Christmas Eve is the most magical, wonder-filled night of the year.  We always went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  Back in the day, we had to fast before receiving holy communion so we were all starving by the time we returned home.  After a snack we were allowed to open ONE present. With the tree surrounded with presents (I am one of ten children!) picking one was both exciting and difficult.  We’d fall asleep by the tree, Christmas music in our ears, like a pile of puppies.

Years later I married the most kind and wonderful man.  But he wasn’t Catholic.  In fact, Markus wasn’t a church goer at all.  When we had children of our own I took the children to church while Markus stayed home to prepare a special dinner. As the years passed, Markus became more and more invested in his Christmas Eve dinners. In fact, they took on a life of their own!  At some point he began creating menus around a specific country.  Markus would surprise us with costumes to wear, or special china and table decorations.  One year we went to Russia and ate caviar and stroganoff.  There was the Hawaiian luau picnic sitting in front of the fire, a Swiss fondue, Italian pasta, a French dinner when we were introduced to Pere Frittard aka “Father Whipping,” (the kids really got into that one), Chinese meals that included candied bugs…  It’s been quite a journey over the years.  

Oh, did I mention that only the men cook?  No women allowed in the kitchen…until clean up duty. The ladies dress up and go to church on Christmas Eve.  We return at dusk to be greeted by carols playing and champagne!

We now have grandchildren and things are changing.  Markus and I travel to our children’s homes for the holiday.  Markus continues to prepare his Christmas Eve dinner but it’s been difficult in someone else’s kitchen.  

This year, however, we are traveling to Ohio where my son lives.  Zack is continuing the tradition in his home!  He is preparing his Christmas Eve feast with the help by phone from Markus.  I hear them laughing on the phone behind closed doors.  I don’t know what country we will be going to this year and I really don’t care.  We will have some dishes that are amazing, some just so-so, and lots of good wine to pair with the food.

Most of all, we will be together continuing a tradition that Markus and I began over thirty years ago because though we have different faiths, this is the time of year that families get together to celebrate love, hope and joy.  Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas?

Comments (6)

I love this tradition! I too grew up Catholic and married a man who wasn’t. We however don’t have children. Our Christmas Eve tradition is getting a $5.00 takeout pizza and driving through the local NASCAR track to look at their light display. It’s for charity. Then we go home and watch a movie we’ve been wanting to see. This year it’s “Finding Dory”!

What a wonderful tradition. I love reading about others traditions and how even over the years they may change but still in some ways stay the same. I was sitting having my coffee this Christmas Eve morning thinking about our traditions. This will be the first time in 59 years that my family will not open presents tonight but will wait till Christmas Day. It makes me sad but to brighten the light a little I decided to believe that we will now have a every other year different tradition. And that’s ok. We will still have a lovely meal with the family that is here and celebrate the love around the table. I guess as you get older you really do become a bit more wiser. Thank you for sharing your beautiful tradition. To you and your family, Merry Christmas!!!

As a child,, we dressed up and went to Christmas Eve service at the big Lutheran church in the snowy Midwest. We oohed and ahhhed at the beautiful Chrismons on the trees flanking the altar. The Christmas hymns gave us chills, especially “O Holy Night” even when our 6’4″ father sang off key 🙂 We listened intently to the Christmas message, and then returned home to open one gift, and snack on Mom’s famous cheeseball and fruit. When my older brother was 17, he saved his money and purchased our mother a tiny bottle of Chanel #5 perfume. She wept with disbelief. I kept his secret for weeks! Our beautiful mother always smelled so good. My father’s parents were married on Christmas Eve. It has always been my favorite part of Christmas.

Love your account of Christmas as it has changed over the years with your family. (I especially love your phrase, “Like a pile of puppies!” about you & your nine siblings around the Christmas tree! I can just picture it.) Do I see a blue & white kitchen valence & blue & white plates on the wall in the picture you posted? I love blue & white, and have it in my kitchen – well, ok, here & there all over my house! Now that my 4 children are grown, and we have 6 grandchildren, with 2 of the kids out-of-state, I have my big dinner and unwrapping gifts whenever I can have the most family here. Christmas, 2016 we gathered at our home the evening of the 23rd. A little odd, but when other families were busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were relaxing, watching movies and eating great leftovers! Not a bad trade. Your book, “A Lowcountry Christmas,” was a favorite gift from my daughter who recently moved to Charleston. Now I am ordering your other books and enjoying them, too. Thanks so much.

This is a “P.S.” “A Lowcountry Christmas” was the first of your books that I read. My favorite thing in the story was your right-on-point descriptions of family feelings, especially the mother’s. When you said, “– a mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child,” I knew YOU KNEW what’s in a mother’s heart. That is so true. I have started “The Summer Girls” and the rest of that series. Great reading!

Mary Alice Monroe

Cheryl, from one mother’s heart to another…thank you!

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