Once upon a time, there was a large family living in the beautiful hills of the Ozarks. They had five boisterous children who loved Christmas very much. They loved the music, the decorations, the hunt for the perfect – if itchy – cedar tree, the lights, the festivities, and of course, being proper Vincents, the food. Papa and Mama, at this time of their lives and with five children, found their wallets a bit on the tight. There was hardly even a quarter to be spared. Papa and Mama focused what little money they had on stuffing the seven large family stockings. Calendars, fabric, rope, candy, snacks, and even socks made their way into the stockings. The three older siblings pooled their resources from odd jobs to purchase small gifts for their families, while the younger two made gifts of pictures, rocks, and other crafts.
But – what a lovely word, ‘but’! – every year magnificent presents piled up under the tree. The pile was so large, this particular Christmas, it spilled out into the living room taking up valuable real estate and pathways. Tensions ran high. Five children mentally categorized each gift according to name, sound when gently shook, corners peeling up, and general size. Five children counted down not only days, but hours and minutes. Five smiles spread across five faces when their eyes fell on the full tree.
Where had these lavish gifts come from? How had the poor family managed to have such a wealthy Christmas? The generosity of an Auntie and Uncle with no children yet of their own made it possible. All through the month of December, large boxes arrived at the Vincent mobile home. Big boxes. Giant boxes full of wrapped presents labeled for everyone. This particular year Auntie and Uncle had outdone themselves.
On Christmas Eve, with beautiful sunlight streaming in the windows, the Vincent family sat down to enjoy a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup – a family favorite. Five pairs of eyes darted now and again to the pile of presents. Five faces grinned at one another in anticipation of the next day’s fun, both loving and hating the anticipation of what lay under those bright wrappers.
Clearing his throat, Papa announced that he had an announcement to make but an announcement with a Condition. At the declaration of this announcement, not a noise could be made by any of the five children. Not a peep, not a cheer, not a word. Nothing. Papa required the announcement to be heard, processed, and obeyed without a sound. He made very intense eye contact with each of his five children. Receiving an agreeing nod from each of them, he proceeded with his announcement.
“Your Mama and I will go take a nap while you children clean up and do the dishes. When we wake up, we will open presents.”
The collective intake of breath of five children prepared to scream for joy nearly sucked all the air out of the room.
“Not a sound,” Papa reminded them.
Five mouths closed.
Eyes darted, lips quivered but stayed shut, happiness beamed from five faces. Not a sound.
Papa and Mama silently retired.
As soon as their bedroom door closed screams, cheers, and many peeps filled the kitchen. Never before was the table cleared or the dishes done with such speed, planning, self-sacrifice, and general joy. Never before had so little bickering and so much aid been giving to fellow siblings. This was a cause worth working together!!! Very soon the dishes were done and five little boys and girls strategically placed themselves in the living room to await the arrival of their parents declaring this the best Christmas ever.
And that, my dear friends, is why the Vincents, Joneses, Days, and Groves celebrate Christmas Eve together to this very day.
Merry Christmas and “God bless us, everyone”.