My parents hosted a Christmas party every year in the wee hours of Christmas morning after Midnight Mass at our tiny Holy Trinity Episcopal church in Bonham, Texas. This party was for all the church people and anyone else who happened to be awake and available for a party that began around 1 am on Christmas morning.
The house was filled with adults and kids who were in full holiday cheer. Alcohol flowed freely for the adults (and any teenager who could sneak it) and soda was available for the kids. The dining room table was filled with food – real dinner food – so I am thinking it was a potluck supper. There were desserts, too. Cookies and cakes and pies that were homemade and delicious. (Yes, it must have been a potluck because my mother didn’t bake, much less spend hours cooking on Christmas Eve or any other day for that matter.)
This was in the 1960’s so almost every adult smoked. Ashtrays were everywhere and were filled to overflowing by the end of the night.
The only problem with this annual event was how to fit the visit from Santa into the picture. Most people didn’t leave until 3 or 4 and my siblings and I were eager to open gifts first thing in the morning – meaning about 6 or 7. Even if we were tired, the logic was that it was better to wake up early, open gifts, then take a nap later. Well, that was my logic and my little brother’s. We were the people shaking mom and dad awake at 6 am.
I never knew how my parents found the energy to put gifts out for six children after a party that didn’t end until the wee hours of Christmas morning, but the gifts were always there when my little brother and I tiptoed downstairs and peeked into the living room. We were not allowed to enter the room until Mama and Daddy were awake and there to supervise, but we could see in through the French doors. Slowly, our other siblings would come downstairs. in retrospect, I’m sure that Sam and I had more sleep than anyone else. We probably fell asleep at 1:30 or 2, plus we may have been required to take a nap earlier in the day.
Our family ritual around Christmas gifts was that our parents took our baby pictures from the wall in their bedroom and used them to identify whose gifts were whose. Our pile of presents was always next to our baby picture , either under the tree or on chairs and the sofa in the room. Once everyone was awake and in the front hall, we were allowed to go in and find our picture. From there, our mother gave us a signal and we tore into our gifts.
I can only imagine how tired our parents must have been on those Christmas mornings. I think they might have only had an hour or two of sleep by the time the youngest kids (Sam and me) were ready to dive into our Christmas presents. Still, everyone was in good spirits during the gift opening. This was probably possible because only an hour or so later, everyone headed back to their beds for a good sleep.
I see the logic of a post-Midnight Mass party. After all, people are out, dressed up, and ready to celebrate after having attended Midnight Mass. It seems like a great time to gather with friends and family for a few hours of fun. It is only tough if there are little ones who will be waking early to see what Santa brought. Still, I suppose losing a few hours of sleep is worth the chance to throw a real holiday bash.
After all, it is Christmas day.