Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Traditions

Last year at this time, I talked about our Christmas traditions, and how important reading is to me and Jim as part of those traditions. But, a new friend asked me recently what we do for Christmas. In answer, I'm reprinting last year's blog entry, because it's special to me. I hope your holiday traditions are just as special to you. And, I hope you find time in the hustle and bustle of the holidays to find a little time for reading.

Do you have Christmas traditions that are special to just you and your family? Jim and I have lived away from family for almost twenty-four years, so we've made our own Christmas customs. For the ten years my father-in-law, Harry, lived with us, we shared those special moments with him.

Jim's family always celebrated on Christmas Eve, and, depending on my father's work schedule, we sometimes did. So, we open presents on Christmas Eve. I make appetizers, and about 7 p.m. or so, we start our celebration. But, before ever opening presents, we start with readings. What is more appropriate for two people who met and married in a library? Jim always reads the Nativity story from the Bible. I read, and cry over, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. And, Jim reads a special letter that combines faith, and hope, and magic. On Christmas Eve, I'll share one of our traditions with you, my friends from my blog. Here is "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis P. Church is the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history, appearing in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I *love* "Yes Virginia." I gave it to my son to read when he was dejected about Santa.

I like your Christmas Eve traditions, Lesa. :) "Gift of the Magi" is a great one, too! (I always want to find out the return policy on the watch chain.) :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've never read the whole thing - thank you for posting!

My husband and I have also lived far from family most of our married life, so we have a tradition of snacks and appetizers, opening one gift (a compromise - my family opened all and his family none on Christmas Eve) and then we watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. (In fact, I featured a trailer from that movie in my post today.)

Merry Christmas, Lesa!

Lesa said...


The Gift of the Magi breaks my heart every year, when I think of that watch gone. They loved each other so much. Beautiful stories.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for commenting on my blog all year. Merry Christmas!

Lesa said...

Oh, A Muppet Christmas Carol! Isn't it nice, Diane, that we find our way to our own traditions? Enjoy yours. I know we will.

Merry Christmas!

My Cozy Book Nook said...

What lovely traditions - and I just love this story!

I will be celebrating Christmas Eve with the Italian vigil (my husband's heritage) and then we will celebrate Christmas morning with Santa. Even though my kids are grown, they still love the Santa tradition. I guess I fully embrace the notion that "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

May you and Jim have a joyous Christmas celebration!

Lesa said...

Merry Christmas, Molly!

What is the Italian vigil for Christmas Eve? All I know is about the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I hope you stop back and answer this. If not, have a beautiful Christmas with your family!

Christie said...

Lesa, I thought I would share the compromise at our house in regards to Christmas Eve v. Christmas Day. I do remember some years when we opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We usually end up having at least one child who is involved with 4:30 Mass, so after Mass we have a dinner which I try to make nice. Then the kids open their gifts to each other. Since there are four of them, and they usually buy each other fun stuff, they have quite a time with it. Then, there is usually someone who is serving at Midnight Mass, so some of us go to church again. The rest of the presents are opened on Christmas morning. It helps spread out Christmas and worked really well when the kids were little and now we just keep doing it. I enjoyed talking to you yesterday, hope you and Jim have a wonderful Christmas. Love, Christie

Lesa said...

Merry Christmas, Christie!

It sounds as if you and Rick have come up with wonderful traditions that the kids will remember - Mass, followed by a nice dinner, and then the chance to enjoy the gifts they gave each other. I still remember Mom saying Grandma and Grandpa always gave them a game on Christmas Eve, and then let them stay up as long as they wanted to, playing it, so Grandma and Grandpa could sleep in on Christmas morning. Great idea!

And, I like the fact that opening gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spreads it out. I love Christmas. It seems as if I anticipate it for so long, and, then it's over so quickly.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Christie, with all of your family around you. And, I know you'll appreciate it all the more, knowing it might not be that many years that they're all home for the holidays.

Love you, Christie! Lesa

Ingrid King said...

Gift of the Magi is my favorite Christmas story ever. It has been from the time my mom first read it to me as a child.

Reading is a big part of my Christmas traditions. I can't remember a Christmas from the time I was a very small child when Christmas morning didn't involve browsing through or reading new books. And thanks to you, Lesa, this year I have a huge pile to choose from!

Merry Christmas to you, Jim and the kitties!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Ingrid! What a nice comment, that you have a huge pile of books to choose from, thanks to me. That's a nice Christmas message in itself.

I love to hear that people have a reading Christmas tradition. And, I'm really pleased to know how much Gift of the Magi means to you.

Ingrid, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with all of those you love.

le0pard13 said...

Wonderful traditions, Lesa. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Lesa said...

Thank you, le0pard13! And, the same to you and your family. Merry Christmas!

Inside A Book said...

Dear Lesa,
Thanks for sharing your traditions. This year my daughter is spending her first Christmas on her own. Her heart strings are tugged in many directions. I copied the "Yes, Virginia" letter for her and gave it to her to open with her stockings on Christmas morning. Although I can't be with this new little married gal, I know that she can start a new tradition as she reads the message to her new husband under their tree!!
I love to read about our traditions. Thank you for sharing. May your Christmas be merry and bright (and filled with peace!)
Fondly, Gaye

Lesa said...

Oh, Gaye! I totally understand how your daughter feels. She's going to miss you and your traditions, but you're there in spirit, helping her to start her own. What a nice gift to her and her husband.

Thank you for sharing your lovely gift to your daughter. Merry Christmas, Gaye. I hope you have a beautiful one, with the ones you love.


Beth Hoffman said...

Oh Lesa,

Your reading tradition warms my heart. What a lovely way to celebrate the season. I'm with you, The Gift of the Magi always makes me teary -- I so love that story.

My Christmas tradition began when I was a little girl, and I do it each Christmas Eve. I sit in the dark by the window with my kitties curled up next to me. There are no lights but those on the tree and a warm flicker from the fireplace. I look out the window and think about all the people and experiences that I'm grateful for. One by one I give thanks for the blessings in my life.

Wishing you, Jim, and your precious kitties a wonderful Christmas! You'll be on my grateful list this year, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Beth, Thank you so much for sharing your tradition with us. And, with tears in my eyes, I thank you for adding me to your grateful list this year. What a beautiful way to celebrate Christmas. Thank you, and I hope you, Mark, and your furbabies all enjoy this beautiful holiday.

Kaye said...

Just popping in to
you and yours a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kaye! And, the same to you and all of your loved ones. Have a wonderful Christmas, and a safe, happy New Year!