Despite all the hype of Christmas Day, the Christmas Eve celebrations of my childhood are probably the most cherished memories I have. We always spent them with my paternal grandparents, Fred and Lucille, and we’d spend the night at their house (I’m sure you’ll remember the previous post regarding the reason for that!).
The entire evening was a dressy affair and I loved wearing my fanciest frock. Dinner was usually boiled peel and eat shrimp (filet mignon for my sister), salad and French bread. I loved gathering around the dining room table and making a huge mess with all the great food. After everything was cleaned up, we’d either head to church or my sister and I would create our own services in the living room. Once I’d learned to play several Christmas songs on the piano, we’d have music too. We even made our own programs to hand out to everyone at the service. The highlight was the reading of the Christmas story in the Bible. I never tire of hearing it. Here’s a photo of my mom, me, Fred and Lucille. I’m guessing dad is taking the photo and Ralph is sleeping. I think I’m four, but I couldn’t find a date on it.
When the church service was over, it was time to open some presents. But wait! What’s that sound outside? It was Jane and Pat Ciccone, friends of my grandparents. They would come by every year, Pat playing the trumpet, to sing and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. They’d rush inside and stay long enough for a cup of cheer. Pat would play Christmas songs and we’d sing along. I remember Jane looking so beautiful in her fur coat. It was a rush of excitement and then they’d be gone to play at the next house.
My sister and I would be bouncing off the walls to open something but the rules were (and still are) one present at a time. We’d tear into our packages and squeal with delight. One year, my grandmother gave me five rolls of quarters (a sizable sum for that time) and told me I could shop. I was confused at first, but then grabbed the JC Penney catalog and went to town. Soon we were off to bed and the long night of waiting for Santa to arrive began.