Mom's alarm would sound. We'd hear her roll out of bed and throw a robe over her nightgown. Holding our breath in order to be as quiet as possible, my little brother, little sister, and I would each coil, ready to spring forward and scream, "Christmas Eve Gift!"
Great-grandma Ruby had crafted the tradition of the Christmas Eve Gift. Whomever was clever and sneaky enough to surprise everyone else with the magic, three-letter phrase would receive an inexpensive, though special, gift. Catching fellow family members was eagerly sought, the prize more coveted than the "real" presents that were doled out on Christmas day.
Christmas Eve Gift then filled the childhoods of my mom and aunts, and as soon as we were all old enough to understand the rules of said tradition, it continued on with my generation, spreading joy and anticipation within the family and confusion from friends or coworkers who were greeted with jubilantly burbled words that echoed through telephone lines or around doorjambs.
Our silly, playful tradition continues, my grandma still the best of us. In fact, as adults we no longer exchange Christmas presents. No, it's all about those Christmas Eve Gifts. They may be but trifles, small packages that show our affection for -- and competition with -- each other, but are they cherished!
So, Christmas Eve Gift to each and every one of you! Here's to continuing on amusing family traditions, and hey, while I'm at it, merry Christmas. It may not be as exciting as catching everyone with a shouted, "Christmas Eve Gift!" but it's a pretty great day, too.