--There is breakfast, and there is lunch, and they are both as relaxed as possible.
--My dad and I go shopping. No, we are not lunatics. My dad has an immensely good in with the parking fairies, and so we tend to waltz into the mall from a space no more than three from the door. We have already done any shopping that is truly necessary, so this is along the lines of, "Look! Good socks! We know and love people who have feet!" or, "Hey, don't you think Mom could use those earrings? I think she could!" And, "Hahaha, look at how ugly this thing is! It's ugly and useless! Ha! We will leave it to be ugly and useless here in the store." And also, "Look at those poor stressed-out saps. Smile, stressed-out saps! It's Christmas!" There is also some solving of the world's problems along the way. Also technical discussions of the world of speculative fiction and the world of water chemistry in the last year.
--My dad and I have frozen yogurt with fruit on the top. Failing that, smoothies. But the right thing is frozen yogurt with fruit on the top. Vanilla frozen yogurt. If possible some of the fruit should be chopped kiwi. If they don't have kiwi, we will make the same skeptical face at each other about this newfangled kind of frozen yogurt place that lacks kiwi.
--My dad and I come back and wrap whatever socks/earrings/fruit bats/orangutans/breakfast cereals we have managed to find along the way. We use my dad's secret to wrapping presents: use lots of tape. (Dad's secret to building houses: use lots of nails. Dad's secret to sewing buttons: use lots of thread. Dad's secret to writing novels: use lots of words.)
--There is smorgasbord. Clam chowder and pickled herring and meats and cheeses and usually shrimps (which I do not eat) and veggies and lo these many other fine things. Many of which are Ethnic. In the background of this, there are very cheesy Christmas carols on the hifi, which has been replaced by my mom's sleek under-cabinet kitchen CD player, but still, the theory is the same. These carols are too cheesy to have been played a million times over in stores for the month of December, so no one is sick of them. Two words: Eddie Arnold.
--There are presents opened. The presents are passed out by the two youngest parties present who are old enough to read gift labels. The presents are opened one at a time, going around a circle with the youngest opening one, and then the next-youngest, and so on up to the oldest, then starting again with the youngest.
--There are cookies, and there is raspberry sherbet. These days the sherbet is sorbet, because I buy the sherbet. But the theory of it is sherbet.
--There is the trying on of various gift clothing items, and occasionally the modeling for family members.
--There is church. I am mildly flexible on the subject of the timing of Christmas Eve church. It can be any time after sundown, as long as there are candles and carols. Last year I settled for morning church, since Christmas Eve was a Sunday and my parents' church was not having an evening service. It was a very nice morning service, but it was not the thing. This year: midnight, darkness, candles, carols. Difficulty staying awake is the order of the day here.
--There is the stocking-stuffing, which is topped off with cocoa with Bailey's in. It is quiet and sleepy. The cocoa with Bailey's is one of our best adult innovations to Christmas Eve. Innovations to Christmas Eve are few and far between because it is Christmas Eve -- it's already so hard to improve. Better cheese on the smorgasbord one year than another is about the extent of improvement here.
Clearly this is about me and what I want; I wouldn't dream of telling you what you ought to do for Christmas Eve, or that you ought to do anything at all, and anyway my dad's busy that day and can't go shopping with you. Also, things can be added more easily than subtracted. For example, this year my household will open the presents that don't fit in with other Christmas celebrations together in the morning. In some years past it's been the right time to have coffee or brunch with a friend who's in town for limited time. That sort of thing. But by mid-afternoon, Dad and I will be buying random chocolates and laughing at our own incomprehensible jokes, and that is the way of the world. Not everybody's world. Just my world.
It's a good world, on Christmas Eve. And then Christmas morning there are cinnamon rolls and stockings, and by 10 a.m. on Christmas morning, I am back to my amiable, cheerful, whatever-you-like, we-can-be-flexible attitude about holidays.
Is there a holiday about which you have Firm Opinions? What are your Firm Opinions?