Emily Wyckoff

No peeking!…….Christmas morning traditions

I’m all wrapped. Gifts are organized. Tree hasn’t died yet. And there is a week to go. That is one thing that is different this year – I may be in my best shape yet. I still may make a last minute panic run to Toys R Us, but hopefully not.  One thing that is the same this year is our Christmas morning traditions. Here are some fun things our family does to make Christmas morning extra special:

One early gift. Each Christmas Eve my kids get to open one gift, which is new Christmas pjs to wear that night. It would be nice if they were enhanced with some sleep inducing magic, but no such luck.

Room treats. My kids all have, as luck would have it, 2 stockings. We have stockings hung by the fire downstairs and each child has one in their room. Santa puts a few small things in the room stockings to try and tide over the mayhem until 7 am.

It’s all about the suspense. No one is allowed downstairs until we all go down together – no peeking. We close off the living room, where the Christmas tree is, and build up the suspense with comments like ”Did Santa come?” and “Did anyone hear anything?” “I think I heard bells around 3,” etc.

Food first. Then all five of us troop downstairs together where there is mandatory breakfast in the kitchen before we descend upon the gifts. This is tough love, I know, but Hershey kisses and Lifesavers from a Christmas stocking for breakfast is a recipe for a 10 am meltdown, especially when there is a long day ahead. Sometimes it may just be a few bites of cereal or half a piece of toast. My aunt Missy made everyone coffee cakes each year which is what I had growing up and still have today. Here is the recipe (this can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed overnight and baked according to the directions):

Overnight Crunch Coffee Cake – makes 2 round or 1 13″ X 9″ cake

Dry Ingredients
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Set aside

Batter
2/3 c soft butter
1 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar (dark or light)
2 eggs
1 c buttermilk

Topping
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl – set aside.  Cream butter and sugars til fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk.  Beat well after each addition.  Spread batter in greased and floured pans.  Sprinkle combined topping ingredients over tops of cakes.  Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees 40 - 45 minutes.

The viewing of the tree. Once all three kids have had their one bite of breakfast and a few sips of juice (and my coffee is ready) we enter the living room for the big reveal. I always get a picture of the kids seeing the tree with the presents underneath for the first time. We of course also check and see if Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk.

Good things come in small packages. Next is stockings and it’s a free-for-all as we all open at once. I often think that kids could just get stockings and be done with Christmas because they often house the most fun presents.

Take turns. Next the kids distribute the gifts, I make a mad dash for a pad of paper and a pen to record gifts, and we take turns opening the gifts, one by one. This is actually really fun as we all get to really see what everyone gets rather than a mass chaos of present opening and you’re done in 15 minutes.  My husband will even sometimes call a cease opening and enforce mandatory play of some gifts that have been opened while there are still some wrapped gifts left.

Collapse. Kidding. Actually this is such a busy day with lots of family stopping in and a Christmas dinner at relatives that my husband and I often don’t get a chance to open our gifts until after the kids have gone to bed Christmas night. This is sometimes my favorite part of the day as we sit in front of the tree, fire lit and have the only moment of the day to ourselves.

Now that I write this I realize this is pretty much exactly the way Christmas went down with my family when I was growing up and my husband and I are continuing with our kids. Unintentional replication – a new definition of tradition. As our family continues these traditions, I wonder if our kids will adopt some with their own families. Maybe.

What are some of your family Christmas traditions?


30 Responses to “No peeking!…….Christmas morning traditions”

  1. tasha says:

    hi rachael,

    when i was a little girl i remembered is. that my sister and i opened one gift at christmas eve too. Then we would go to bed early before santa came. then i remember my step dad and mom would come in our room and turn on and off the lights on christmas morning. Then we would go into the living room and wait untill my parents came in. They always had a cup of coffee in there hands.. then my step dad would be the one that handed my sister and i a present each to open and then one to my mom. that’s all i remember when i was little.

  2. joseph daigle says:

    Rachel Ray Rocks, this girl is absolutely adorable… my wife and I love Rachels shows did i mention what a cutie she is…

  3. John says:

    I peeked, I do every year.

