Tradition of Christmas Eve

Animated Christmas 2011

When the page is fully loaded, the image will scroll through. We had fun taking this picture!

Our Christmas Eve is spent preparing for the celebrative birth of Jesus. There is commotion going on all day. Here is a list of things we do:

  1. Songs. We play Christmas songs on our surround sound system all day long. Cynthia has a huge Christmas song playlist, and I like to put on “Classical Christmas” on Pandora.
  2. Present prep. The kids wrap their final presents. Everyone gets gifts for everyone. Fourteen kids at home X 14 gifts = 196 gifts. Not including Wendy and mine (we wrap ours at night). Of course, the little kids don’t give as much as they receive, but the older ones are really into the giving.
  3. Cooking. Cooking prep for Christmas. We eat more tomorrow than today. The ham will be taken out to thaw, and Wendy may have to run to the store to get last-minute items.
  4. Evening celebration. Our evening is the spiritual celebration of Christmas. We read from Luke, we finish up our Advent book (this year it’s Tabitha), we open and add to our Thankful Ornament, and we give gifts to Jesus.
  5. Planning “gifts to Jesus.” These are short performances or a creation of some kind – a drawing, a poem, a song, playing an instrument, etc. The children will spend time preparing their gifts.

We love our Christmas Eve traditions, and the kids do too. They always try to persuade me to allow them “just one gift opening” the night before, but I refuse. I think I allowed it once in the 1990s – a time of weakness on my part – and trying to persuade me again on Christmas Eve has become a tradition of itself. No, we focus on the greatest of all the gifts, Jesus, on the eve of His birth.

They also try to change the rules for Christmas morning. We’ll have some waking at 2:30 am, and if we don’t stay firm on the rules, they’d gladly wake the entire household and there’d be restless chaos. So here’s our rule. The kids may rise at 5:00 and only unstuff their stocking, and they are NOT allowed to wake up their siblings. At 6:30, they are allowed to wake up the rest of the family, and we’ll get on with the gift opening.

What about you? How do you celebrate Christmas Eve? Or Christmas morning? We LOVE to read of other’s traditions, so share away…

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • Snits Nicole

    I remember the day my kids appeared fully dressed at 3 in the morning! We had an additionnal rule… the house had to be tidy and beds made before oppening our gifts!
    We are 8 and it is already chaos… what can it be when you are near to 20!!
    Joyeux noël!

    • Chris Jeub

      Clean the house before getting mom and dad up? Oh, yeah, I like that one!

  • Jennifer Mull

    We have a Christmas eve service to attend… afterwards the kids do get one present, but it is their new pajamas!

    Christmas morning, after the traditional picture at the top of the stairs:
    1. Open stockings
    2. Eat breakfast
    3. (This year) go to church
    4. Open one gift (we have four: Mind, Body, Soul, & Spirit– mind is educational, body is clothing or bedding, soul is usually a devotional or Christian music cd, etc., and spirit is the gift they want or would be in line with their interests. To get the “mind” gift, they have to answer a bible trivia question that Mom asks
    5. Free time while dinner is prepared
    6. Lunch/ Clean-up– Salisbury steak (frozen entree,) instant mashed potatoes and veggies– feels like a fancy dinner, but really very little prep time.
    7. The annual Christmas Trivial Pursuit game played in teams
    8. Open Body gift — each person must perform a trick!
    9. Watch the Nativity movie or play a game
    10. Read Luke 2 from an antique children’s Christmas book we were given.
    11. Open Soul gift– each person has to tell us something they were thankful for in 2011
    12. Rest or play a game
    13. Open Spirit gift- each person has to sing part of a Christmas carol

    By this time, it is early evening, and Christmas lasted all day long instead of being over in a 15 minutes frenzy. We developed these traditions slowly over the years. The nice thing about opening the gifts this way is that everyone seems very satisfied throughout the day…. no big let down…. we have no other family to visit on Christmas Day, so we needed a schedule to help us make the most of the whole day, as a family, not a fun morning that lasted a few minutes, then felt like a normal everyday kind of day…. the kids look forward to it, and even our adult sons expect the tradtions we have laid out over the years.

