Friday, December 24, 2021

Tonight? Or Tomorrow Morning?


That's one question that may help us delve into our roots: the traditions our families have held through the generations. Holiday traditions are prime exhibits: we've inherited the way we handle these special events, perhaps not even being aware of where they originated.

When families blend, one holiday question for those who celebrate Christmas is likely, "When do we open the gifts?" For some families, there is no question: the event is always on Christmas eve. For others, it would be unthinkable to jump ahead and open them before Christmas morning. But where did that custom come from? The answer may lead us to our ancestral story.

Mine is a family which blended both traditions. My own family was a Christmas morning kind of clan, while my husband's family kept the Christmas Eve tradition. So now, we do a little of both.

Perusing all the photos I've gathered from the collection of Marilyn Sowle Bean, I spotted a few Christmas pictures, including this one which clearly showed a family accustomed to celebrating with gifts on Christmas Eve.

With Marilyn's Scandinavian roots, it's no surprise to learn that her grandparents came from a Lutheran tradition, so for her children, Christmas Eve meant a traditional evening church service, followed by a gift exchange later that night. While my own family's Christmas morning photos might have included kids cuddled up in their pajamas and bunny slippers, Marilyn's family was still dressed in their church-going clothes when they posed for the evening's photos.

No matter which way your family chose to follow their December traditions, I wish you the best for this holiday season.

Above: Christmas Eve gifts for Greg and Judy; from the photograph collection of their mother, Marilyn Sowle Bean, December 1964.

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