Many years ago, I watched a family open their Christmas gifts, it was all over in 10 minutes. Those were a fantastic 10 minutes, but it was a blur of wrapping paper and shouts of excitement.
My family had a different tradition. At some point during the night my parents would divide up the gifts under the tree into piles. When it was time we would excitedly sit next to “our pile” and wait for the opening to start. As we got older, my parents allowed us to do the gift separation. That involved lots of gift shaking and comments like “that’s from me” or “I wonder what this is??”
When Christmas morning arrived, we opened our stockings first. Each of us would start by looking down in that dark top of the stocking and then we would just dump the contents onto the floor. At the bottom of the stocking would be a tangerine. Mom would have us eat that, a biscuit and a breakfast sausage before we starting unwrapping gifts. That lady was smart – she wanted some protein and carbohydrates in us before the day got started!
Gift opening followed a particular pattern. The youngest child would open a gift first while the rest of us watched. We would oohhh and aaahhh over the gift, while the child would say “thank you” to the giver with maybe a hug thrown in. The next gift was opened by the next oldest child and we would follow that pattern up the five of us kids and then through Mom and Poppa and, for many years, Grandma Randlett. Once a round was done, we would start over.
John and I celebrated our first Christmas Day together on December 25th 1991. He had been deployed on our first Christmas we had been married so Christmas Day 1991 was special. We had spent the morning of Christmas Eve in Olathe with my family. We left early that day to make the drive in the daylight as snow fell.
As I awoke on our that first Christmas Day together I knew immediately that I had strep throat – joy!! We bundled up and headed to the ER at the military hospital. It was just before 6am when we arrived and the night shift was having their Christmas party. They stopped long enough to say that although the culture was “iffy” they needed to give me antibiotics. We got the pills, wished the staff Merry Christmas, and headed home and back to bed.
When we woke up later that morning, it was time to open gifts and we did. But, we took our time, breaking to make a fabulous breakfast and try out our new juicer. It was perfect.
So, no matter how gift opening goes for you (whenever you celebrate Christmas), if you take 10 minutes, or do it in rounds, or take a whole day to open them, think about the following;
- Did the gift opening start before you read the scripture account of the first Christmas? You could make this a Christmas Eve tradition, or before gift opening or before or after Christmas dinner. But, do it. Remembering why we celebrate Christmas changes our whole perspective.
- Did you take time to make notes of who gave you what so you can write your thank you notes? “Thank you notes?”, you ask. Yes, write thank you notes. If that is too hard for you then send an email or a text. No, saying thank you when you open the gift isn’t enough if you are above the age of 6. (At least that is what Mom taught us. Christmas afternoon involved writing our thank you notes – a great tradition to teach thankfulness.)
- No matter how expensive your wrapping paper or how carefully you did it – all of the wrapping paper ends up in the recycle bin. So, if you don’t enjoy wrapping gifts, then make it quick and easy. Or, just buy gift bags and stuff tissue paper in the top. It will all work!
- Take the time to enjoy the acts of giving and receiving. If it is going too fast for you, just stop talking and watch and listen, notice the joy around you. Rejoice in the celebration of God’s gift to us.
Got to get back to gift wrapping. And I need to find my stack of blank thank you notes!!
Jill (just one of God’s kids)