes our stay is too brief. Sometimes there is no tree. Sometimes there is no fireplace. But this is the season that brings us together. Despite obstacles and distance and challenges, we find each other. And for a moment, we’re together.
And on this Christmas Eve, a moment together is the greatest gift of all.