Growing up, my family had a lot of Christmas traditions. There was the annual reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” lots of games and every year my dad would say, “Let’s wait until after Christmas to open these presents” just to get a scream out of us kids.

Christmas Eve night was when we’d open our presents that had been under the tree for weeks. The mystery of what was in those boxes drove me crazy every year. Trying to get a little hint of what might be in those beautifully wrapped little treasures, I would shake them, sniff them, lick them and touch them at least 82 times before we finally got to open them.

One of the biggest Christmas traditions my family had growing up involved opening presents. We never really just opened the presents, we made a production out of each one of them. They were never opened all at once. I guess to make it last longer, we’d pass out all the packages, and then one person at a time (from youngest to oldest) would open one. We weren’t allowed to start opening our gift until the younger brother or sister in front of us had completely opened theirs and everyone would say, “ooh and aah.” It was a one-at-a-time thing even if we had 40 people there for Christmas.

I clearly remember the first year I did Christmas with Lea’s family. We were newlyweds. Her family sat down to open presents and all of a sudden everybody just started ripping them open as fast as they could. No “one at a time” for anyone and no “oohing or aahing” could be heard over all the commotion. I remember wanting to stand up and shout, “STOP YOU HEATHENS! You people don’t have a clue how to do Christmas presents!” But I quickly learned that that was her family’s Christmas tradition.

Lea and I have incorporated traditions from both of our families into our Morgan family. This weekend when our little family of six sits down to unwrap our Christmas gifts, we’ll do it the civilized way. Yep, one present at a time, and if you listen clearly, you’ll hear from our house lots of “oohs and aahs.” It’s just become our Christmas tradition.

  • So, what were some of your family’s traditions when you were growing up?
  • Have you incorporated them into your current family?

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
24 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    isn’t it funny how we love cultural traditions but always dog religious ones??

    in my wife’s family, everyone had a glass of orange juice Christmas morning before being allowed to open presents.

    in my family the annual tradition was begging and wearing down mom until she let me open at least one present early.

    also, I would peal back a section of wrapping and tape to found out what a gift was, and then reseal it.

    ahhh….good times


  2. Evan Williams says:

    On Christmas eve we open all my greatgrandmothers and my two grandmas and one grandpa’s gifts and my uncle and aunt.
    on christmas morning we open Santa’s gift then our stockings…and then the presents under the tree…….and there is lots of ooooh’s and ahhhhh’s at our house too.

  3. Evan Williams says:

    there is lots of love there trey …’s even titled “Trey I love you”

  4. Anonymous says:

    In our house as a kid, we all got up as early as we could possibly drag mom and dad out of bed and all had to wait upstairs till dad went down and made a pot of coffee!! It took FOREVER and then, we all race down and rip through presents like crazy!! With my children, now all grown, we all get together on Christmas Eve for dinner and church services, then come back for gifts and deserts!!

  5. That Girl says:

    We drag it out forever. We don’t even pass out all the gifts first. You have to watch somebody open theirs while you can still see a million of yours under the tree and you just hope that whoever is playing Santa will give you a gift next!!!

  6. Stachia says:

    Christmas Day was my Grindaddy’s birthday so on Christmas mornign between 2 and 3 AM we would get up open up all our presents all at one time then my parents would go back to bed for awile. Then around 6 or so Mama would fix and big breakfast and get the dressing going and while she cooked we took down all the of the Christmas decorations, put them away and decorated for Grindaddy’s birthday. Christmas was over by the time we were through eating breakfast but there were always 25-30 people there to celebrate Grindaddy’s birthday, five layer chocolate cake and all.

  7. ran says:

    We do the one at a time and ooh and aah also. Now that my children are grown, and we have 3 grandchildren, it takes more time each year. But who cares? When the children were little, they would fly in the door after school, each day, pull all the packages out from under the tree and stack and count and shake. The paper was nearly worn off the bottom by christmas eve. They were so excited if there was one new gift added that day. I miss having someone pull them all out and count them now. Now, the grandchildren play Santa with grandpa. As they get old enough, they get their own Santa hat like grandpa’s, and they pass out all the gifts. One year, the two year old grandchild, had to help open EVERY gift. I don’t believe any of us got to open our own package that year. One thing I have told my daughter and daughter in laws, as they married, MAKE YOUR OWN TRADITIONS NOW! It doesn’t matter what you make a tradition, just make them. That is what makes it so much fun. Thanks for sharing, and I’m really enjoying your blog. My husband is a preacher as well. So I can relate!

