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When I was little my sisters and I would LOVE Christmas Eve. My step-father and his family were from Europe and so we celebrated the festive season on Christmas Eve at either my grandparent’s home or my Aunt’s home. Either way, it was special.

Grandpa would have lovingly put up the Christmas tree weeks before – a Christmas tree that stretched up to the ceiling and spread out across the room. We would feast on a range of Australian and European foods, including some specialities that Grandma would only make at this time of year, and there were never enough of those! But there was always MORE THAN ENOUGH food to feed us well for a week and then some!

After dinner we would open presents… piles and piles of gifts, carefully wrapped and decorated. But the present-opening wasn’t a frenzied free for all. We would hand out the gifts one at a time – that was always done by the kids – and then everyone would watch as the recipient opened their present, then we could hand out another.

The night continued with a myriad of Christmas music, dancing and performances by my sisters, cousin and myself, and perhaps some Christmas movies thrown in too.  And there were always on-going discussions throughout the night as to who was going to Midnight Mass and who was staying home. Grandma always chose Mass and at least one other adult would have to accompany her.

Somewhere between 1am and 2am we would be fighting to keep our eyes open and would eventually fall asleep in some corner of the loungeroom (or on an adult lap), only to be carried, still sleeping, to the car and then into bed (still fully dressed) when we arrived back home at around 3-4am.

We still celebrate on Christmas Eve but now that I’m grown up the tree doesn’t seem quite so big. And being allowed to stay up practically all night for one night of the year isn’t as big a deal as it was back then, yet the magic is still there. Instead, the magic now comes from watching the excitement in the eyes of the current generation of littlies – my son, nieces and nephew. As I watch their sparkling faces I fully understand their awe at the size of the Christmas tree and their excitement at being able to stay up waaaaay past bedtime.

Merry Christmas to all…