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!