Christmas Eve

We have to make reindeer food, of course. Reindeer prefer chocolate and Chex, and you wouldn’t want the reindeer to go hungry.


The kids leave a snack out for Santa, too. It’s a well-known fact that Santa is a big fan of cheese.


Our family tradition is that we turn off all of the lights in the evening, eat by candlelight, and eat a traditional Christmas Eve dinner made from food that people would have eaten during Jesus’s time.

The kids are excited, and they scamper through the house collecting candles.


Every Christmas Eve, we read The Story of the Other Wise Man at dinner.


Dad starts cooking up the fish. It’s going to be tilapia (a well-known favorite of the ancient Hebrews). The olive oil represents the oil in lamps. The bread crumbs represent the bread of life. (They’re Italian-style, symbolizing the Christ-centered message of the Book of Romans.)


Dad manages not to burn the fish. We don’t have any challah this year — it’s a lot harder to find in Cali than in New York — but we do have some only-slightly-stale (?) matzos that Mom found in the pantry. Plus olives, and grape juice, and butter, and honey. Yum!


Dinner is wonderful. No grape juice is spilled (though it’s a close call, twice). Dad tears up a little at the end of The Other Wise Man, like he does every year.


After dinner, the children propose a new tradition: Making a Nativity scene entirely out of Peeps. The parents aren’t entirely sold on the idea, but the project ends surprisingly well. Dad starts out with the vague sense that it might be a sin to make a Peep Jesus, but by the end even Dad has to admit that little marshmallow Jesus is awfully cute.


Now it’s time to light our Menorah. We’ve been having debates about the proper candle order for the past few days (except Day 2, when we forgot to light it altogether). Dad gets on Wikipedia and settles it — light the center candle first, then from the outside in.


We leave the Menorah burning in the window.


Finally, each kid gets to open one present. (Daughter proposes changing the tradition to two presents, but her parents are mean and refuse to budge.) The tally: One toy car/helicopter set, one ping-pong ball gun, and a CD with some of Daughter’s favorite songs.


The kids are still bouncing off walls (they have been all day), but it’s time to go to bed. Teeth are brushed, prayers said. There are a few last-minute trips to the bathroom, and then the kids settle reluctantly into beds, while Mom and Dad start cleaning up the mess. Tomorrow, they’ll be up early to see what kinds of gifts Santa brought. No getting up before seven, they are admonished (Son1 grumbles; he had been hoping for a 5 a.m. start), and no opening any presents until everyone is there.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


  1. Merry Christmas Kaimi. That was a fun read on an early Christmas morning.

  2. The pictures aren’t showing up for me but I love the descriptions. Merry Christmas!

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Great traditions! Thanks for sharing with us.

    On Monday Night Football, Tony Kornheiser said he learned from Adam Sandler that after the center you start the candle lighting at the right and move left, so there must be different traditions of candle lighting order if Wikipedia has a different view.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    They didn’t show up for me, either, Nora, but I clicked on the first one and was sent to a webpage where I could view them all as a slide show.

  5. The Kid made a nativity scene out of Bionicles. I don’t think that was his intent, but it sure looks like one.

    Merry Christmas, my BCC Buds.

  6. Hmm — I think I fixed the coding on the pictures, they should be showing up now.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  7. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner isn’t inspired by history like yours, but it is somewhat motivated by perhaps some the same thoughts. We eat our “meager meal”: some apple or orange slices, some bread, some cheese, and water. And we do it by candlelight, usually while sitting near the Christmas tree in the living room. It helps remind us of the poverty and simplicity within which the Christmas story began, thus helping to set the tone before we leave for Christmas Eve services (this year at the Methodist church where Alison attends preschool), especially following a whole long day of giddy anticipation.

    After the services, it’s off to bed for everyone except the parents, who stay up to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, every year. It’s scripture, after all.

    Great pictures, Kaimi. Merry Christmas to one and all.

  8. Our rule was that a glimmer of light had to be showing through the window, which is about 6:30 in socal. But the kids are now 17 and 23, and one just got up, because he had forgotten to turn his iphone alarm off. The 17 year old’s still not up. Kind of nice, and kind of sad.

    The 17 year old’s friends added a yeti and a pillsbury dough boy to our nativity set a few days ago, and I’ve just left them there.

  9. My fave part is the Italian breadcrumbs.

  10. Dude, everybody knows Santa loves chocolate chip cookies and egg nog.

  11. I love these Christmas eve traditions. They’re beautiful and fun.

  12. Wonderful photos. Given the combination of kids, lighter, candles, wrapping paper and a tree….you are wise to keep a fire extinguisher close at hand next to the piano.

    Thanks for sharing your family’s tradition, and Merry Christmas!

  13. The Peeps nativity scene looks at first glance too much like something else.

    Unique Bedroom Slippers

  14. Fun traditions! The Peeps nativity scene is adorable. (Fortunately I was able to load the picture on my screen and didn’t have to resort to using a Peepstone to view it.)

  15. thurn baker says:

    This house could not be more middle-class.