I’m sure everyone has a story that’s one of these or depending on your age, all of these. For me growing up in a family of ten, Christmas was a great time of the year until I got to that age where I felt pressured to buy gifts, why does that happen, oh, could it be advertising and the deluge of ads that bombard the TV every year?

My typical Christmas growing up from the age when I could start remembering, maybe 5 or 6 to age 12 was very exciting. It would all start Thanksgiving day when Santa would peak through the window while eating dinner to make sure we were being good kids. That was amazing, Santa would visit our family and my Dad always missed it, go figure.
Then we would put together our Christmas tree and decorate, help my Mom bake cookies and watch her whip up that delicious fudge, for some reason she always had to stir it really fast in the freezing cold.

Two weeks prior to Christmas was unbearable, the anticipation of opening gifts was almost too much. My sister and I use to look at the wrapped gifts my mom stashed up in the closet shelves and when we were around 10 and 12 years of age we couldn’t stand it. One night as my parents went to go play in their monthly bridge group, we took down the presents carefully unwrapped them and tried on our new cloths. Then we wrapped them back up. No one noticed, even with the occasional missing wrapping paper that was ripped off from the tape. That was the last time we did that because without either of us saying it, it made Christmas a little less climatic.

As a young child I most remember Christmas morning waking up around 5 and not daring going out to the living room for fear Santa was still there. My sister Mary and I shared a room and would just wait and wait and wait until we heard our parents rustle awake, which I know was difficult after being up until 2 or 3 am because my Dad sang in the midnight mass and then come home to assemble the toys. Once my dad had the camera set up and the flood light on we were given the OK to open gifts which, everyone did at once. The wrapping paper covered the shag carpet and we were done within a half hour, then it was off to see what Santa gave us in our stocking. Christmas, officially over as a kid by 7 am.

In my teens Christmas took on a different tone, I was still excited about it but I could sleep now the weeks before the actual day. We opened gifts in the morning but it was much slower and we more savored the gift experience. In the evening everyone would come over and fill the basement where we had another gift exchange with other family members and sing. And of course the liquor would be flowing and you always had someone who had a little too much and got a little too loud.

Our house became the house to be at Christmas day eve, lots of partying and singing. This type of Christmas continued into my early twenties and then things shifted when some of my siblings moved as did I. I haven’t been home for a Christmas since I moved 28 years ago and instead have created new traditions with friends whom I call family.

I still love Christmas but presents aren’t as important as they use to be. The joy for me at Christmas is seeing all of the decorations, baking, dinner with good friends, being around family and reliving the excitement of gift giving through kids.