My family does not have a whole lot of big celebrations outside the usual things, such as birthday parties or big anniversaries, but one big celebration that we do have that is not very common is the way we celebrate Christmas. My family, I think, has always celebrated in a somewhat unique way. Some of the things we do may be common among other people’s Christmas celebrations, but we have aspects of those that are unique to our family. We always go to the Christmas Eve service, we open one present the night before, we put baby Jesus in our nativity scene on Christmas morning before we open presents, my mom always makes her special French toast, and we have cake to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
Our Christmas celebration really begins when we go to the Christmas Eve service at our church. It is a time when you get to hear the story of what Christmas is truly about, and it is a good reminder before the next day that it is not all just about the presents but is about Jesus and his birth. You also get to sing festive Christmas songs that are honoring to God and are just so joyful to sing. I mean who does not like Christmas music? My favorite is “Hark the Herald Angels.” An article about Christmas carols states that, “Christmas hymns and carols were scarce between the late 17th and the early 18th Century in England. Charles Wesley’s ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’ was one of the few written during that period that became popular” (Scarlett). We also always light candles at our church and just stand there in the dark with only candles to light the room, and it is one of the coolest things to see.
After we get home from the Christmas Eve service, we get ready for bed because “Santa” is on his way. Once all the kids are ready for bed, we get to open one present. We all know what it is though because we get the same thing every Christmas Eve: pajamas. Although we all know what is coming, it is still super exciting. I’ve always realized that Christmas is the next day and that within the next twelve hours we will be opening presents. This is not the main thing the next day is all about though. This is why we have our next tradition.
After the kids all come downstairs and get a quick peek under the tree of what we can see we may or may not have got, we place baby Jesus in our nativity scene. We leave him out of it every year when we set it up and hide baby Jesus somewhere. After all, he has not been born yet. This often takes a long time for such a simple task because my mom always has to take the perfect picture of us placing him in the manger. Once he has been placed in the manger, the pictures have been taken, and we sing “Happy Birthday”, then we can move on to opening the presents. Usually, all the kids get to open their gifts first; and then, we play Santa and take all the adults their gifts.
During all this, my mom’s delicious French toast has been baking in the oven so as soon as we finish opening the presents we have breakfast. Depending on how fast they get cooked, we sometimes have to take a break from the presents to go and eat; and then, we come back to the presents. Her French toast is the best French toast I have ever had. She starts by preparing the bread just like you would for any French toast; but instead of toasting it, she lays in on the bottom of a baking pan. Then she layers the bread with cranberries, chopped walnuts, sausage, apple pieces, and brown sugar. On top of that is another layer of the prepared French toast bread. Then she drizzles that with a special brown sugar syrup mixture that she has made. We usually enjoy this dish with bacon, fruit salad, eggs, and some hot chocolate.
This special breakfast is not the only delicious food we get to partake of during the day. We also have a birthday cake for Jesus. My grandma has always been in charge of this, whether she makes it herself or she picks it up from a bakery. We sing “Happy Birthday” again and then enjoy the cake. There have been a few years when we have gotten a good laugh out of the cake first because the bakery does not seem to know how to spell Jesus. Thankfully, the cake tastes good enough to make up for their spelling mistakes. The only thing missing from this birthday celebration are presents for Jesus. Sometimes, I just like to think to myself that he was sacrificial again and let us open presents instead of him on his birthday.
You are probably thinking that these things are something that every family does on Christmas, which may be true. However, the way my family does all these things and makes them unique for our family makes them even better than the way other people do them. Other people may also just go through these things mindlessly, but I know that our family does them to make sure we do not forget the true meaning of Christmas: And that is Jesus Christ. From going to the Christmas Eve service, opening one gift, putting Jesus in the nativity before presents, getting to enjoy a delicious breakfast, to having birthday cake, I know I am reminded of Jesus through all of it.