Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Essential Christmas Eve

I really need to be taking a nap in preparation for the festivities of this afternoon and evening.  But first I want to write about Christmas Eve, while it’s all still fresh and lovely in my mind.

I am not good at having lots and lots of holiday traditions.  A couple of years ago in an attempt to both simplify our holiday season and at the same time make sure that everyone got the traditions that were important to them, we had a survey.  It was interesting to see what things were important, and it allowed me to let other things drop out of our schedule.   I was very happy that no one said their favorite Christmas tradition was reading a special story every night, because I really stink at that one. 

The holiday tradition that is perhaps the most important to me is our family Christmas Eve.  Some of this came from bits and pieces of my own family’s traditions, and some Russ & I have added as our children have grown.  For me, Christmas Eve has become the pinnacle of our celebration of the birth of our Savior.

We start our celebration every year with a book that Cindy Lynn was given in preschool many years and many miles away; it makes me smile every time we bring it out.  It’s called The Christmas Pageant.


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The Christmas Pageant tells the Christmas story, interspersed with the appropriate Christmas songs.  The illustrations are adorable pictures of children preparing their own Christmas pageant. (Of course we substituted Angels We Have Heard on High for Hark the Herald.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?) (Some years we sing both, but I’m still so hoarse from my recent illness that I had to limit the amount of singing last night.)

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After we read of the nativity from the New Testament, we switch gears to the nativity story in the New World.  The Book of Mormon account of the first Christmas has always been close to my heart.  (In fact I blogged about it here.)  We have two different books that we’ve used to read about this with our kids on Christmas Eve.  First we had this one.


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A couple of years ago we got this one, which is a lovely story with beautiful illustrations.  I’m not sure it’s what I was looking for, though—it’s a little more story and a little less scripture than I was after. 

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I could tell last night that next year we’ll just read this story straight from the scriptures.

After the Nephite Christmas story we moved on to a story from my childhood Christmas Eves, “The Other Wise Man.”  My dad used to read from the original story by O’Henry, leaving out long passages (and pages) of narrative.  Lucky for us someone made a beautiful abridged version.  (I also saw a non-animated movie version at the bookstore the other day…may have to investigate that before next year.) 

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The story of The Other Wise Man always leaves me feeling teary by the end.  So it was probably a good thing that Josh decided he wanted to read for us last night.  

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Now normally we would be almost done at this point, but last night we had an addition to our book-reading line up.  I won this extraordinary book in a drawing on my friend Mommy J's blog a few weeks ago.  I had hoped to use it for a December family night, but then I got sick and there went that idea.  We added it to our Christmas Eve reading last night, and I think next year we’ll read it for a family night in early December.  It will set the tone for our Christmas season beautifully by reminding us of how we can be reminded of Christ by all of the Christmas symbols around us.

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You can see all of the beautiful watercolors from the book here.  You can also read the interesting story of how this book came to be here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6


Finally we finish up our Christmas Eve with Russ’s family tradition, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas.”  This is the only part of our evening that is about Christmas rather than about Christ, so I always end the evening feeling an enormous sense of gratitude for the amazing gift of the Savior’s birth and life. 


I hope your Christmas Eve was wonderful as well!

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about other people's traditions. I feel like we're starting to establish some of our own...but just barely. I've been thinking a lot about what we really want to have as traditions vs. what might be fun if we have a little extra time one Christmas season...