A lot of people wouldn't be able to handle the way we celebrate Christmas around here. Not because the kids get up too early or because of the complete greedy mayhem. Nope. Around here, Christmas is all about the anticipation.
The kind of anticipation that can kill you if you're not brave enough or strong enough. For me, the anticipation is the best part. But, I'm strong. Or crazy. Or both.
There's no waking up at the crack of dawn (or earlier!) around here. No rushing in to rip the wrappings to shreds, everyone opening at once, desperate to see what was given. Nope. At this place we take things at a more leisurely pace. Less like a 100 yard dash and more like a stroll through the neighborhood, with plenty of pauses to enjoy the scenery, look at crawling bugs and smell the flowers.
There are rules, you know.
The first rule is that everyone must sleep in. Until at least 8 o'clock. Big is still working on this one, but this year he made it until 7:40. The key is, you see, to never let them know that waking up at 4 am is an option. Because it isn't.
The second rule is that everyone must be dressed, teeth and hair brushed, rooms cleaned before any of the festivities can start. The kids are usually smart and do most of the cleaning in the few days before Christmas arrives, but the morning of is perfect for last minute touch-ups. All of this usually occurs while I am whipping up our traditional breakfast of bran muffins (they rock, I swear) and cheesy scrambled eggs.
Oh, did I forget to mention that breakfast has to be eaten before we can even think of entertaining thoughts of present opening? It's important to give all of that Christmas candy a good solid base, you know. We're looking for staying power here. The fact that we get regularity, too, is just a bonus. At least I'm not super hardcore like my mom is-- she serves a big bowl of frozen peaches to each family member. Try eating those quickly in your rush to get things moving!
It might seem like we're ready to start now, but we're not. There are still the breakfast dishes to be washed, table to be wiped clean, leftovers to be put away... even the floor must be swept. It's amazing how willingly the kids pitch in when there's a goal in sight.
Ahhh. Now we're ready. Line up and get ready to go...
Even the grandparents in Armenia joined us for a bit. It looks like they're excited to see what Santa brought.
Once we get into the living room, the kids are free to open the stockings and gifts brought by Santa with some semblance of wild abandon, but they still take time to show others what they've been given and appreciate what others have received. It's a must, you know.
After all of Santa's gifts have been opened, it's time to open the stuff under the tree. Time for patience to once again be tested. We take turns opening gifts, youngest to oldest, over and over again until the presents are gone. It's nice to see what everyone received, to feel gratified when your gift seems appreciated and they take the time to tell you so, instead of just tossing it quickly aside after a glance so they can rip open the next thing with their name on it. It's nice. Relaxing, even (knowing that I don't have a pile of dishes waiting for me to do when we're done? Relaxing and priceless!).
When the presents were all opened this year, Rophone and I unveiled the final Santa gift. It was kept under wraps until the very end, with thoughts that once the boys saw it we'd have a hard time getting them to do other things.
We were right.
I know that a lot of the time growing up I thought that doing Christmas this way was torture, but I reveled in every minute of it. I'm sure that my kids feel the same way. I have come to learn as a parent, though, that celebrating the way we do isn't just a means to successfully torture the kids (I'm always trying to figure out ways to do that!)-- it's also a way to help them realize that what they get isn't really what Christmas is all about. The traditions, the spending time with family.... heck, even doing the breakfast dishes is more important than the gifts they receive. The only Christmas gift that really matters is the birth of our Savior and the gift of his example and life.
Anyway, this Christmas was just fabulous. The kids were all appropriately appreciative, no tantrums or meltdowns (I tell ya the bran muffins really do rock!) and, for once, every single gift was perfect for its intended recipient. There was none of the usual regret over a present that just didn't go over the way we thought it would. The amount of time we've been able to just hang as a family has been fantastic. Really, really great. We not only survived Christmas, we did it in grand style!
I can't wait to bring on the torture again next year!