  4. Kit says:

    It sounds like we have some similar traditions. The kids are up early, groggily one of the adults turns the coffee pot on. We head for the living room where everyone excitedly dives into the stockings – no holds barred. My husband or I will sneak out to the kitchen to pour our “cup of freedom” and bring it back. Typically we will open presents (one at a time so everyone can see what each person got and from who) for about 1/2 hour. Then my homemade cinnamon rolls get put in the oven. When they’re done, it’s mandatory breakfast break time… we often include mimosas for the adults and sparkling cider for the kids. Then it is back to opening gifts. Going around the room and taking turns opening presents may seem like torture to the kids, but I really like getting to see the gifts instead of being left wondering, “Who gave you that?”. Merry Christmas!
    Kit in WA

  5. Shendi says:

    Christmas is such an exciting time! When I was little I remember waking up and sometimes being the first one awake, walking downstairs to see what was under the tree and sneaking back upstairs til everyone else was awake hardly being able to contain myself with so much excitment! We would always have breakfast my dad would usually make and after breakfast we would go right for present opening! One at a time so we could all see what everyone got. The only time we all opened at once is if we were all getting the same thing, then it was a race to see who opened it first! Opening presents was always in our pj’s and now that i’m older I look back and laugh at some of the “bed hair” pictures! lol

  6. JLeo onard says:

    We keep Christ in Christmas by baking a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve. The kids love to help with cake batter and of course the frosting! We read the second chapter of the gospel of Luke so the kids are reminded of why we give gifts and not just the anticipation of Santa Clause. When they wake up the next morning, of course we open gifts one by one and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat cake for breakfast.

  7. Barbara says:

    We have 3 children also. Now they are in their teens and twenties. They get such a kick out of Christmas Eve and waking up early Christmas morning. No matter how old they are this will never change. Each Christmas Eve they open up one present and it is always an ornament we have picked out for them. One each year and by the time they have their own homes they will have such memories with these ornaments. I always try to find one that matches their personality. Such wonderful happy memories.

  8. Tabitha says:

    Christmas Eve was always fun. When we were younger, we’d meet my dads side of the family for dinner at our favorite local resturant where they handed out reindeer food to sprinkle in the front yard (such a great idea!). Then it was back home to open one gift – always new pj’s to sleep in. Then my dad would come into either my room or my younger brothers and read “Twas The Night Before Christmas”… it was the same book he had bought when I was about 4 years old. He kept it in his dresser drawer.

    We had our stockings on the fireplace, and I would always wake my brother up around 430 to go get them… that would hold us over til around 730ish. We’d camp out, check out what Santa brought and sneak back into our bedrooms before getting caught. We’d eventually fall asleep and mom and dad would wake us up.

    After present opening we headed to a designated house on my dads side of the family (every year we’d switch)… this was the tradition until my Aunt passed away last year. Now everyone meets at another Aunts house for family breakfast and gifts around 10am. Then it’s free time the rest of the day.

    Now that I’m a mother, it’s really exciting to me to carry over these traditions my family had started when I was young. My son is only 8 months and won’t remember until he’s older – but it’s exciting to me to set up a stocking for him, and put toys out from Santa. I’m even leaving out cookies! I’m so excited. This year ‘mommies’ going to be the one holding coffee and won’t have any energy… now I know how my parents felt all those years!

  9. Linda says:

    We have a fun tradition. I have gone to my sister’s house every year for the last 8 years and spend Christmas eve/day with her family. I build gingerbread houses with my nieces during Christmas eve day and then we all watch movies at night and I sleep in the living room so that I can “watch” for Santa. I’m supposed to give a report on what I saw on Christmas morning to my oldest niece. Christmas morning we all open stockings and the three adults drink coffee while we watch the kids play with their presents. Once we’re all finished opening presents we have monkey bread for breakfast and begin preparing the Christmas Day meal. Overall, we all just relax and enjoy ourselves that day and love watching the kids open their presents!

  10. Stephanie says:

    Every Christmas morning, I would wake up and head to the living room were the tree was. I would look to see all the presents and if santa ate his cookies and drank his milk. Then I would run in my mom & dad’s room yelling for them to wake up. Me, my 2 brothers, and my parents all go into the living room to open gifts. Ofcourse my mom has a cup of coffee in her hand. Once we all open our gifts, we turn on the tv and watch whatever Christmas movie is on. Later that day, we go to my grandparent’s house to visit. They always have a gift for each of us. Christmas has been like that for me the whole 13 years I’ve been alive. And I would not have it any other way.