  8. Greg says:

    Our tradition, at least us kids, was to sneak downstairs early in the morning before mom and dad got up, open all our gifts and see what we had, the re-wrap them and act surprised the next morning. As we got older, we stopped doing that but someone forgot to tell the younger brother. On Christmas morning, we went downstairs and every gift was opened … paper scattered everywhere. Rex had done our traditional thing on his own and didn’t know how to re-wrap the gifts. Dad was “furious” but it’s one of the few Christmases I vividly remember from childhood.

    Too many years we went to grandparents early on Christmas Morning (which could mean driving from Orlando to Nashville!) or on Christmas Eve, driving all night. So we’d either see our gifts and then leave, or we’d open our gifts after Christmas, once we got back home. I HATED going anywhere on Christmas because of that. To this day, I will turn down invitations to come to someone’s house for Christmas. Even if everyone else were to go, I would stay home by myself before I’ll go away on Christmas. Fortunately, I’ve not had to stay home by myself, but I’m jealous for Christmas at our place … which is harder and harder now that our son is married and has other family to consider.

  9. lisa says:

    It is an interesting adventure to combine the traditions from two families. When I got married, the same thing happened to me – I had been raised with the highly civilized tradition of opening one gift at a time, from youngest to oldest. The first year I went to Dan’s house for Christmas & the presents were handed out and then everyone tore into them, I was dumbfounded! “What are you people doing? I can’t see what you’re opening!” I pretty much waited til everyone else opened theirs before I opened much of mine … which is amazing considering the fact that I can hardly wait to open my presents when they’re right there in front of me! Now with our kids, Dan hands out the presents with the kids’ help, then the boys get to open theirs (one at a time) and Dan & I open ours randomly throughout. It’s really quite strange. :)

  10. Haley says:

    Yep we are one at a timers as well. Someone is in charge of passing out all the presents and they have to wear the santa hat, and then it’s one at a time. Mom always makes the same breakfast, hash-brown quiche and mini-cini’s. And on Christmas Eve we always open one present and it’s always pj’s!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Your Christmas traditions sound so much like ours used to. We had a big family and treasured each moment. Enjoy it all now. When you get older and the kids are all gone, people scatter to other places for Christmas, grandchildren are divided between two sets of parents or grandparents. They get too many gifts and not very much TLC. So much emphasis is put on buying things that toys are soon forgotten. When I was a little girl I’d get one doll and fruit, nuts and candy. That was during the depression, but all those kids to play with who didn’t get any more than I did was the highlight of the holiday. We played all day.
    And our parents provided food we didn’t always have.

  12. nb says:

    We always wrote Santa letters and made cookies to leave for Santa.I still do this with my children.

    As a children, we would wake each other in the wee hours to peek and see if Santa had arrived. If he hadn’t, it was back to bed. If he had, we tore into the presents all at once.

    Usually, somebody got a big gift that everyone wanted to play with, like Lincoln Logs, Legos, Race Track, Train Set etc. – so we’d all sit around together assembling it or taking turns playing with it until breakfast.

    We still do the unwrapping of gifts at random. We try to do it a little slower with our kids, but we don’t do one at a time. But, it’s still gifts first, then breakfast. :)

  13. Shane Coffman says:

    My family was the “dig in” type. My wife’s family was the “let’s see how long we can drag this out” type.

    Other traditions:

    My Dad griping at my mom about how late the meal was.

    My sister handing out the gifts (how many of you have a designated hander-outer?)

    My wife’s family draws for names, so you only buy for one person. My family used to have everyone buy somethign for everyone. We’ve cut back to drawing names for adults, but we still all buy for the kids.

    Hmm…Trey, maybe you should add this discussion to any pre-marital counseling you do from here on out. This could be a major source of conflict for a new couple.

  14. Monalea says:

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I will always love you 2-3-6


  15. Bob Bliss says:

    When I was growing up we all tore into our presents without waiting for each other. We I married Pat, her family handed out the presents and then we’d start opening them one at a time from the youngest to the oldest. Drove me nuts, I didn’t care what everyone else got, I cared about what I got!

    My favorite tradition with our kids, was getting up on the first Saturday of December, making a couple of thermoses of hot chocolate, driving to a tree farm from our home in North Jersey to Pennsylvania just across the Delaware River. Along the way we would sing Christmas songs and cut the number of cars that already had trees. Sometimes we would spend a couple of hours looking at trees before figuring out that the third one we looked out was the one we wanted. Then we would cut down the tree and drive back to New Jersey. I miss those days.

