TBT^2: Christmas Eve

Well, it’s not exactly Christmas Eve—more like Christmas Eve Eve, which probably has some liturgical significance that my Southern-fried Protestantism doesn’t know or appreciate—but given the way Christmas is falling this year, as well as my own laziness, I thought it’d be worth looking back at this classic Christmas Eve post, with my timeless “Christmas and Its Symbols” post for Flashback Friday tomorrow.

That scheduling also lets me do my beloved “^2” addendum with the titles, adding another layer of Talmudic-esque commentary onto my past scribblings:  the ultimate in authorial self-indulgence.

Of course, the season isn’t about my half-baked musings about Christmas, Christmas Eve, or the rest.  It’s about the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I wrote last year, Christmas Eve seems to perfectly capture the spirit of mystery of that night, “a night full of magic, mysticism, and wonder.”  Christmas Day is a flurry of activity:  opening presents, yelling at parents to wake up, cleaning up piles of wrapping paper.  Christmas Eve, especially Christmas Eve night, has always seemed more mystical, more reflective—the true celebration of Christ’s Birth.

It was also the night my Aunt Cheryl—the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—used to throw her big, bodacious Christmas Eve bash, featuring her incredible lasagna.  So maybe that’s why it fills my heart with a warm, fuzzy feeling (these days, it’d be a welcome dose of heartburn—totally worth it for a thick section of her lasagna).

This year, I think I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my niece and nephews, waking up at their house Christmas morning for the second year in a row.  That’s always a fun way to spend the season.  Here’s hoping there’s some Christmas Eve Chinese food thrown into the mix.  God Bless General Tso—he was a bloodthirsty dictator, but his chicken is delectable.

With that, here is “TBT: Christmas Eve“:

Here we are—another Christmas Eve.  It’s a night full of magic, mysticism, and wonder—the Light and holy version of Halloween, when the tenuous division between our corporeal existence and the supernatural world is thin.

Last year I wrote of my family’s Christmas Eve traditions, which are changing up a bit again this year.  In lieu of the usual evening candlelight service, we’re going to an afternoon service at a church in my younger brother’s neck of the woods.  Afterwards, we’ll be enjoying Chinese food—a newer tradition for us—and some fondue, a tradition from my sister-in-law’s side of the family.  We’re beginning to sound like 1970s Jews on Christmas.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas tomorrow—and some Christmas Eve merriment tonight!  With that, here is 24 December 2019’s “Christmas Eve“:

It’s hard to believe it, but Christmas is nearly here!  As a child, the anticipation seemed too much to bear, and the calendar from Halloween to Christmas seemed to stretch into endless, soggy days.

Christmas Eve is always the most magical, mystical part of Christmas time.  Popular depictions of Jesus’ Birth take place, presumably, on Christmas Eve—the angels bursting into the black, silent night above Bethlehem.  The whole event is supernatural—the Virgin Birth, the Star guiding the way to the manger, the angels appearing to the shepherds and singing.  Tradition has it that even the animals in the manger talked at the moment of Christ’s birth (at exactly midnight, of course).  If the rocks can cry out, singing praises to Him, why not some donkeys?

It’s little wonder, then, that the whole evening has a sense of mystery and magic about it.  As I wrote in October, the Victorians loved to read ghost stories around Christmas.  There is a deep nostalgia—a rich sense of tradition, of reliving the ways and customs of one’s ancestors—on Christmas Eve.  The ghosts of those who came before us haunt our Christmas celebrations.  They are remembered and honored in our continuance of their traditions.  We will be so lucky to enjoy similar remembrance.

Our family’s tradition is to pile over to my parents’ church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service.  The last couple of years they have, thankfully, played it straight—no weird mash-ups of classic Christmas carols (which were good enough already) with some hip Christian songwriter’s lame chorus (stop trying to improve classics!), just the hits.

