Long time readers will know that for many years we were a military family (my husband Dave served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 25 years before retiring in August 2000.) We were often posted far away from our extended families. Rarely was it possible for us to have the traditional Christmas of spending the day with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The holiday traditions that we adapted/created beginning when our children were very little came to be one of the anchors that they depended on year to year.
I’ve shared some of those traditions in the past during my Christmas on a Budget Series which also includes tutorials for making gifts and decorations.
One of the traditions we adopted and adapted to our needs was from Dave’s childhood. Dave and his brother and sisters were allowed to open one gift each on Christmas Eve. The rest couldn’t be opened until Christmas morning. That one gift was from his paternal grandparents and it always contained new pajamas.
When our children were little and it became apparent that neither of Dave’s parents was going to continue the pj tradition, Dave and I decided to give it our own unique twist.
Christmas Eve would not be Christmas Eve in our house without our drive around the neighborhood after supper to look at all the beautiful light displays. Without fail, once everyone was in the car ready to leave, I discovered that I’d “forgotten” my purse in the house and would have to run back in quickly.
Also without fail, when we returned home, under the tree would be three small identically wrapped packages… one for each child marked:
Inside the packages were new nighties or pajamas.
“Oh,” we’d say, “Santa did came by but there were no children in bed asleep, so his elves left pjs for you. Hurry and get bathed and into your new jammies and after story time it’s off to bed so that Santa can come back.”
Later, once they’d set out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and were tucked in bed with the lights out, goodnights said, Dave and I would finish preparing for Christmas morning. Throughout those preparations we’d hear whispers and giggles coming from the children’s rooms.
However, if this went on too long, Dave would sneak outside, ring a set of sleigh bells (<-affiliate link) and then rush back inside and call upstairs, “Did you hear that? That was Santa going by. He can’t stop until you kids are all asleep.”
Sometimes it took a couple of bell ringing sessions before all was quiet in their rooms. We would sneak up and peek inside their door to make sure they were asleep. Then it was time for Santa to come.
The next morning when the children woke up they would find only cookie crumbs on the plate and carrots with bite marks nibbled out of them. And of course the stockings would be filled and gifts under the tree that had not been there the night before.
Our children are all grown now. This year, only our middle daughter and son will be with us for Christmas. And while Santa doesn’t visit anymore… this year, as in years past, when we go out for our drive to see the lights I will forget my purse in the house and then we return we will find that in our absence The Elves have made their yearly visit.
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