Joyful Christmas

I was thinking this morning about Christmas and the traditions we have established over the years in our family.

When I was a child, on Christmas Eve, my father would read the Christmas story from Luke.  We would pray together and as we children grew older, our parents adding communion to our tradition.  I think we were always mindful of the meaning of Christmas.  There was always an sense of hope and anticipation as we waited impatiently for Christmas Day to dawn.

My husband had different experiences, but Christmas Eve was a special time in his house, too.  He and his family had lived in Germany for many years, so their celebrations were laced with symbols and traditions from that country.

When we married, it worked out that we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, and Christmas Eve with my husband's family.  We always had a meal together, sang songs, took a crazy family photo, and then drove around the town to look at Christmas lights.  This was when we opened gifts together as well.

When children came into the picture, the joy was amplified.  Alan and his cousins couldn't wait to open their gifts, and laughed together over the silliest events.

Christmas Day was just the three of us.  Alan always looked forward to Christmas, and woke us up at the earliest hour possible; 4:30am was not out of the question as far as Alan was concerned.  We never put the presents under the tree until he went to sleep, so for him it was a mystery as to how those gifts got there.  He'd come into our bedroom literally bouncing to tell us "Santa came already!!"

As he has grown older, his joy has never diminished.  We've had to tell him that 5:30am is the very earliest he can wake us, and he has always been good about waiting.  It just so happens that he stands outside our door, counting down, for the two hours before the joyful time arrives!!

Christmas breakfast is ham, red eye gravy, biscuits, and sorghum molasses.  Then it's time for everyone to go back to bed and sleep until noon.

Kenny's family lives on the other side of the country, and his parents are gone now.  We have a celebration on Christmas Eve with my mother - my father is gone as well - and combine the traditions from both our families.

Our Christmas morning is still the same, though; a happy and precious time with just the three of us.  Now, we wake at noon to go to my mother's house again.  My brother-in-law cooks a special meal for my mother as his gift to her, and we open our presents there.

Traditions like these are such a touchstone for children with developmental delay and autism.  It is a known ritual, and provides a continuity for them that can be counted on year after year.  I know Alan has counted on this tradition since he was a small boy.  He can predict what will happen practically hour by hour.

I'm thankful that we have been able to give him that kind of security; the promise of a joyful Christmas.


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