The last two songs will, invariably, be the best:  “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”  On the epic “Christ is the Lord” part of the latter, everyone will raise their candles aloft.  It is powerful.  It even stirs my fat-swollen tear ducts to produce some Christmas Eve dew.

We usually open a gift on Christmas Eve, too.  I’d like to say there’s some deep, symbolic reason for this custom—that we’re emulating the Magi bringing their gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child—but I think it’s because my mother’s family did it when she was a child.  Maybe they had some deeper reason, but it’s probably because it throws the kids a bone, like a teaser trailer for a much-anticipated movie.  The adults like it, too.

In a newer tradition, we usually order some Chinese food.  The only ghost we’re remembering with this practice is my older brother’s past carnivorous eating habits (he’s some kind of quasi-vegan now… sigh).  I’m sure his past self wants to eat the chicken, too.

Here’s wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas Eve, and a Merry Christmas.


30 thoughts on “TBT^2: Christmas Eve

  1. Tyler, first let me wish you a joyous, peaceful but fun Christmastide. My favourite part of Christmas is tomorrow. My excellent friend Michael who lives a few doors away from me is coming here in the afternoon to listen to the nine lessons and carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge which is always wondrous. I have listened to it with a few misses for many years even in my pre Jesus days. Then we shall have a nice early supper. We have attended midnight eucharist at the cathedral here in Wells in the past but sadly neither of us feel comfortable there any more so I shall be going to mass on Christmas morning at my Anglo Catholic Church which is an hour’s drive from here. Driving in the dark is a big no no for me so I can’t go there for late night mass sadly. No big Christmas meal but tea in the afternoon of The Big Day with lashings of grub and mostly non alchoholic beverages. I have made an iced fruit cake big enough for twenty starving let alone three modestly hungry middle aged people. I shall indulge in a gin and tonic or two but mostly the glorious joys of mince pies, sausage rolls and coronation chicken filled rolls will be washed down with the finest English tea. Hallelujah and pass the Christmas cake!

    Liked by 4 people

    • What a wonderful Christmas Eve! I feel like I am reading Washington Irvin’s notes on Christmas in England. I could go for some mince pies, sausage rolls, and coronation chicken myself!

      We are attending an afternoon candlelight service at my parents’ church here in Aiken, South Carolina. Then we are driving to Columbia to spend Christmas Eve with my younger brother and his wife and kids. My older brother, his wife, and I will spend the night there to wake up with the babies on Christmas morning—always a fun time. Then it’s a long Christmas Day, jaunting from one household to the next.

      Merry Christmas to you, Alys!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Cheers Port.

    We find Christmas Eve quite magical too. Christmas Day, like you say, is a flurry of activity, giving you the opportunity to finally sit down and relax after you’ve put enough food in your gullet to keep you until next Christmas! We keep meaning to go to Midnight Mass but we haven’t yet got around it and we can’t this year at any rate – with the mask mandates in, we’d rather not get into a back and forth at Christmas of all times.

    Lasagne on Christmas Eve? I wouldn’t complain. Italian is my favourite food, Spaghetti Bolognese my favourite meal but we’re pretty basic on Christmas Eve; snack food, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents and the like. We have a tradition we started a few years ago though I imagine it’s a tradition other people have too.

    We get new Christmas pyjamas which go on in the evening and we unwrap Christmas Eve boxes. We have a £30 limit and buy silly stuff that we can use. Silly, like quiz cards or puzzles, or food/drink. It’s nice to have something to open on Christmas Eve. We watched a Christmas movie a couple of weeks ago where the characters had a tradition of making wishes for the New Year and wrapping them up with a bow inside their Christmas baubles. We quite liked that idea so we’re going to follow it too. We got the baubles but haven’t yet got around to writing our wishes yet. Less than 2 days to go so we need to get on with it!

    Audre mentioned reviewing cheesy movies yesterday and mine went up today. Here is the link:


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    • Merry Christmas, Ponty!

