I have really enjoyed reading everyone's comments on how you celebrate Christmas from my Facebook survey. It's only fair that I share how we did things when I was a kid. First, let it be noted that my family is a pack rat family so our house was cluttered. Making a space for the Christmas tree was a challenge each year. I'm convinced this is what helped prolong my belief in Santa was that I couldn't believe how my parents could have pulled all this off themselves. Because of the clutter challenge, we usually did not get a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. That meant we got beautiful Frasier firs for crazy discount prices because at 6pm on December 24, that dude just wants to go home.
We all decorate the tree together. Colored lights and they have to twinkle but not blink. When I was young that meant that most of the ornaments were in one space about three feet off the ground, but it was still lovely. There are no themes for our trees. I have been impressed with the specialized ornaments that Rich has collected over the years. Hockey Santas and Philadelphia Flyers and bizarre medieval knights next to storm troopers. Our ornaments as a kid weren't that sentimental but just pretty.
All of our presents came from Santa. All of them. This never seemed out of the ordinary to me because we don't do big birthday celebrations in the Powell house (both my father and brother have forgotten their own birthdays) so of course we wouldn't exchange gifts at Christmas either. There was just all this magical stuff from Santa.
Santa wraps everything. Everything. Like packages of dental floss in the stocking kind of everything. And nothing is labeled because each child has their own wrapping paper for all gifts so that the pile Christmas morning is one for each kid with their stocking on top.
Christmas morning my father would snore in front of the fire place because he was running on approximately 2 hours sleep. My mother would enthusiastically listen and comment as we three kids went through all our presents in a frenzy of paper and ribbon. Then we would spend the rest of the morning playing with our gifts while Mom made a side dish or two for dinner at Jack and Joan's or Sissy's (mom's brother and sister-in-law or mom's sister). We were usually down to the wire getting dressed and in the car to arrive on time.
As for the number of gifts, we made out pretty well. Santa was our only benefactor and he was generous, with maybe 10 to 12 gifts each. Stockings were filled with the usual dental care regimen, some candy and possibly cheap little toys. We never had oranges in the toe, but Jeremy's family did.
We would leave cookies and milk for Santa on occasion and we would get notes on occasion but not with any regularity that I recall. Also, my oldest brother is 18 years my senior, so when I was getting Snoopy snow cone machines from Santa, he was getting gift certificates for a new pair of glasses. This seemed totally reasonable to me that you could take this card to an optometrist and redeem it.
I don't ever recall my parents talking about being good to ensure Santa brought gifts. However, I was raised by wolves so we didn't have a lot of those typical reward and punishment structures. You just did good things because it was the right thing to do and once a year this magical dude would drop off gifts because he was awesome like that. We don't write thank you notes in our family either. Wolves. Kind-hearted, industrious, wolves.
We rarely had specific PJs when I was a kid (wolf pack aroooo!) so now Ian also doesn't have PJs. We have to buy him sets explicitly for when he has PJ day at his school so he will have something to wear. I think he's convinced PJs are just really soft pants you wear for special occasions at school.
Because as a kid we were always at the last minute getting our act together we stretch Christmas out as long as possible. I can remember at one point having the tree up until February. But I remember Mom always saying she couldn't play Christmas until the semester was over and she'd turned in her grades. Once that was done, she could rally to make a space for Santa to come. As an adult, I'm trying to get things done a little sooner so I can have a relaxed holiday season. I don't want to stress about gifts anymore in my life, so I am making a conscious effort to just let it go. Also, our tree can't come down until after 12th night.
I rummaged around and found some photos from Christmas of 1981. I was 4 and a half and my brother Perry was almost 11. Doug was 22 and a half. We had just moved to the new ranch house from our tiny house across the street and weren't sure what to do with all the space. I also have a totally awesome recording of that morning. You can enjoy my country twang as I shout, "LOOK WHAT HE BRANG ME!"
Christmas 1981 highlights (7 minutes of awesome in an MP3 format)