El-e-e was asking about how people schedule Christmas, and Pann was writing about how when you have holidays at your own home for the first time it can be tricky to know what to do. So I'll tell you how we do it in the Swistle Family, which includes Swistle, Paul, and kids; Swistle's Mom and Swistle's Dad; and Swistle's Brother and Swistle's Sister-in-Law.
We start "after naptime." The quotes are because this holds true even if no one in the family is young enough to nap. We start at 2:30 or 3:00, after everyone is showered and coffeed and dressed and breakfasted and lunched and napped, and no one has to come to the celebration feeling gritty and tangled and exhausted while it's still dark outside. Perhaps most importantly of all, we can go ahead and eat candy without worrying about breakfast.
First, everyone opens stockings, all at the same time. There is exclaiming and snacking and chatting and calling out, "Where did you GET this?" (one year my brother gave me a bar of Total Bitch soap---best stocking stuffer EVER).
When the chatting and snacking die down, we do the Child Gift Exchange: children take turns opening their presents and handing out the presents they have chosen for adults. There is much exclaiming and chatting and removing packaging and inserting batteries and reminding to say thank you, and the adults can continue to snack out of their stockings.
At this point it is time for a break: the kids are wound up, and the adults are worn out from the children's excitement and from too many bites of chocolate Santa. It's around 5:00, so it's time for a light dinner. At our house we have Swistle's Soup with garlic bread. (This soup is actually BETTER as leftovers, so it's good for making ahead of time and not having to cook on Christmas.)
After dinner, the children change into pajamas and we go out on a Christmas Light Drive: just weaving around the neighborhood saying, "Ooooo, I like those!" and "Yick!" to our hearts' content. We listen to Christmas music in the car.
Back home, it's 7:00 and the children go to bed. Littler children go to sleep. Older children may stay up and read new books, but they have to stay in bed.
Because now it is time for the grown-ups to relax. The wine is brought out. Everyone changes into pjs or into comfier clothes. There are no children running wild. The snacking from stockings continues, and the gift-opening begins. We go around the circle, taking turns. Lots of chatting and exclaiming.
After gifts, the adults have a late dinner of worstebroodjes, which are basically pigs-in-blankets but oh so much more delicious. Also, a red jello salad and a green jello salad.
It is so pleasant. We can genuinely enjoy the children's gifts, and give the children a lot of attention. We can genuinely enjoy our own gifts, too, and not have to try to squeeze them in between the children's hyper enjoyment of theirs. We can talk without shouting.
Here is the part we don't know yet, because the oldest child in the family is only a third-grader: at what point does a child cross over into the adult group? We're playing it by ear, but we're thinking Rob is close to being ready. I think the most important part is that the child has to be old enough not to dominate the evening, and to get pleasure from watching people other than himself open gifts.
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