    • Chris Jeub

      Gee, I wish I was one of your kids growing up. All day Christmas at the Mulls!

  • Beka

    We have Christmas Eve “Pizza and PJs.” When my husband gets home from work, everyone gets into their pajamas and we spend good family time together. This year, we’re making a pizza. We read a few Christmas books to our older daughter, and act out the Chrsitmas story with her Little People manger set. This year– at my 2 year old’s request–  we are starting the tradition of baking Birthday cupcakes for Jesus to eat tomorrow.

    • Chris Jeub

      PJs seem to be a consistant theme in traditions. I like!

  • Anonymous

    On Christmas Eve we play Christmas music all day, make the Christmas pie, and go to the children’s Christmas Eve service.  Once we get home from mass we eat the Christmas pie and the kids get to open presents from their aunts and uncles.  Christmas morning the festivities don’t start till 6 and then the unwrapping begins!

    • Chris Jeub

      Christmas pie sounds better than cake to me. Sleeping with sugar plums in their heads! Very cool.

  • tess

    I just wanted to say you have such a beautiful family. Yours is a family obviously full of Christ’s joy and love. Thank you for sharing your Christmas traditions. It is such a blessing to me to see a family like yours! Merry Christmas! love, tess

    • Chris Jeub

      Why thank you, Tess! We love Jesus, that’s for sure, and His love is plentiful for every family. God bless your Christmas with lots of it!

  • Camden

    I am glad to see the fun your family has on Christmas! It is great that you celebrate with presents and still honor your faith in Jesus. When I was a child we also had a time, I think it was 6AM that we were not allowed to wake others before. The excitment certainly makes it hard to sleep. Merry Christmas!

  • Tammie E..

    We really dont have ‘traditions’ persey, we just do whatever. Alot of times just a usual day for us as we arent big on the holidays. Even more so this year.

  • Ninabi

    Our children are grown so our celebration is quite scaled back.  We let go of traditions back in 2003 when they were still growing up.  My husband was in Iraq and it was just the three of us.  The approaching holiday was making us feel worse about him being gone.
    Nobody wanted to put up the tree.  And so, we didn’t.  We still did our traditional Christmas Eve appetizer/soup dinner and opened gifts and we were happy- we sent pictures back and forth via email to Kirkuk and we were grateful he was safe.

    Christmas still felt like Christmas without the tree and so it continued.  We put up lights outside and bake spritz cookies and are happy to be together.

    My husband had to take a position out of state and the children and I had to stay in Colorado so my daughter could graduate.  At Christmas I packed kids and a cat and a parrot into the van and drove 1000 miles southwest. 

    All we were grateful for that Christmas was ice-free roads and the joy of being together once again.  But we looked at the calendar and went, Holy cow! Tomorrow is Christmas!!! We hadn’t bought a single gift.  So, it was decided- we’d head to the jam packed mall and pick one small item for each of the other family members.  Everybody would have three gifts to open.  Small stuff- things to make us smile.

    I don’t even remember what we wrapped them with.  Didn’t matter.  The sun set, we gathered around the table and enjoyed being together.

    And we’ve continued this no-tree, less is more, tradition.  If we had small children (or grandchildren, hopefully some day) things would be different.  But for right now, we are grateful for clear roads and clear skies that bring us all back together for a brief shining sweet time at Christmas.

    Enjoy your wonderful family and all the memories you are creating today!!!

  • Amy Woolley Pederson

    On Christmas Eve day, we have a large meal, usually starting at 2pm consisting of turkey or ham along with whatever we feel like fixing.  This is when we invite family or friends over to celebrate with us.  After the meal, somewhere between 4 and 6 we head out to do a little caroling.  There are some dear friends in town that we like to sing for and we bring along plates of homemade goodies to hand out.  If our neighbors are home we sing for them as well, with our final stop at a good friend’s home for cider, hot chocolate and goodies.  We usually practice the caroling first at home to figure out what we want to sing, and to make sure we are at least in the right octave we tote our keyboard and stand with us.  After we come home, the kids plead with us to open up one present.  (“Pleeeeeeeeease let us open up just one???”  – sound familiar?)  Some years we let them, some years we don’t.  This year they were able to open up one gift.  Then before bed we read the Christmas story from the Bible and a few other special books. 

