Christmas Morning Wake Up CallChristmas is my favorite holiday. The music, the baking, giving and receiving presents, parties and good food, getting together with family and friends. My family and I (okay, mostly “I”) have several traditions we’ve kept since my girls were little. Some might say I’m a little anal. I shudder at “controlling”. I like to think of it as making the most of every moment. Of finding comfort in routine and remembering times past, where we were when we did the same thing ten years ago, five years ago. Enjoying every single moment with my family.
Each year we make gingerbread houses from scratch. Sometimes we make gingerbread neighborhoods, complete with a frozen pond in the center, with each of us creating our own home. One year we had a gingerbread small town downtown with a dance studio, beauty salon and city hall. It’s a lot of work, but we enjoy spending the time together, not to mention the sweets we snack on while we’re baking and building.
Christmas Eve we attend mass together, then afterwards we take a leisurely drive through area neighborhoods singing carols in the car and admiring the lights and decorations. My girls are always chomping at the bit to open a present before bed. Me, I’m all for anticipation, the buildup to the big day, the excitement of finding out what’s under the tree on Christmas morning. But, being a softie, I gave in years ago and we open one present Christmas Eve. For years everyone selected their present. Now we’ve started another tradition- Christmas pajamas. We all still unwrap a gift on Christmas Eve, but my girls expect it to be their Christmas pjs. No surprises, but we know we’ll be comfy while we sleep and wait for Santa.
Before bed we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Christmas Story. We’ll sing “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” while one of the girls places baby Jesus in the manger. It’s been empty all season while we awaited His arrival. Tonight’s His big night. Thanks to Him and Santa, tomorrow will be a marvelous day.
Christmas morning turns into a free-for-all, but we start off in an orderly fashion. When my girls were younger, they came to wake my husband and me up as soon as their eyes popped open. We’d run to get the cameras, holler when we were ready, and then, as then raced into the living room, we’d start snapping away in an attempt to capture their joy on film. As my girls grew older, we’d all decide on a time to wake up. The older one wanted to sleep in, the younger one couldn’t wait to see what Santa had snuck under the tree. We’d compromise on a wakeup time, after much haggling, then hit the sack.
It was during one of these “wake up time haggling” years that we experienced one of our sweetest holiday moments. We’d traveled to Key West to spend the holidays with my parents and younger brother. He’d given up his room for my family—all 5 of in one double bed and an air mattress. Before bed we had settled on an 8 am rally the troops timeframe.
Of course, one of the girls woke up before the sun rose to ask the time. This woke up another, followed by the third. My husband mumbled that it wasn’t quite 5 am. The girls groaned, but quieted, sharing the occasional whisper for several minutes.
Just as they settled down, we heard movement in the kitchen. A cabinet door opened, dishes rattled, the oven beeped, the faucet splashed water. Gasps of shock reverberated through our room. Tension and suspense blanketed us.
I froze, waiting, hoping the girls would go back to sleep and ignore the noise. I knew it was mom putting the Puerto Rican pork in the oven, and I had three hours of sleep ahead of me. Not to mention I’d been up late finalizing the Santa preparations. Those three hours were sounding pretty good right about then.
A hush settled around us. My eyes drifted closed. Sweet slumber gently beckoned.
Suddenly my four- year old’s whisper broke the silence. “Oh my gosh, Santa’s washing the dishes for us.”
A beat of hushed awe replied before the rest of us broke into guffaws of laughter. I can’t even tell you if we woke up for good, or if we settled back down for a little more shut eye. I’m sure my girls remember. As I’ve aged my memory has become selective. I like to think it doesn’t matter whether we went to sleep or hung out in our room until everyone else was awake.
What I do remember is laughing with my girls and my husband in the dark, surrounded by love, joy and the anticipation of good things to come.