This is another difficult subject for me. I don't do holidays well. My parents say that one year, I marched into the kitchen and told them, "Let's get this straight. There is no Santa." They say that they begged me not to tell my older sisters and ruin the holiday for them. No matter the temptation, I must have obeyed my parents, because my sisters continued to believe for another few years. I don't remember much of that conversation because of the event that followed. By Christmas Eve, I had full-blown chicken pox. Being miserable the entire Christmas break, only to get well in time to return to school, forever set my holiday expectations to low.
With the Santa incident though, I suspect that my ambivalent feelings toward the holidays started before chicken pox. Do you remember being all excited to see what was under the tree on Christmas morning? I don't. It was always, and still is, a moment filled with dread.
So now I feel that I've been a huge Debbie Downer, but I've been honest. There is one aspect of Christmas that I like, and that's accidental tradition. We don't do a Christmas tree, we don't don matching outfits and take a picture, and I haven't sent out a Christmas card in years, but we have our own ways of celebrating. One year for Christmas Eve, I made corn chowder, topped it with crab meat, and made fresh bread. Now when I ask what they want for Christmas dinner, the answer is always corn chowder with crab and bread. It wasn't planned; it just happened. Most of the way we approach the holidays is like that. Something worked; they want it again; I deliver.
In our house, gifts are opened Christmas Eve and stockings are for Christmas morning. (Once we got past the Santa thing. He always left something, but only one toy.) You won't find a candy cane in their stockings though. This year, there's Japanese soda, chocolate oranges, high end art supplies, and other bits of stuff that uniquely, weirdly, bizarrely, specifically reflect their special interests. Nothing makes the holiday for me like hearing them laugh when something tumbles out of their stocking and they say, "How did you know?" There's magic in that moment. Maybe even Christmas magic. I've never experienced it myself, but it's cool to see it happen for someone else.