    On Christmas morning the kids are able to empty out their stockings and open those gifts whenever they wake up.  (Our stocking stuffers differ from year to year.  One year I bought them all finger nail clippers, lip balm, a bag of microwave popcorn and a packet of hot chocolate.  This year I wrapped up the most identifiable gifts, such as a box of Hot Tamales, or a slinky.) We have never had kids that were up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning so we don’t have any rule about what time to get up.  This year with Christmas being on Sunday, we got ready for church, and Dad cooked his famous omelets.  After church, we handed out the gifts and proceeded to unwrap one at a time from the youngest to the oldest. One child is assigned to garbage bag duty and walks around as the children are opening the gifts and collects the trash. 

    Our biggest tradition is having frozen pizzas on Christmas Day.  It started 5 years ago when 9 of our 10 children had chicken pox over Christmas.  Everybody stayed in their pajamas all day, we opened up gifts, played, watched movies and didn’t have any big meal.  It was a few months later that we heard the children excitedly telling a friend that it was the “best Christmas ever”!  It made me stop and think about having a big meal.  It takes everybody working together to pull it off and it was important only to me.  So we compromise by having it on Christmas Eve and then spending Christmas Day more relaxed.  (Frozen pizza is a big deal for our kids as we usually make our own pizza.  But the point is to spend the least amount of time cooking as possible.)  Along with the pizza we usually make egg nog.  It is consumed with great delight.  Also, we have root beer floats on Christmas in memory of my father who passed away two years ago.  His favorite root beer was Frostop and it is just our way of including his memory in our tradition. 

    Christmas gifts are different every year.  We don’t have any formula for them.  A lot of the children’s gifts are second hand, or things I pick up at the thrift store.  I find games, books, clothes, toys, latch hook kits, almost anything and I tuck it away starting in September/October.  When December rolls around I take out my stash and divide it up to see which children have gifts and which chidren don’t. We also have the kids submit wish lists to help us in deciding what to buy.  Some of the grandparents send money and have us buy the gifts, then wrap and put their names on them.  In past years we have had each child buy a gift for every other child.  This year we tried something different for the youngest kids under the age of 10.  We had them draw names and we did a gift exchange that way, so each child got a little gift, priced at $5 or less.  It eliminated the dollar store gifts and each child got something a little nicer.  The older children like to buy a gift for each person and have learned to be thrifty in their spending. This year the kids donated money to their favorite charities in lieu of gifts from their uncle.  It was such a great idea that we plan to incorporate this every year. 

    We hope your Christmas was very merry and we will be sending out our Christmas picture and letter soon!!

  • kimberly Schrode Lawson

    I love Christmas Eve mass it is beautiful and peaceful.  The readings are amazing.  I especially love to hear the geneology of Jesus.  This goes well with my little family because we keep a Jesse tree during Advent. (this comes from Isaiah There shall come forth a shoot from the tree of jesse. The ornaments on the Jesse tree go along with a story in the old testament and we share them during Advent.  My son gets 3 gifts one from Santa, one from mom, and one from the baby Jesus.  I like the idea of giving Jesus a gift too. that is very special.

  • Travis Stephanie Fehler

    We have a meat fondue with garlic bread and usually a caesar salad (beef, shrimp, chicken and tempura with mushrooms) – three or four dips…  and a HUGE platter of chocolates on Christmas Eve.  (my husband’s mom always did huge individual platters, but with seven children, that’s too many smushed chocolates in the upholstery.  So we make one or two big platters and everyone has plenty :)…) After dinner, we read the Christmas story from the Bible, and open our presents…  this year we had two elves pass our presents (our 7 and 9 yo) and two people could open presents at a time (we are expecting #8 this spring)

    This year, Christmas day was on Sunday, so they opened their stockings when they woke up, then we all went to church – then a big turkey dinner when we got home.  We always buy books for one of their presents, so everyone plays with toys or reads on a comfy couch for Christmas Eve evening and Christmas day…

    I love Christmas at home with my children :)