NORMAN — The first Christmas after we were married, my wife and I were having a discussion about my Christmas traditions as a child. She says incredulously, “What do you mean you opened all your Christmas presents on Christmas EVE? Santa doesn’t come until Christmas MORNING.”
To which I respond, matter of fact, “Santa came while we were performing in the children’s Christmas Eve program at church. Of course when we got home, we couldn’t go into the house right away because mom first had to “check to see if Santa had been here yet.” (As we got older, we eventually figured out what mom was really doing).
Shaking her head, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Perhaps, but that’s the way it was in the small (mostly German) town in central Kansas where I grew up attending a Lutheran church with a mother of 100 percent German ancestry. The German traditions were still observed in my family, and that included Santa delivering his presents (and us opening them) before we went to bed on Christmas Eve.
Stranger still, when I was old enough to be in the church youth group, the tradition of Christmas caroling had a unique twist. Probably because we were finished opening our presents the night before, we would meet at 6 a.m. on Christmas Day to go caroling to all the church shut-ins and to the nursing home and hospital. I look back on this now and think, “There is no way I would get up that early on Christmas morning to start caroling at 6 a.m. in the freezing cold and snow,” However, at the time we didn’t know any better. Plus, the priceless memories have remained with me more than 30 years later.
What a gift we were able to deliver to those folks who were away from family in a nursing home, sick at the hospital or even the staff who had to work on Christmas morning. The delight, joy and gratitude across every face melted away my sleepiness as we sang our hearts out.
Besides, the warm, homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate waiting for us back at the church were added incentive.
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