I’m probably gonna be the world’s oldest man one of these days, you guys, and I know exactly what I’ll say to their big question as they aim the cameras at my face and film me blowing out all those candles on my cake.
“I ate hard cheese and drank good red wine!” I’ll holler at them as I thump stinky cigar ash down on the nursing home tiles.” And I loved Christmas Eve so much that it loved me right back!”
Yet, listen. Now that I have three kids, two of them who (at 5 and 3) are old enough to get Christmas and Santa and all of it, I actually keep finding myself getting even more Christmas Eve-ish if that’s even possible. I’m serious; I’m walking straight into the waves, people, year after year/deeper and deeper out into it, out into that perfectly epic storm of nostalgia and reflection.
Have you ever seen a toddler staring up at the 7pm sky on the night before Christmas? Have you ever seen a kid you are in madly in love with nervously trying to spot a pin dot slow-gliding across the evening firmament? Oh my racing heart.
Maybe it’s the anticipation thing, huh?
I think it might be that.
Anyway. Here are 4 Things Parents Can Do to Soak Up That Christmas Eve Magic. It’s just a simple list of stuff I came up with for parents to hopefully help them rediscover Christmas Eve, to help ’em pull it in close and squeeze out the real joy without stressing out or losing the plot. I hope they hit home with you. Or at the very least, I hope they nudge you back towards the magic you’ve known about all along …
1. Beat the Santa Thing to Death!
Look, if you are lucky enough to still have kids who believe in Santa, don’t waste that magic. Do not, under any circumstances, avoid talking about Santa Claus and the fact that “He’s coming tonight!” Start at breakfast and get your kids involved, get them freaked and excited and let them spaz out all over the house or wherever. It’s worth it. Plus, they’ll be exhausted come bedtime.
The way I see it: when you’re just a kid and it starts to dawn on you that there is a fat elf king who flies around in a magical sleigh powered by reindeer that can soar, your life tends to take on a slightly different tone, you know? And when you toss in the fact that this Santa Claus guy doesn’t just whip by your house in a blur, but rather, he stops! And he comes in while you’re asleep! And he leaves you stuff — gifts, wonderful wonderful gifts — and candy and crap, that’s the best use of a child’s imagination that anyone anywhere has ever come up with.
So feed their heads. All day long. You will get off on it, trust me. And you deserve to.
2. Don’t Pretend You Hate Last Minute Shopping.
Yes, you need more wrapping paper. And Scotch tape. And you forgot the Old Spice “evening kit” you get for Uncle Lou every year since you were nine. That’s cool. Don’t act like you want to spend all of Christmas Eve day curled up by the fireplace (which you don’t even have) with a mug of spiced cider and some poems. That’s a bunch of bullsh*t.
Go shopping, fool! And take the rug rats with you! I mean, let’s be real here. You can claim to hate the consumerism of Christmas, to shun it’s flagrant commercial body odor, but no one really cares. The thing is, you see, there is unstoppable magic and joy happening out in the stores on Christmas Eve day. People are happy! They’re cheerful. They are out there oozing a certain kind of contagious giddiness that will be gone tomorrow until next year. So take your kids and spend an hour or two parking and then an hour or two walking around down at the mall/or over in your local box store/or downtown at that little overpriced boutique shop that sells handmade gifts from Third World countries and will be out of business in three months.
It’s American excitement. It’s a 21st century Christmas Eve thrill. Walk through the happy haze, buy your kids an Orange Julius, get yourself a cheese log for tonight, and then roll out smelling like other people’s happiness.
3. Be the Visitor, Even if it’s a “Bad Time.”
You need to drag your kids to at least one other person’s house sometime on Christmas Eve. Don’t worry if they want you to stop by or not. It’s doesn’t matter at all. People have seriously messed up over the last few decades by slowly choking the life out of the once sparkling eyes of Christmas Eve visiting and I’m on a mission to bring it back, yo.
I grew up at in the 70’s, during the tail end of the old days, when people got together on Christmas Eve. I spent years living at my grandparents and I remember vividly how old people would pop in all day long on December 24th, bringing tins of cookies and bottles of cheap Canadian whiskey. My Pop-Pop would sit at his kitchen table with the Christmas music station on his transistor and he would drink cans of beer and then fry up some bacon and all kinds of people who never came to visit us would be jammed in there like sardines until the whole room smelled liked candy canes and beer farts. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.
So do it. Visit somebody* you love. Or even somebody you just kind of tolerate. Give them a head’s up if you have to, but tell them you’re bringing the family over to see ’em and that you won’t be there long, but you want to see their tree and eat some sliced Walmart pepperoni with them because this time next year we could all be dead and who knows if there’s pepperoni in the next life.
4. Stay Up Late Setting Up the Scene (… And Maybe Have Some Wine).
Don’t try and put all the insane toys that you bought your sweet honey badgers together in the days leading up to Christmas Eve unless you really have to. Why? Well, because here’s the thing. I have experienced the hustling rush of setting up the whole Christmas Morning scene to perfection a few times now since my kids have come along. And even though every year I tell myself that this is MADNESS, and that I need to just relax on Christmas Eve once they go to bed, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing that would be better than reveling in the wonderful last minute chaos of turning my living room into a place of magic.
I think I need to admit it: I secretly enjoy trying to jam teeny screws into plastic wheels at 11:39pm on Christmas Eve. Yeah, I know I could be watching a movie and cuddling up with my special lady (psyche … I’m divorced and no one likes me) but I think I honestly really dig the bustle dance I find myself doing every Christmas Eve. I have a little red wine, turn on my Sinatra Christmas record, and bada-boom-bada-bing: I’m the happiest overgrown elf who ever lived, stuffing stockings with Hershey Kisses and Incredible Hulk Pez dispensers/wrapping presents/singing to myself/cursing the directions to the new toy train set/looking for the scissors (I just had those f***ers!)/and standing back to stare at my miraculous artwork when the last gift has been leaned ever so perfectly up under the tree and it’s 1:14am and I will be getting up in four hours to watch the best eyes I have ever known twinkling wide open as they throttle down the stairs like bulls and pour out into Christmas morning.
You’ll be exhausted. And it’ll be so beautiful.
*Full disclosure: it bums me out a little that Christmas Eve isn’t something that every human celebrates or gets to vibe on. I know it’s connected to Christianity and all, of course, and I have no problem with that, but still. There’s a part of me that wishes it was more universal, okay? It’s almost as if we ought to make Christmas Eve for everyone, everywhere, no matter what God you worship or don’t. That’s just me talking and please understand that I mean no disrespect at all, but … visiting people who don’t dig Christmas Eve ON Christmas Eve is still totally acceptable. And actually pretty damn awesome for both parties, if you ask me.
Image: S. Bielanko PrivateMore On