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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


2/3 c soft butter

1 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar (dark or light)

2 eggs

1 c buttermilk


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?

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Rachael Ray