  11. Jill says:

    We started a new tradition this year. I let my children open a few gifts on christmas eve day (3), and we picked the ones ‘assembly required’. C’mon, even Barbie dolls have 20 wires and difficult plastic to remove. I could always picture the elves laughing at us as my husband and I grappled with scissors and tools at 7:00 a.m. trying to get the gifts out of the packaging. It worked like a charm. We enjoyed christmas music throughout the day, hot chocolate, and the kids were really able to enjoy their gifts in a more relaxing environment, and it made them happier. This was a huge success and we highly recommend it to all parents!

  12. Wendy says:

    Before we married, my then fiance came over Christmas morning and presented me with a huge (about 2.5 feet tall) stocking which he filled to the brim with gifts and goodies! We have been married for 11 years and each year since, he fills that same stocking to overflowing with goodies – now, all of the items are edible and many of them are those that he enjoys! This is only one tradition that our family has. My other favorite is the reading of the Christmas story in Luke to remind our children (9, 5, 2 and 3 weeks old) Who Christmas is all about.

  13. Kelley says:

    When I was a little girl, we did just about the same thing. My parents would go last minute ‘shopping’ when really they would go out to dinner (which I found out years later)for an hour, and us kids would do everything we could to find the gifts in the house. What is so special out this is that me and my husband still do the same thing today.

  14. Celina says:

    My Mom started a tradition to come over to each of her kids house and see your Christmas Tree. You also have dinner or lunch and we hand out our gifts to all the nieces and nephews. It’s so nice because we get 5 nights of no cooking during the holidays. And the kids don’t get so overhelmed opening all their gifts on Christmas day. It is spread out over the holidays.

  15. Jackie kaelin says:

    My father was a newspaper reporter. On Christmas day, as we
    were opening our gifts, he would go around to each of the three of us
    and interview us. What was our favorite gift or our favorite tradition, etc. We still have the tapes (we’re all in our forties now) and hearing
    our little voices is so fun!

  16. laken h says:

    Hi racheal, I am only 12 years old but I have a hilarious christmas tradition. Every year my dad wraps every present ( my mom doesn’t wrap anything half of the time she doesn’t even know what we got) and then he puts them on a big shelf that we have in our dining room. Then he makes a spread sheet of our presents that way he can tell if we’ve been messing with them. Each present has a number then on Christmas morning he makes us open them in a specific order while we take turns.

  17. Staci says:

    My family and I have about the same Christmas tradition as the earlier years of my life (I still live at home), but things have changed a little. Every year my brother and I would come downstairs and wake my parents out of bed at 6 or 7am. We would sit at the tree and turn on the lights and wait for them. My dad would come out with the cam recorder and record every year. We turn on the tv and watch the parade after we take turns watching each other open gifts. My grandparents come over around 1 pm and we eat good food. It has been the same for all the years of my life, although I am getting older things have changed a little. Things such as waiting for my brother to come home from his fiances and me sleeping in, but I think I will try to pass down most of what my family has done when I was growing up to my kids.

  18. kristy says:

    We have a special tradition to keep Christ the focus…Each year when we decorate we pull out our special large nativity set first and the parents hide the baby Jesus before the children place it in a place of honor because “baby Jesus hasn’t been born yet. ” Then on Christmas morn FIRST thing we rush to the nativity to see if he was “born” and we sing happy birthday to our liittle Jesus who has been put back in the manger – these are the photos I take each year, of each child kissing him. THEN we look to see if Santa came to fill their stockings and leave one HUGE special gift for each of them IN HONOR of Jesus birthday. It is a wonderful way to celebrate both traditions. My oldest daughter = of our thee kids-is 14 this year and she still loves this tradition. Happy holidays.

  19. candice says:

    Have a wonderful, joyful and blessed new year full of peace for the world.

    When I was younger my grandparents would come over every Christmas morning. I will never forget the year I got a sled ( I live in Texas) and also a bike. How awesome was that.
    Spending time with family is the best present ever.

  20. JOEL says:

    Racheal, I’m 10 years old and i watch your show every day. I love all the food that you make and i’m kind of a good cook myself. You are my biggest role modle. I LOVE YOU RACHEAL RAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Emily says:

    Normally my husband will go out with the kids to get the tree and we decorate as a family. on Christmas morning the kids get up whenever. This Christmas my eldest was up at 5am! The tv is normally going so they get to watch all of the Christmas versions of their favorite cartoons. they can open up their stockings when they get up but they must leave the presents until everyone else is up. We also have the rule that you are not allowed to wake anyone else up. But my husband normally has all the kids up before 7. then we take turns to open presents. Because I live in New Zealand Christmas is in the summer and a lot of the toys are for the outdoors so often their are remote controlled planes (or the like) flying around the neighborhood before 8am. The kids eat what ever they want for breakfast candy is usually the favorite!

