My husband’s family, at the end of World War II, had to wait clear until the third week of January to have Christmas, because one of his brothers was coming home from the war and was delayed week after week. The little kids got to open up all the things in their stockings, but the tree was left up and all the packages sat under it as the time slowly passed. You can imagine the little kids peeking into the living room day after day to make sure their things were still there, hoping the day would hurry that Grant would come home and they could open their presents.
Christmases at their house did not start early in the morning. First, Mother Wahlquist made a big pot of oatmeal, and everybody had to eat a big bowl. She figured that with all the candy and goodies they were about to consume, they had better start the day with something nourishing. Then they were allowed to open their stockings and start opening gifts.
One year when Christmas fell on Sunday, they went to Sunday School before they opened their packages. All the other kids at Sunday School asked, “What did you get? What did you get?” and were aghast to find out the whole family had not gotten up early enough to open things beforehand.
In the Andrews household, the kids got up very, very early, but they were under strict orders to be quiet enough that the parents did not have to wake up with them. We were allowed to open our stockings and enjoy all the fruit, nuts, and toys in them. We had to wait for our parents to get up before we could open anything else. We didn’t have to eat a big breakfast, but we were expected to eat the fruit in the stockings, at least an orange.
Nowadays our main Christmas tradition is to gather on Christmas eve and read the Christmas story from Luke 2, with the story of the wise men in Matthew 2. We think of our Savior and His birth, and about His life, His example, His sacrifice for us, and why He is our main gift.
Some years we also read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol aloud to one another, but this year was not one of those times.
I remember one very early Christmas in my life—it was when I was still sleeping in a crib and wearing “sleeping bag” pajamas, which meant it was when I was only about 17 months old. I awoke some time in the night and wondered if Santa Claus had come yet. I had four older brothers, and they had apparently told me all about Santa Claus. My brother Larry was responsible for one of the bars being gone from near the end of my crib, and I slithered out between the bars.
Carefully I balanced myself in my pajamas with my feet at the corners of the zippered bag and walked stiff-legged down the hallway, which was lighted by a pink light bulb, to the corner where I peered around into the living room. The tree was a big dark mass, and so was the fireplace. They were maybe a little scary. In fact, they were scary. I turned and hurried as fast as I could go without falling over.
When I got back to my crib, I forgot to turn sideways and got stuck trying to get back in. I started to cry, but I immediately thought, “Mommy and Daddy will be mad if they know I got out,” and I was afraid Santa Claus would take away all my presents. Stopping made me think, and thinking made me remember to turn sideways. I climbed in and gathered my “blanky” up to my cheek and fell asleep.
Have a merry Christmas, everyone, and may the peace the angels sang about that first Christmas come fill your hearts.