This morning (I still haven’t gone to bed, so it’s still Christmas Day for me), I went to church to celebrate Christmas communion with my parents, one sister, her husband and her son.

The vicar asked us what the best Christmas gift we had received was, and it got me thinking. I realised that the best gift was that the whole family, my parents, both my sisters, their families and I were able to celebrate Christmas together for the first time in years. Once my nephews and niece started getting old enough to go to university and work, my parents and I celebrated Christmas with one family, and New Year with the other. The next year, it was the other way around.

Our tradition has always been to follow the Continental way: Christmas presents are opened on Christmas Eve evening. All the presents are gathered together under the tree, and the youngest one selects the first one. This year it was my great-nephew Connor, who is nearly three. The name of the recipient is read out, as is any message that may have been written, and then they open it. They then select the next present to be opened, and the process continues until all have received their presents. That way, everyone gets to see what everyone else is getting, and the pace is slowed down to a manageable level. It also gives you time to appreciate what you have just received.

On Christmas morning itself, you can wake up at a more Christian (!) hour, even if you’re going to church. There is no being woken up at four o’clock or earlier by excitable children!

I remember my Swiss grandparents doing this with us, and we are passing the tradition on to the next generations.

One addition we’ve made to the tradition: Christmas lunch is always smoked salmon on toast and champagne (or sekt, or cava, or whatever equivalent is available at the time). The turkey and all the trimmings are saved for the evening, giving us a good excuse for sleeping afterwards …

What are your Christmas traditions? And what was your best gift this year?

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