      I love your Christmas Eve tradition. We always opened one gift on Christmas Eve—our choice, with the occasional limits if there was an especially “big” or special gift that needed to be saved for Christmas Day—which really was the highlight as a kid. I still remember Christmas Eve 1998 when the gift I selected was a new King James Bible! My brothers had a lot of fun teasing me on that one (not because they disliked the Bible, but because, for a kid, it’s not exactly the fun gizmo you’re hoping to get on Christmas Eve), but I used that Bible for years, until nearly twenty years later my parents gifted me another one. That little Bible was falling apart by the end, and I was missing a good chunk of Genesis (and the front cover!). I’d like to claim that damage was due to my fervent reading from it, but it was mostly due to tossing the Bible around getting in and out of the car.

      Looking forward to reading the cheesy Christmas movie reviews! I’ll have to forward those to my dad.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ponty: I just read your piece on cheesy Christmas flicks. I loved it! You summarize the appeal of these saccharine-sweet films well. I will likely link to your post in my short Christmas Day post (which I will write shortly).

      Thanks for such a thoughtful, well-written piece!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. We go through Lent and get to Good Friday and the priest instructs silence in leaving the church. It’s tremendously effective. The normal chatter of the congregation whenever it leaves the church is silenced and you feel the absence of all that life and you get the weirdest feeling; a kind of ‘what would it be like if Jesus wasn’t Who He said He was’ kind of feeling. What if they laid Him in the tomb and that was the end of the story? Shudder. It’s very uncomfortable to even think in passing what our lives would have been. Deep contemplation of that idea will keep you up nights.

    In Advent, we get the reverse – looking forward to the Birth of our salvation. Across all the years of my life that I’ve attended Midnight Mass or Service, a similar thing happens – when we step outside of the church, the world is so hushed, so quiet. It’s dark and cool (even in Florida) and you can almost feel the anticipation in the air. The world is waiting. Waiting for that nonpareil birth. Waiting for Emmanuel.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Well, Dec 23rd is under Catholic magisterium The Solemnity Of The Immaculate Conception. 😉 Alas and alack, it hasn’t really been celebrated outside the Vatican and cloisters since Tudor times.

    Liked by 2 people

      • ROFLMAO

        Well, my religious holiday was Tues. But I’m willing to be ecumenical about things. My wives and I will be celebrating the Solemnity with leftover Yule duck, mushrooms, and onions in duck gravy over cornbread, with poached eggs on top.

        Actually, I was getting ready to move my “office” to the kitchen to get started cooking it up.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yule duck sounds delicious. Y’all’ve made yourselves a proper feast, to be sure.

        Ooooh, what’s on the menu for breakfast? We had my mom’s excellent grits, and the eggs she scrambled came from my sister-in-law’s parents’ family farm in Kentucky.

        My best to your wives. Y’all have a very Merry Christmas!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That duck & mushroom gravy over cornbread, topped with poached eggs was breakfast. Yule dinner was ducks seasoned two ways and mashed curried yams (both cooked on my grill), asparagus in an herbs de Provence butter sauce, and a selection of preserved vegetables from our garden that we laid up at harvest.

    And a Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I have plenty of opinions Tyler but my interest in food goes back over fifty years. Getting into the kitchen and doing something practical has been my therapy. As Audre says a lot of what I make gets given away, particularly preserves and it is satisfying to present a host with a jar of homemade marmalade or chutney. Food is always a good gift. This year I made traditional Christmas puddings for the forst time in many years and sent one to Audre complete with silver sixpences, I am just hoping she enjoys it as much as I did the making.

        Liked by 2 people

      • That is the best kind of therapy, I imagine! And I agree—food is always a good and welcome gift. I’m sure Audre is enjoying her traditional Christmas pudding.

        My grandmother and at least one of my aunts will put up preserves. My maternal grandmother’s strawberry preserves are incredible, and my Aunt Cheryl does some delicious fig preserves. I’m blown away by the sheer amount of stuff that can be canned, jarred, preserved, etc.—even meat!

        Liked by 1 person

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