In my family, we always have our big family gathering and gift-opening session on Christmas Eve. I’ve never gotten a clear answer for why this is, beyond a vague reference to German ancestors who must be to blame. We still had the Santa gifts to open and stockings to wake up to on Christmas Day, so in a way it was the best of both worlds. We had a big get-together and a big meal and lots of new stuff to play with Christmas Eve, and when we woke up, we got a bunch more stuff to open and even more toys to play with. I’m keeping up the tradition with my girls, who will no doubt one day ask where it came from, so that I can give them the same ambiguous answer about someone somewhere generations before deciding that it should be done this way.
In our modern new family, we not only have the Christmas Eve/Day celebrations (usually at my mother’s house, followed by a sledding trip up the mountain from her house), but we also have the early Christmas with the in-laws, the informal pre-Christmas gathering with my step-siblings, and the post-Christmas brunch gathering with my father and step-mother. In all, this amounts to five Christmas gatherings/gift opening sessions for the kids. At several of these get-togethers, we’ve banned gifts for all but the kids, because it was just getting too hard to prep for otherwise. So, in light of all of these family holiday get-togethers and new toy/clothes binges, it may take several years for the girls to catch on that not everyone exchanges the bulk of their gifts on Christmas Eve. And that not everyone has five Christmas celebrations each year.
Whatever your traditions are, and however many days they span, I hope you have a very happy holiday season.