She loved Christmas Eve. Christmas was always so much fun, so lovely, but Christmas Eve was extra special, magical in a way that only the holiest of nights can be.
Most of the day on Christmas Eve was spent finishing up in the kitchen on all those handmade goodies–cookies, candies, gingerbread, and hot cocoa mix– before we delivered baskets of them to neighbors and friends in the afternoon. Then the four of us, Mom, Dad, my brother, and I, would gather at home.
Mom would set out the Christmas Eve spread: crackers and cheese, summer sausage, fruit, nuts, and homemade candies. While we ate, we watched A Christmas Carol (the one with George C Scott and the terrible little Tiny Tim). I thought the ghost of Christmas past was so beautiful until she smiled her wicked smile. And I swear, I still hear the freaky ghost music in my nightmares every so often. But goodness, how I love that story!
After the movie, Mom would light the red Christmas candles and turn off all the other lights in the house besides the Christmas tree. Dad would read aloud the Christmas story from Luke in his Bible while the rest of us listened and sipped cocoa stirred with peppermint sticks.
Then we’d sit together in the living room and sing Christmas carols until we were too tired to hold up our heads. Us kids were ushered to bed until Mom woke us up (or told us it was okay to come out of our rooms) in the morning, singing songs like Blue Christmas and Me and Little Andy.
Christmas Eve was the culmination of a year’s worth of her brilliant work as a homemaker. It was her thinking of everyone besides herself and being so happy about it. It was the sweet anticipation of beautiful things to come, of gifts given and gifts received. It was and still is everything Christmas is meant to be.