Growing up, my family always opened Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. Dan tells me that Santa doesn't come until Christmas morning, but I think the proof was right there, under the tree! Santa definitely came to our house by Christmas Eve!
It was the most exciting night of the year. We didn't have a big family, but that didn't stop us from having a big celebration. Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Bud and his little family, and "the girls" (Liz and Louise) would all be there. We had a smorgasbord of food to munch on all evening; Christmas music would be playing on the stereo; everyone would be talking, laughing and playing games; and the glow of the tree, draped in lights, tinsel and ornaments, and with gifts piled beneath its boughs, lent a mood of enchantment to the living room.
My dad was in charge of the events, and he was a master at building suspense. Although all of us knew that we'd be opening the presents that evening, he would always tease, saying that we had to wait until midnight, when it would officially be Christmas morning. I never really understood that reasoning; after all, the packages were already there, the tree was twinkling, and what more was there to wait for? But it was a game we played, year after year. I usually held out until around 9:30 before I started working on Dad to let us open the presents. Dad, though, supplied never-ending reasons why, this year, we needed to wait until midnight. By 10:00 I usually "hit the wall," and Dad, seeing a tear or two of frustration slip down my cheek (and a Bob-it's-time-to-stop look on my Mom's face), would immediately melt. He'd give me a big hug, and say, "Well, go get some presents and pass them out, Sweetheart!"
I know that many families take turns opening their gifts, so that everyone can see each gift, and the appropriate person can be thanked before the next gift is opened. I see the wisdom in that method, and admire the orderliness (I really do!) . . . but it wasn't our style. We ripped into presents with unrestraint, festive paper and curled ribbon flying, everyone laughing and talking at once, and hugs and thank-yous making the rounds spontaneously. Mom would always put a box or a large bag in the middle of the room, to hold the torn paper and ribbon scraps, but it never really worked. By the time the last present had been opened, the room was a jolly sea of holiday wrappings.