Our Christmas Adaptation

My husband’s description of his childhood Christmases sounded to me as Thursdays probably are to most people. Just, meh. He was always excited to see what he got but it didn’t have the same pull for him that it did for me. For me, Christmas was magical like Disneyland and favorite songs and falling in love. That is why we decided to model our own Christmas celebrations after my parents’ tradition.
Growing up we didn’t have much but when it came to Christmas, my siblings and I never felt the impact of our low income. We had huge Christmases. In the morning, my parents lined us up in the hallway, oldest to youngest, and then they let us loose into the living room like search and destroy missiles, paper and bows flying like shrapnel. Sometimes a squeal shrieking louder than my own could pull my attention from my current target to see what another of my four siblings had received. After a quick glance I’d dive back under the tree, looking for a present with my name on it. It was crazy and fun and over in an instant. Well, maybe in five instances. The fall came fast but the high was amazing.

That Was Then, This Is Now

After ten Christmases just like this for my own children, Israel resigned from his full-time career to work our own business at home. That was in 2008. We didn’t have a guaranteed income and for Christmas we were afraid to buy much at all. We made a serious cut in the presents we gave to the kids.

To pro-long the time of gift-unwrapping, so it wouldn’t feel like the most anti-climactic Christmas ever, we decided to try one of Israel’s childhood Christmas traditions…the one in which everyone actually takes the time to see what the others got and to find out who the giver of the gift is…you know, the turn-taking gift circle.

I thought that sounded like the most boring Christmas tradition ever. How can you maintain the high of the search-and-destroy method if you’re just sitting there, trying to fake enthusiasm for other people while they open their presents, meanwhile you can see your own beckoning you under the tree? But I wanted to try it. We had to do something to make the morning last longer than a minute.


I was shocked. It was our best Christmas ever. That’s what my kids said! Not only did they get to have the initial target-launching high at the beginning as they ran to see their Santa gifts, but they also felt gratitude and camaraderie while they watched each other get excited about an awesome new toy. There was none of that impatience I expected. It was a combination of both types of experiences.

This year we adjusted the tradition even more, after my best friend, Tami, told us how her parents did it. At first I thought it was insane, but she told me it prolonged the anticipation and excitement for them as kids, since, with twelve of them, they only got one present each, in addition to their Santa gift. And it’s the anticipation that is the most magical of all of it, right? Well, that and the Christmas lights on the tree.
Just like Tami and her parents, this year we let our kids launch into their Santa gifts (one each) but then we waited until after breakfast to open the presents. It gave them more time to appreciate the “big one” before moving on to the others. Also before breakfast, they pulled down their stockings and really enjoyed those for the first time. Previous to this new tradition, the stockings were always just an after-thought to my kids — and that bugged me.
Not that the children cared but I liked that we also began the day with some actual substantial nutrition instead of candy. And the gift-circle afterward was just as cool as the year before. Check it…


I think we’ve now figured out the recipe for a perfect Christmas morning. It’s a combination of three different family traditions: Search & Destroy, Launch & Pull Back, and finally, the Camaraderie Support Circle . It was my favorite year so far.

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Note to my scrapbooking friends: I think I’m going to use this story (and hopefully get better childhood pictures from my mom) for a scrapbook album that compares my childhood with my kids’ childhoods. I’m also going to reword the last three paragraphs slightly and use them in my 25 Days To Christmas ‘09 album (Ali Edwards’s December Daily Album concept).

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