I've never been a sentimental person. I can count on one hand the amount of material things that I have an emotional connection to: my "Bear" from when I was a kid, my Mei-ma's beaded hummingbird ornament, and a sweet drawing my daughter made for me when she was little.
I've just never been the type to cling to a possession with intensity.
I do, however, deeply cherish my memories of special experiences.
My heart hurts a little bit (actually, a lot) knowing that I'll never have another Christmas at my Mei-ma's house. Every year, we would celebrate with cousins and friends running amok, loud laughter shared over the dinner table, and the smell of roasting turkey and ham in the air. One year, I was finally old enough to join the adults at the big table, but still young enough that I got to open presents in the first go-round with the kids. The once-or-twice-a-year recipes I looked forward to for months were finally within reach, and I would sneakily make my way into the kitchen to steal a few bites before dinner.
And the leftovers!
Oh, the leftovers!
Our extended family usually numbered into the mid-twenties in attendance, but we would cook like there was no tomorrow and everyone would leave with goody bags for days. I lived next door to Mei-ma, so I was there every day. We would feast like kings for a solid week.
When we got married, my husband (Kyle) and I knew we wanted to make our own new traditions around the holidays. Kyle's childhood Christmases were usually spent shuffling between one parent's household and the other, split between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The majority of his memories at the holidays centered around feeling rushed and he doesn't always look back on them with fondness. Because of this, we chose to create a very special tradition just for us that began the year our daughter, Hailey, was born. We created The Christmas Eve Box.
Every year on Christmas Eve, we open The Christmas Eve Box. We don't make any other plans for that evening after we come home from our church's Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. No family functions, no other events. We guard that time together and make it a priority. Sometimes we aren't able to open the box until well after dark, but it always happens that night.
Inside the box is magic. I usually don't tell my husband what I've put in the box, as I love seeing his face when he sees the surprises inside. He's like a little kid again, just as excited as our daughter if not more! The Christmas Eve Box isn't expensive. I don't add anything fancy. I always include new pajamas for each of us. They are a MUST (I casually mentioned that I might not include them this year and both my husband and my daughter insisted that they were a vital part of the tradition!) Last year, even our dogs got new jammies! I also include various boxes of candy from Dollar Tree and maybe hot cocoa packets.
When Hailey was little, I would buy us a Christmas movie DVD to watch together that evening, but as she's gotten older, it has become harder to find a movie that we either hadn't already seen or one we would all enjoy. So, for the last few years I've added in a new game for us to play. Last year I bought Giant Sorry and we sat in the living room floor playing for over an hour!
The Christmas Eve box isn't about the presents inside. Not really. What it represents to us is FAMILY. Spending time together is the greatest gift we can give our kiddo. Intentionally choosing to prioritize her, and us, on a holiday that can easily get filled with to-do's and places-to-be speaks value to one another. It says "I enjoy spending time with you." It says, "we want to be with you more than anybody else tonight, and we made time and space for that to happen."
And above all else, it says "I love you."
Christmas isn't about the material things. It's not about the most expensive new clothes or the fanciest gadget. It's easy to get caught up in that mindset, but when we remember the true meaning of Christmas - that God loved the world so much that He gave us His Son so that we could have a relationship with Him - well, then those temporary things just don't matter as much.
What matters is love. God loves us. And because He shares His love with me, I can freely share that love with others. I can start with my family. And THAT is what The Christmas Eve Box is all about.