Christmas is always a magical time. Growing up in Minnesota, we were always guaranteed a beautiful white Christmas. Our preparations would have to begin early, putting up Christmas lights in our trees before Thanksgiving so they would be covered by the snow that was sure to fall. But as much as I have always loved the snow and lights, my favorite parts were centered around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

My family would always go to mass on Christmas Eve, early enough to not tire my siblings and me out, and I’d spend the ride home with my nose glued to the window, searching for Rudolph in the sky. Despite my best efforts, I usually couldn’t spy our red-nosed friend but I was never too disappointed as we would return to a house filled with the smell of pot roast slow cooking in the oven while we were gone. After a delicious dinner, we’d take the annual picture in front of the Christmas tree, a tradition which grew less and less serious throughout the years. Then came the negotiations with my parents. Each year, my siblings and I would argue as to when we were allowed to leave our bedrooms and what time we could wake up my parents. Finally, off to bed for a sleepless night. 

Christmas morning: my eyes open and I glance at my clock, 3:30 a.m. spelled out in bright red letters. Definitely too early to get up. Next time I peek, 3:45 a.m. This would continue for some time until around 5 a.m. when we’d finally give up on all hope of sleep. Turning on the Christmas lights in our room, my sister and I would sing Christmas carols and soon my brothers would sneak in from across the hallway and join us. Finally, it was almost time for us to get up. My sister would slip out and turn on all the Christmas lights throughout the house and put baby Jesus in his manger. With a few minutes to go, we’d line up in the hallway, waiting to run towards the stuffed stockings lying so tantalizingly in the room beyond. At the agreed time, the clock-watcher would inform us and off we’d go, rushing to our stockings before scampering up the stairs to the Christmas tree. Then we’d explore our stockings, enjoying some sibling time before it was time to wake my parents and open the gifts. 

Throughout the years, my family has stayed very true to our traditions. As we got older, we had to set alarms for Christmas morning and the last few years my brothers had to wake my sister and me up. Then we’d make coffee for ourselves instead of just our parents, and I knew we were really outgrowing our traditions when one year during my college years, the sibling time conversation turned to 401Ks and dental plans. 

This year, my husband is joining us for Christmas and our traditions are bound to change. But whether we keep one tradition or another, the magic of the season comes from what we’re celebrating—the birth of Jesus, and the time spent with loved ones.