When I was a kid, every year on Christmas Eve our dad would unmercifully tease my brothers and I about the prospect of opening “just one” present that night. The excitement would build all evening as we eyed the gifts under the tree trying to decide just which one we would select. It never failed, Dad’s warped sense of humor got the biggest thrill out of driving us crazy with anticipation knowing we weren’t opening anything until Christmas morning. He would always laugh — we never thought it was that funny.
The older I get, the more I see how much I am like my father, especially when it comes to my own children at Christmas.
When my oldest son, who is now 17, was about 2 years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a Tickle Me Elmo. Before the toy exploded in popularity, I purchased one. But when it came to opening his gifts on Christmas morning, the stuffed toy was no where to be found.
After all was said and done that morning, I asked him for help in a cabinet where he was surprised by one last present — Elmo. It was so exciting to see his reaction and I’ll never forget his smiles and laughter as he played with his new toy.
I remembered that day years later as I was trying to think of a way to add some excitement to Christmas morning as the boys were getting older and the thrill of opening gifts had lost some of its luster. So, I decided I was going to take their best gifts and hide them. Instead of opening a box with Guitar Hero or an Ipod, the boys found clues that would lead them throughout the house to find even more clues. I sent them in search of cereal boxes, sugar bowls, sock drawers, tool boxes, the bottom of trash cans — anywhere the clues took them until they found their beautifully wrapped gift.
This has become a tradition with us for several years and it’s been fun to challenge their thought processes and watch them work together when one or the other one gets stuck on a clue. At first they were hesitant to admit they liked the thrill of searching for their gift but now that the truth is out, they’ve turned the table on me and last year they hid all of my gifts. I’ve learned it is much more fun to trick them than to find my own gifts. Regardless of who gets stuck and begs for mercy on Christmas morning, the point is that we are all in it together creating our own Christmas memories.
As I look back at how Christmas has evolved down our family tree, I can only imagine the traditions my boys will start with their own children .... many, many years from now.