A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. - James Dent
Q:

Dear friends,

Growing up, how did your family do Christmas presents? For example, Santa filled each of our stockings and the whole couch cushion behind it with unwrapped presents. We all filed downstairs youngest-to-oldest at 7:00 a.m. while Mom recorded us, and then it was free-for-all with our Santa gifts. Then an hour or two later, we all sat around the tree and took turns opening the gifts we'd gotten and wrapped for each other.

Bonus question: what's the best stocking stuffer you ever got?

-El-ahrairah

A:

Dear El-ahrairah, 

In our house, we got to open Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve, then had to turn in early because it was expected we'd be up way too early the next morning anyway. Santa and his Elves (me and my brother, once we were old enough to be helpful) would stuff the stockings and line them up on the couch. Then, the wrapped presents would get put under the tree. (My parents like to do this as they get the presents, which starts really early. The wrapping actually takes minimal work. I think they've discovered the best system over the years.) The next morning, kids are allowed to get into their stockings whenever they wake up (which is typically like 6 a.m.) but have to wait until mom and dad get up before we can start opening presents (typically around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m.) You aren't allowed to wake mom or dad up. Then, we go around the room in rounds from youngest to oldest opening presents one at a time. My parents don't make an effort to make sure we all get the same number, it's more about the value of things, so if a kid runs out of individual presents they get to open family gifts. We also get assigned 1 sibling to give a gift to, and we always get books from our grandma. After everything is opened, it's cleanup time and chill for the rest of the day. Lately that's meant going to hang out with Pebble at his house, they're a little more fun during the day on Christmas.

I'd have to say the best stocking stuffer I ever got was my feet.

Haha, good one. Just kidding... sort of. My real favorite was the electric toothbrush I got - but that just speaks to the fact that most of our stocking stuffers are candy, clementines, and personal hygiene items like body wash, razors, chapstick, and toothpaste. Which is cool, since that's all I ask for nowadays anyway. That and kitchen appliances. (Favorite Christmas gift I ever got was my Kitchenaid last year).

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear El-ahrairah,

My sisters and I would hoard a lot of candy throughout December to save for Christmas morning. We would wake up at 5 a.m. to play the game Life and eat all of our sweets (how we didn't spoil our breakfast and get sick, I don't know). Then we would wake up our parents at 7 a.m. and walk to the living room together. I'm the youngest, and I would happily start sorting out presents from underneath the Christmas tree to everyone. Santa's gift was in front of the Christmas tree unwrapped. From youngest to oldest, we'd open one present each while everyone else watched. We'd have breakfast after presents. Depending on when breakfast was done, we'd do our stockings around 10 or 11 a.m. Then after stockings we'd be playing with what we got, watching the movies that someone received, listening to Christmas music, and we'd all just chill. 

At the end of the night (depending on how little I was) we'd have one last final present by doing a scavenger hunt around 7 or 8. My most memorable scavenger hunt was when I was a senior in high school. I was begging my parents for a phone in 2010 and they said no. My parents even told me I wasn't getting a phone on Christmas so I didn't expect it. But guess what my scavenger hunt gift was? A cell phone! (The scavenger hunt gifts were never this expensive.) I literally cried for joy and happily paid for my monthly plan. But when I was younger, I remember getting a toy craft gift that was really cool. My Mom's family started the scavenger hunt tradition because her Dad died when she was 15 (she had 5 siblings) and they didn't have a whole lot of money to spend on gifts. They tried to spread out the presents as much as possible throughout the day and make Christmas fun as each of the siblings came up with the clues for each other. 

When it comes to my favorite stocking gifts... Last year I got some bath bombs in my Christmas stocking and that was super happy. I'm also super happy to get nail polish in my stocking as well. It's also a tradition on my side of the family to get Blistex! We're addicted to that stuff and nothing else works on our lips... Whoops.

-Goldie Rose

A:

Dear Ele Kalikimaka,

For stocking stuffers all of us buy stocking stuffers for each other from the dollar store. It is a great family tradition and is lots of fun. Santa fills the rest up with candy, peanuts, and toiletries.

Christmas morning starts at 7 am (It used to start at 6 am, but we've decided to "sleep in" now). When we go up the stairs the presents have been hidden all over the house. Before we can open any presents we have to find them all. Then we take turns opening gifts one at a time going youngest to oldest.

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear El,

All presents were put under the tree in the living room. My aunt always held a Christmas Eve party, and when we returned from that, the kids were always banned from the living room so my parents could get everything set up. We didn't have a set time in the morning, but everyone would gather in the kitchen until my parents were ready.

Presents were opened one at a time, from youngest to oldest. One person is designated as "Santa" each year, so that most of the family can stay on the couch, and Santa's job is to make sure there's a present in front of them when it's their turn. My dad always buys extra presents for my mom, so towards the end we all just watch her open presents, and that's one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

Once all the presents were opened, we were allowed to get into our stockings, hanging on the staircase or on occasion above the fireplace. Usually stockings are full of Christmas treats like pistachios and Reese's trees. 

