About this time each year, my father reminisces on a Christmas-time tradition his family followed. On the morning of Christmas Eve, he and his siblings would look out the window and see their grandfather, Paw Martin, walking down the road, shoulders stooped, hands behind his back. Paw was a slow walker, so while his house was less than a quarter mile away from the home where Dad was raised, it took him a good long while to shamble down the dirt road between the two. Plenty of time for the kids to see him coming, but they always waited.
Eventually, Paw would make it down the road and up the hill to the house. He’d knock on the door and the kids would open it, faces expectant as Paw said, “Christmas Eve gift!”
Originally, the person who called this greeting out first was to receive a gift. Over time, as older generations faded and new ones were born, the tradition has morphed into a determined and often coordinated campaign to trick people into receiving the greeting unknowingly in order to accumulate bragging rights for the coming year. Technological advances have made sneaking the greeting into the earliest part of a conversation nearly impossible. My family has adapted by going to sometimes ridiculous lengths. Is caller ID alerting the intended recipient of your call? No problem! A neighbor’s phone works just as well, and is far more likely to be answered with a simple hello rather than a hastily called, “Christmas Eve gift!” Far more frequently, one person will call Dad, accept his greeting graciously, and then pass the phone off to a sibling or spouse who shouts out the greeting, to which Dad responds, “You got me, but next year…”
Yes, we’re a sneaky bunch, but it’s all in good fun.
This is perhaps my favorite Christmas tradition. Remembering the antics we go to in order to pull one over on each other always brings a chuckle, and it’s a way for us to honor the memory of loved ones who are no longer with us.
I hope each of you enjoys a safe and happy holiday season. Oh, and, Christmas Eve gift!
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