Having a mom who adores reading meant that our most treasured traditions involved books. On Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, our family would gather on the couch with two special books, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and a children's bible. Mom would read us the excerpt from the bible that detailed Mary and Joseph's travels, in search of a place to rest for the night. It was like a magical fairy tale with a King, angels, wisemen and shepherds. A very captivating story for small children. Funnily enough this was our family's only exposure to any sort of Religion...the Christmas story.
When mom was finished reading the children's bible we would move on to the classic "Twas the Night Before Christmas". There was just one twist...the book would be passed around to each family member, assuming they were at an age that they could read. In turn we would each read a page. Of course, it was a little like reading aloud in school...you felt a combination of nervous and proud as you belted out your page. Lots of giggles were heard when you "messed up"....that actually is a pretty hard book to read!
There were a whole slew of other steps to our Christmas Eve; annual family photo, pictures of each child in bed as they wave goodnight, setting out the cookies and milk and singing our family Christmas countdown song (a real original).
As is often the case, it was only when I was old enough to hang out with other people on Christmas Eve that I started to miss our traditions. In fact, when we were teenagers my mom and dad would wait for my sister, brother and I to all be home so we could read our books and complete our family traditions. They were a constant in our lives.
Of course the day came when I moved away from home, and moved in with Andrew. What was the first gift I purchased on our very first Christmas Eve..."Twas the Night Before Christmas". Even when it was only the two of us we would pass the book back and forth. We hosted my bro-in-law and mom-in-law a few times on Christmas Eve...and they each had to participate as well.
When the girls were born we decided to introduce "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to the mix. They enjoy Dr.Seuss, and the story really is a classic. This year Madeline is very excited that she will be able to read her pages with confidence...as she is now an avid little reader. Charlotte is well on her way...this year we will help her read her pages...she can read the "popcorn" words she already knows how to read...by next year I think she'll be reading her pages on her own.
A few weeks ago my sister and brother and I sorted through my mom's Christmas ornaments and decorations. I "inherited" a little mailbox with a teddy bear that my mom crafted herself, my brother "inherited" the original 1970's nativity scene that mom set out on top of the speaker in our livingroom every year, and my sister "inherited" the book - "Twas the Night Before Christmas". We aren't certain where the children's bible ended up...misplaced perhaps.
And so traditions go...rooted in memory and filled with love.