On Christmas evening, after dinner, we do Christmas pie, which is a chance for everyone to get one last gift. My mom would take an open box and put a layer of wrapping paper over it. Inside the box are small gifts for everyone in the family, attached to strings with our names on them. Everyone gathers around the box, and on the count of three, pulls their string to break the wrapping paper and get their gift. Christmas Pie is among my favorite Christmas traditions.

Love,

Luciana

A:

Dear El-ahrairah,

Everyone wakes up (or is woken up) at 7 AM on Christmas morning. We were not allowed to touch or even look too closely at our stockings until everyone was up and ready. Then, we would read Luke 2 and 3 Nephi 1:1-21. Then we would all be allowed to open our stockings, which usually contained some candy and then some toiletry items. One year Santa somehow stuffed an entire bottle of shampoo into my stocking. The candy was partially the same for everyone but there would also be one or two things that were our individual favorites. I always got a bag of bridge mix

Growing up, that was the end of the morning festivities. We had some older relatives and friends who would come over for Christmas lunch, so opening the actual presents was after lunch. We were forced to be very patient children. I have distinct memories of rollerblading around our little town on Christmas Day, just trying to pass the time until lunch. 

Then, one of us would be stationed on the floor near the tree and would hand out presents. Whoever was doing it would space it out so that you didn't get all your presents right in a row, but we didn't exactly take turns either. I really miss this time of my life, when we would all be squeezed into whatever space possible in our small living room, full of ham and mashed potatoes, surrounded by pieces of ripped wrapping paper and each other. It was good times.

Now, we're all spread out, so we don't usually spend Christmas all together. Plus, each individual family is getting big enough that it's a hassle for us in the area to meet up. Everyone just kind of does our own thing, opening presents on Christmas morning and we just all video chat later in the day. 

-Quixotic Kid

A:

Dear El-ahrairah,

Every Christmas Eve my family went over to my Aunt and Uncle's house to feast, play white elephant, and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They only lived a couple of blocks away but we usually wouldn't get home till midnight, at which point my mom and dad would start wrapping presents. When we woke up in the morning, we weren't allowed to open presents or wake our parents up until 9 a.m. but we could start going through our stockings. Our stockings usually contained candy, fruit, and smaller gifts like socks. 

After we woke our parents up, my dad would read the Christmas story from the Bible and then we would start opening presents one at a time, youngest to oldest. It was fun that we got to savor each present and see what everyone else got, but it also made it very clear who got the most presents. My family also did a thing called 'pixies.' It was basically 'secret Santa' but in November we would all put our names into a hat and then pull one out, get a gift for that person, and then on Christmas morning, you would guess who your pixie was. 

Opening presents probably took an hour and then we would all make a big brunch together. After brunch, we would play with our presents, go for a walk, or watch a movie but we never had a set tradition. Also, since we had a big dinner for Christmas Eve, we usually didn't do anything too special for Christmas dinner but just made simple foods that people wanted. 

-Fozzie

A:

Dear you, 

My Mom and Dad (oops, I mean Santa Claus) would stay up in the wee hours of the morning of Christmas putting everything together. My siblings and I would wake up around 7 or 8 in the morning and we would come downstairs (one of my brothers would come upstairs) and we would meet in the living room where we had some presents and our stockings together. We each sat down and we would take turns opening three presents. My parents...er....Santa would leave us three presents which represented a 1) need, 2) meaningful gift, 3) something fun. We would also then take turns reading a letter from Santa that would highlight each of our year that also related to our presents.

I enjoyed that tradition very much, but as each of us kids are now married and are having children, we are trying to figure out how to do Christmas now. We don't have a good answer yet, but I'm looking forward to some family time this Christmas season.

-Sunday Night Banter

A:

Dear trickster,

Every Christmas, Santa filled each of our stockings and the whole couch cushion behind it with unwrapped presents. We all filed downstairs youngest-to-oldest at 7:00 a.m., and then it was free-for-all with our Santa gifts. Then we all sat around the tree and took turns opening the gifts we'd gotten and wrapped for each other.

So basically, it looks like our Christmases were very similar, except for that my mom never recorded us coming down the stairs. The other detail I would add is that after the Santa gift free-for-all was over, the youngest kid had the job of distributing all the wrapped gifts under the tree, and then we would open one gift at a time oldest to youngest, starting with my parents. 

I just realized that this is all in past tense, when, in fact, this is still what my family does. My youngest sibling is 13, so I'm interested to see what changes come with an older crowd.

Hands down the best stocking stuffer I ever got was the bright pink 3rd generation iPod shuffle I got in seventh grade. To this day, I am the only person I know who owned one. It's the gum stick looking one with no buttons so you had to control it with Apple headphones (aka the reason Apple headphones are the only ones I can tolerate). That little guy has a special place in my heart.

Sincerely,

Cerulean