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A Christmas Eve Tradition

by Yvette Cain
December 24, 2018

One of my favorite family Christmas traditions, practiced for almost 30 years, our “Night Before Christmas Useless Gift” ritual (shortened to “Useless Gift”), no longer practiced but much discussed, still brings a smile to my face and happy memories of Christmas Eves gone by.  In retrospect, it was a great, inexpensive, diversionary tactic for busy parents trying to assuage the kids’ patience on Christmas Eve.  I share it with you to do with it as you wish. 

First, an exploration of the concept of a useless gift.  This gift, never newly purchased, often scored high acclaim if scrounged from forgotten corners of closets, drawers, and basements. Most often a useless gift had lost its intended purpose due to some unknown calamity or misfortune, but gift givers were also known to alter its original state.  So, for example, a tine-less fork, a box of used stamps, a clasp-less jewel, a bristle-less toothbrush, or a wickless candle might be a contender.  Sometimes the kids would put out an all court press search, striving to find the perfect gift that might end in the hands of Grandpa, Grandma, or even their Nana or great-great Aunt Rita. The choice of useless gift required skill, practice, and determination!  Each participating family member and friend (and participation of all was a requirement) knew to bring a similarly selected and carefully disguised (aka beautifully wrapped) useless gift to our Christmas Eve festivities.

The timing of our useless gift exchange was exquisite: highly anticipated and much discussed… after Christmas Eve dinner, dessert and coffee, often with kids in jammies and ready for bed.  Our gathering created a large, lopsided circle where each member could easily reach the person on either side.   We each held our own useless gift.  Chris, my husband and the reader, paused before his dramatic reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas” to review the ground rules that never altered from year to year.

“Rule number 1:  When I read the word “the,” pass the gift you’re holding to the person on your right.

Rule number 2: When I read the word “and,” pass the gift you’re holding two people to your left.

Rule number 3: Listen carefully.”

The reading would ensue, with Chris putting emphasis on each the and and, and the gifts would make their rounds.  At first, following a practice sentence, the gift movement would be slow and steady.  But as the poem progressed, the volume of the and’s and the’s would increase so as to be heard above the laughter and cheers.  Many lines of the poem contain numerous keys to the movement of gifts. Watching our own gift travel the circle, we hoped never to have it land in our lap. 

The final line…”Happy Christmas to all AND to all a good night” brought a release of our tension and anticipation of the revelation of each beautiful gift.  Did we await this tradition more than the actual gift exchange the following morning?  You’ll have to ask my family…or try it yourself!

 

 

 

 

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Comments (3)

Very charming story! Fun!

- Roberta Weiner | 12/24/18 10:17 PM

Loved reading this!!!

- Janice Jordan | 12/24/18 12:01 PM

Too funny. When we were kids we did something similar as birthday gifts

- Kathy Anguish | 12/24/18 8:51 AM

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