I still remember vividly going on our annual Christmas Eve outting with my dad, brothers, and sisters. It originally started as my mom begging my father to get the kids out of the house so she can get the house ready for Christmas. We would start out by doing a service project. One year, we were each given 4 quarters that we had to hand out to four different people. Hey, in the 80's this felt like TONS of money. I would dread having to approach perfect strangers and give them this token of service, but afterwards would beam with that feeling of doing something good, no matter how small. We would then eat at an international restaurant. Every year, it was a different country's food, Indian, Chinese, Thailand. It was always a surprise where we would end up going. We ended the afternoon by going to a movie. How I always looked forward to that movie. We would drive home in the newly darkened sky, change into our jammies and then open one gift, from one of our siblings. Afterwards, we would all cram into my bedroom (it was downstairs, and the tree was upstairs). I could never fall asleep. That was always the longest night EVER. When we moved to Utah, we lived a short walk from Grandma's so we would spend the night there. We also got to add another gift to the Christmas Eve celebrations. My dad traveled internationally quite a bit and picked up gifts along the way. We got to open our "International Gifts."
Now I have my own family and this is a tradition I haven't been able to let go of. The only thing that has changed is it's name, Day of Surprises (Thanks, Sherry, for the name.). The 1st year we had 12 envelopes each labeled with a different letter, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S E-V-E, and the next year it was just C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. We still do our service; last year we brought gifts to some of those that had to work on Christmas Eve. We eat at an international restaurant. We even go to a newly released movie. It's wonderful. We've added some extras to the mix, picking up gourmet hot chocolate, sledding, open 3 special gifts (new jammies, a Christmas book, and Grandpa's International gifts). We usually end the day with a Christmas movie and all the kids sleep in the same room.
Some gifts are just too good to give up. And one gift I will always be grateful for are the traditions I share with my family.
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