Advent and Christmas When I Was a Kid

Advent and Christmas When I Was a Kid December 15, 2023

Now that I am older, Jesus’ birth is central to my celebration of Advent and Christmas followed by the celebration of family. I have continued the tradition of making Christmas cookies cut out in different shapes with very sugary frosting.


My father was a believer in keeping Advent separate from Christmas. While other people were putting up their trees in early December or listening to Christmas music, my dad waited. He brought out the Christmas music during the feast’s twelve days.  We also celebrated Epiphany or “Three Kings Day,” as we called it. My brother once wrote an essay in elementary school about our little plastic Christmas tree. We kept it up until the octave of Epiphany.

Christmas Eve

We still did not have the tree up but we did go shopping for family gifts.

My Dad’s Tradition: Shopping on Christmas Eve

In addition to revering Advent, we followed another one of my dad’s traditions. When he was young, single, and working in Washington, DC, he would first take the train on Christmas Eve to New York City to purchase gifts for his sister’s family. Then he took the train out to Long Island to see his sister, her husband, and their four children. He was their Uncle Johnny.

He continued the tradition of Christmas Eve shopping with his four children. I now suspect that he was giving my mother time to dash around for last-minute items.  We might go first to the Variety Store to find little gifts for one another and then to the mall and have hot chocolate at the Hot Shoppe or maybe lunch.

He included purchasing a gift for my mother in this outing somehow. In the days when one could not study items online before going to the brick-and-mortar store, he would have had to decide on the spot. At the Mall, we kids might find gloves or handkerchiefs for my father or an apron or book for my mom. We were not big spenders. My dad liked to buy something beautiful for my mom.

Christmas Eve Evening

As kids, we usually went to bed early on Christmas Eve. I later learned that my parents built a fire in the fireplace, wrapped gifts into the early hours, and put up the tree. We had the same ornaments every year which we enjoyed seeing as well as the familiar creche that survived my interactive play with the figures.

We attended Mass at Seven AM on Christmas morning. The living room was dark, and the tree lights were off so we could not see the tree or presents.A tall Christmas Tree with ornaments and candy canes.

Christmas Morning

After Mass, my dad went in the house to “check and make sure that Santa was no longer there.” During that time, he plugged in the tree lights and made a fire in the fireplace. It was tough to wait for Santa to leave. My mother made a nice breakfast: her special treat was a delicious coffee cake. We still waited on the presents.

We used to open presents one at a time, going from youngest to oldest. When I was older, I enjoyed watching my younger siblings open their gifts and remembered a similar joy from years past. My mother used to recycle wrapping paper, so we undid the tape with butter knives and she collected it. We often did not complete the opening process until the early afternoon.

Christmas Dinner

We often had a fine piece of beef with mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, and dessert. Once I called home on Christmas Day and asked my youngest brother what they were having for dinner. He told me that they were having meat “with the strings.” I knew what he meant.

I brought some of the Advent and Christmas traditions along and then added some of my own. I liked their way of celebrating.

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