I'm trying to remember how old I was for this one. I'm going to guess about 4th or 5th grade, so 9 or 10.
Christmas traditions in my house growing up were plentiful. Which was awesome. My poor kids-I feel like we have no traditions whatsoever. But Pete and I can never agree on what we want to do with our little family. Growing up, though...Christmas Eve we would go skiing, unless the weather was extremely awful. It was great, because there was hardly anyone there, so we didn't have to wait in line for the chairlift. After skiing, we would come home and light luminaries (which my kids and I have done, but this year I'm feeling very Scrooge-like, so it may not happen-we'll see), which are paper sacks with candles in the middle of them. Supposedly it is to light the way for the Christ child to come. Then we'd open a family Christmas Eve gift, which was always some sort of game, like Sorry or Apples to Apples, that kind of thing. We'd play the game, then the girls would all sleep in the same room together downstairs.
Christmas morning, bright and early -too early, usually- we'd get up, and then cover our eyes as we made our way upstairs and into our parents' room to wake them up. We would all go in together to see what Santa had brought for us, which was usually a big gift sitting by our stockings, and then stocking stuffers like CDs and Lip Smackers and chocolate oranges. (As we got older, college age, our stocking stuffers morphed into things like toothpaste and socks. Now my kids get a mixture-still the big Santa gift by the stocking, and in the stocking things like a movie or books, and socks or undies. My kids love the new clothing-or not.) After spending time doing the Santa stocking thing, which was in the family room where the fireplace was, we'd move to the front room, where the tree was, and do the family gifts. We'd also take turns opening gifts, which Pete thinks is so weird. His family does the mass opening/chaos, which I think is weird. We still haven't decided on that, but so far Pete is winning, though I end up not opening up anything and just stand there cleaning up wrapping debris. Which kind of sucks. I might put Pete on garbage duty this year, since he wants to have the chaos. That's fair, right?
Okay, so that's kind of how it went for us. So one year, we got up, and went in to see what Santa had brought us. I located my stocking on the couch, but...no big present. Hm. I sat down, and started looking at my stocking stuff, and watching my sisters enjoy their "big" presents. By this time I knew the whole Santa secret. And I didn't know what to think. A couple of thoughts crossed my mind: one, that my parents didn't have money to buy me a big gift, and two, that I got overlooked.
I didn't really feel sad. More like disappointed. And then content. I thought, "I'm okay without a big gift. Maybe next year. And I can watch everyone else enjoy their gifts." Which is what I like about taking turns opening up family gifts-you get to see what everyone else gets, and you get to see people's reactions when they open the gift that you got for them.
So, like I said, I was sitting on the couch, looking at my new socks or whatever it was, when my dad said, "Nat, aren't you going to look at your Santa gift?" And I looked at him like, um, what do you think I'm doing, Dad? Suddenly I realized that he was pointing to the new glittery purple ten-speed bike that had been standing near my stocking. I had totally thought it was for my mom.
Then I got all excited, because I had asked for a ten-speed bike for Christmas, but didn't think I would get it. And I knew that my parents hadn't forgotten me. I took it out to ride that day, on the icy roads, which was so super smart on a ten-speed. If anyone remembers, ten-speeds had super skinny tall wheels. Yikes. Bikes. Literally.
That day I realized a couple of things about myself. I realized that I liked getting Christmas gifts, but if there came a day when I couldn't have anything for Christmas, then that would be okay, too. I realized that Christmas is a small fraction of what you get, and a bigger fraction of the joy that comes to those around you, and basking in that feels just as good.
Now hopefully I can try to find some of that Christmas spirit in me this year. Brock asked, "Mom, when are we going to make our house a Christmas house?" Because I haven't pulled out my nativities, or Christmas lights, or stockings...We have the tree up, and that is all. I definitely have "Bah! Humbug!" at the tip of my tongue this year for some reason. I just need to shake it off and get with the program.