I miss it, though. And it's hard to not see my grandmothers though as they're both getting old. And there is plenty I miss. Growing up we always spent Christmas Eve with my dad's family--on my grandparents' farm and then at their home in town when they retired from farming. We would almost always go to church together (it rotated between 5pm on Christmas Eve, 11pm on Christmas Eve and 7am on Christmas morning--the traditional Swedish julotta service). Most of my extended family was in church for that service as well--several of my grandfather's brothers attended the church. So it was fun to see all the distant cousins--a mini-family-reunion on Christmas. The service always ended with everyone lighting candles during "Silent Night."
We had an "traditional" Swedish meal--lutefisk (I never touch fish anyway, so its not something I eat), homemade potato sausage, ostakaka, dup i grytan, rye bread and much more. Driving home we would always watch for Rudolph in the sky (conveniently there was often an airplane with it's red light flashing). My grandfather would always read the nativity story from Luke. Then he'd hand us each an envelope with a crisp new bill in it. After opening presents, my grandmother would often remember another bag of presents she had forgotten to bring out.
On Christmas Day we would open our presents. We'd often have Mr. Bubble bubble bath under our stocking as well as a new toothbrush, some candy and other little toys. drive three hours to my mom's family gathering in Des Moines (back then you had to make sure you had enough gas as no stations were open on Christmas). My grandmother had a great hill behind her house for sledding.
We're starting our own family traditions, now. I'm thankful our church has a Christmas Eve service. It was a lovely service. The boys had parts in the song "The Friendly Beasts": Nils was a cow all white and red, Anders was a dove. And we had candles as we sang "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" at the end. A friend from church is spending the night with us (it's really quite nice to make this an "extended-family" event). We're watching "It's a Wonderful Life." The boys are building Legos. The women are knitting. Tomorrow we'll be having a short time around the tree, reading the nativity story, opening a present each, going sledding and whatever else unfolds.
In many ways, Christmas Eve is a magical time. There are old superstitions that animals could talk on Christmas Eve. My father would give the livestock extra feed and leave a bale of hay out for Santa's reindeer. The quietness of the world at night with crisp snow on the ground and on the trees brings a peacefulness to the neighborhood.
But in many ways, this night isn't any different that any others. The newborn King should be worshiped every night (and we must remember that He came to give His life for us). We should cherish out time with our families and fiends. We should always live generously, giving to others. Our hearts should be prepared for the return of the King.
This isn't a positive night for everyone, I'm aware. And I pray that if that's the case for you that you may find peace tonight. We all need peace. And that is why Jesus was born. Peace on earth, goodwill to all.