My family always gathered at Mom’s house for Christmas Eve. I think it started from having large sections of my Dad’s family to visit on Christmas Day, but the tradition continued my whole life, until even now with our best friends here in Denver. Christmas Eve is just always a bigger celebration for us.
There was one year in the early 90’s that was legendary. Everyone was there, including my husband Bryan when we had just started dating. My Oma was still living, Heidi’s husband Bill, my aunt Kitty from Dad’s side … everyone … including some friends of the family.
You know how some holidays are just more fun than others? Everyone is in a good mood, laughing and enjoying each other. That was that night. Aunt Heidi still talked about it right up until her passing. “Remember that Christmas? It was the very best one.”
We used to play this game when opening presents, that you had to guess the contents. Three incorrect answers and you could go ahead and open, but taking a stab was always fun. People felt the wrapping and added funny commentary. You couldn’t just randomly say, “shirt, socks, underwear” then rip that package open. You had to make an effort. It always prolonged the gift giving and made it more interactive.
I now feel weird opening a gift without guessing what’s inside. Somehow we got away from this tradition in our own household, but we reinstated it this Christmas morning. Dex wasn’t too keen on the idea at first but once he realized how fun it can be, he’s on board. I mean, I remember one year that my Uncle Bill wrapped a pair of earrings inside a series of boxes that ended up being about four feet tall so my mom wouldn’t guess what was inside. We’re talking serious business.
My favorite story from that Christmas was my Oma’s gift from Heidi. It was a box about five inches wide … she tried and tried to guess. She always got so frustrated but it was adorable. And you have to remember Oma suffered from arthritis, so the gift of a small massager that fit in her hand was perfect. It was even cute, shaped like a small ladybug.
But Oma had no idea what it was.
She looked at Heidi and said very quietly, in her German accent, “Is tis … for … down … tere?”
The whole room froze in complete silence and then erupted.
“NO, MA. IT’S FOR YOUR NECK.”