Every family has their own special Christmas Eve traditions. Some open all their gifts that night, and some have huge open house parties and invite all the neighbors in for a drink. Many end the night's celebrations by attending Midnight Mass (we have begun to do this in recent years, although we always went in the morning when our boys were little guys).
Our family has a very specific tradition for Christmas Eve dinner. It began by accident many years ago, due for the most part to the fact that we had some picky eaters among our young sons back in the day, but one thing the five of them could all agree on was pizza--especially "ordered out" pizza (a real treat!). So one Christmas Eve my husband and I decided that--to make everyone happy and to give me a break in the kitchen--we would have Pizza Hut pizza delivered to our house for dinner that year. We set the dining room table up with all of our fanciest linens and china, we drank sparkling grape juice in wine glasses, we toasted each other in the candlelight; but the main dish that year was pizza!
That same year, we also put "Christmas crackers"--which are an English Christmas tradition--at everyone's place and opened them up together to hear them pop. Inside each cracker was a paper crown (everyone had to put theirs on), a cheap little toy or trinket (such as a miniature yo-yo that you couldn't get to work properly if your life depended on it), and a little sheet of paper with some jokes and/or trivia questions on it (the corniest jokes ever, but we went one by one around the table and made everyone read their little comic gems out loud). The crackers ended up being as much of a hit as the pizza; and so on that Christmas Eve, a new family tradition was born. Ever since, we have done exactly the same thing, year in and year out (even sending our son who was on deployment in the Army a cracker in the mail, and then Skype-ing with him on Christmas Eve so that we could all open them up together, put on the crowns, and read out our jokes to each other).
We have kept this tradition up religiously, except for one year when we lost track of the time and called for our pizza...and all the pizza places were closed! It was like Ralphie's family having to go out for Chinese food when the Bumpusses' dogs ate their turkey! I think our dinner that Christmas Eve was made up of fancy hors d'oeuvres. But otherwise, we've stuck to this same menu and I tell you, I think of it as a recipe for happiness. Now, I can hardly imagine Christmas Eve without pizza and crackers! And the funny thing is, even though four out of five of our sons are well past the legal age for alcohol consumption, we still have sparkling grape juice at our Christmas Eve dinner!
I have lots to do--presents to wrap (I'm so behind on that this year!) and cookies to bake. But I thought I'd leave you with a sampling of the type of jokes we're going to be telling tonight. Make sure you're not drinking milk or anything when you read them, because they're so hilarious that you might laugh so hard it'll come out of your nose.
Q. Why did the doughnut seller retire? A. He was fed up with the hole business.
Q. What do you get if you eat all the Christmas decorations? A. Tinselitus.
Q. What did the alien say to the garden? A. Take me to your weeder.
Q. What do you call someone who's afraid of Santa? A. A Claustrophobic.
Q. What do you get if you cross a snowman and a vampire? A. Frostbite.
And--drumroll, please--here is the last one (if you can stand any more hilarity): Q. What do you get if you cross a pig and a centipede? A. Bacon and legs.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!