  22. Kelly says:

    Rachael! I adore your show! I am a little 5-year-old and would just like to say “hi”. I try not to peak on Christmas morning…but what can you do? I get so excited! I hope you have a good Christmas Rachael. I can’t wait until your show tomorrow “Meal or no meal”!! Thanks!

  23. Hey Rachael.Wish you Happy Christmas.Please convey my Happy Merry Christmas wishes to all through your show.Thank you.

  24. Joseph says:

    Thanks for sharing and Please convey Christmas wishes to all through your show.

    Cheers!!
    Gifts to Bangalore
    at us2bangalore.com

  25. destinee says:

    marry christmas and have a happy new year to

  26. Holly says:

    We have a couple of traditions,
    1. The Pickle ornament (a German tradition) is hidden on the tree and who ever finds it gets a special present. We usually do a family game or something everyone can use so there are no hurt feelings on not finding the pickle.

    2. “petend” Christmas, my sister has a step-daughter that they share on Christmas day so either the weekend before or after Christmas we all go to my parents and have our family Christmas. Very busy with 6 kids, grandparents, great-grandmas, aunts, uncles and cousins of all types! We treat it just like a regular Christmas morning getting up and doing stockings from grandma and all the gifts etc.. So our kids get 2 Christmas mornings basically, one family filled busy one and one quiet one at our house.

  27. lisa, NY says:

    I had most of the same traditions but, my father would give my mother the excuse that he had to go to the bathroom. He didn’t do that, he would come and wake me and my two brothers up, this would be like 3:30 in the morning. This is when we opened our presents, after that my parents would go back to bed until about 8:00. Then my parents would get up an make breakfast.
    After that we get our best Christmas outfits on. Then we would go to my grandparents house where we all would gather with my Aunts,Uncle and Cousins for a big ham dinner.
    That was the best part, gathering, laughing, an sharing our presents with each other.
    My Christmas wish is that everyone has a Happy and Healthy Holiday.

  28. NKOTBFAN4LIFE says:

    I love this story because it’s so different from my Christmas mornings growing up. My brother is 3 1/2 years younger than I am and every Christmas Eve we would sleep in my room. We’d try and stay awake all night long and we’d still be up around 3am. We’d sneak in the living room and try our hardest not to scream from delight when we saw everything! We’d sneak our stockings into my bedroom and rummage through them before putting everything back in and hanging it back up. We’d only last about an hour before we’d have to wake up my parents, who never complained after being up all night. We’d open our gifts all together as a family and then start the clean up and put away. Once it was all cleaned up, my Dad would make, and still does make, the most amazing breakfast every Christmas morning.
    Now that I have kids of my own, we open our gifts and do our morning traditions and then we head over to my mom and dad’s house and it starts all over again! It’s just like it was when I was little only bigger and more fun watching my kids enjoy the holiday. I love Christmas!!!

  29. Sharon Stover says:

    there was 7 of us in my family. On Christmas morning we found our Christmas stockings in our room, there were my mom’s nylons filled with fruit and candy. the underwear and socks and a few small toys were place underneath the stockings. We couldn’t see what we got for Christmas because everything was cover-up with sheets. The best part was trying to sneak a peak under the sheets to see what Santa left, but our grandfather was always sleeping on the couch nearby and always caught us. Before we could open up our presents we first had to go to church, usually the 6:30 mass. Then we had to eat breakfast and after eating then we could open up our presents. We usually didn’t get finish opening everything until around 10 am. I carried on the same tradition with my own family. Only the stockings are different. no nylons today only pantyhose and they don’t make a good stocking.
    have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year
    Sharon

  30. denice says:

    I have great memories of my mom she was always so excited about christmas she would always figure ways to get us the special things that we wanted even if she had to scrimp on other things like paper. One christmas to make sure the presents were wonderful for us she wrapped everything in the newspaper comics she had saved for weeks from the newspapers she found at the laundrymat that she went to because we did not have a washer and dryer. You know I cannot remember what it was that I got that year but I do remember the time she put into making sure everything was great for us.

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