    Now we just go to Lowes and pick out an already cut one at half price. How things change.

  16. TREY MORGAN says:

    Brian – You unwrapped your presents and then re-wrapped them? You parents never noticed?

  17. Amy's Gang says:

    That is EXACTLY how our families are. Jason’s take it one by one, mine open them in a crazy, unorganized stressful way. We, too, have taken on the one at a time tradition in our little family. I have TRIED to pass this on to my family since I married, with no luck. Even when we are at our house, by the end, it is crazy. Some thing never change. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

  18. leslie says:

    we do the one at a time…i grew up with that. so much of giving a gift was to see the person’s face, and hear everyone’s appreciation.

    growing up, we had to wait to eat breakfast before opening gifts. my dad, who never slept past 5 a.m. any other day of the year, would emerge from his room late and make a leisurely (and elaborate) breakfast. we had to console ourselves with the stockings.
    now, (we have one daughter) i find myself wanting to draw out the morning…but i wake early to catch our girl’s face when she sees santa’s gifts and the note he leaves on the empty plate of oreo cookies.

    my husband introduced christmas pajamas. i like this. we all get new pjs for the year. they are waiting on the end of our beds and we put them on and come down and wear them most of the day.

    our traditions melded pretty well, though we opened one gift on the eve, and his family didn’t (but that was an easy sell)…we also come from similar cultural backgrounds (we set out our shoes and they set out clogs)…

    thanks for this post, trey. i love hearing about other peoples traditions and memories.

  19. Brie says:

    Hi Trey! Your Christmas question has forced me to delurk. I do enjoy reading your blog, but as to the tradition question…

    We had tons of things that we did while I was growing up.

    When my husband and I got married, some of the things were non-negotiable, and some of them were negotiable. Before my husband even proposed, we were discussing the “white lights vs. colored lights” issue. You have to get the important things on the table early.

    Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” CD must be played while we decorate the tree, which must have multi-colored lights and icicles on it. The icicles were waived this year because our son is only a year old an icicles are of dubious nutritional value.

    Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Emmitt Otter’s Jugband Christmas, and Rudolph all have to be watched at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    We’ve obviously carried those things over into our family. We’ve added a few things, too. I buy a star ornament every year now in memory of my Dad, who would have been an astronaut if his eyes weren’t lousy. It’s a fun way to remember him without being too morbid.

    So ready to be home for Christmas.

  20. TREY MORGAN says:

    Brie – I just had to throw in a comment about “de-lurking” someone. That’s a cool word. And I must say, I like it when I “de-lurk” someone.

    Glad you hang out and feel free to delurk a little more often :)

  21. Jeanne M. says:

    I don’t remember how we did it when I was a child – too long ago. When our children were young, they had to wait in their rooms until we were ready for them to come out – Dad had to have the camera ready. Then they were allowed to come into the room, see what Santa had brought, then look for their presents under the tree and open them all at once. But we got to open one present apiece Christmas Eve night. Bob, I don’t remember when we started doing the “one at a time thing,” but think it was when your grandchildren came along – maybe when your own children were small.

  22. Timbra Wiist Owner/Photographer says:

    ooh, we NEVER shook the gifts pre-opening time. christmas eve we get one gift. . jammies!!! now that i have a little one, my mom cut Mike and I off from annual jammies, but we et ’em for each other. . which now i stopped because a man can only have so many pairs of plaid pj pants and mike has TONS!!! now we’ve decided just to save that tradition for our offspring. then we too pass out gifts and open them one at a time in a round (on christmas morning), my step dad ALWAYS purposely gets skipped so he can have several to open at the end. . all eyes on him for several in a row. stockings are the big compromise, we always did them first, mike’s family does them last. we always got little stuff and lots of fun things that girls love like underwear, socks, chapstick, etc. . mike’s family, they put like the best gift in the stocking!!! so, first year we were married, stuffed his stocking full of socks and underwear and he was SOOO disappointed, i’ve never made that mistake again. . . a wrapped gift of great importance is always shoved in the toe now and in our little family, we do them last. . when we open with my family, they come first!. . .perhaps I should have just written my own blog on christmas traditions, since this has gotten so long! I see some other lengthy responses, but I may have succeeded in outwriting everyone! oh well!

  23. JoAnn says:

    Us…ripper-openers, chaos type. Ex’s….slooooooowly peel back the tape, don’t rip the paper, hand paper to MIL so she can fold, hand bow to MIL so she can put in special bow box, then…and only then, carefully lift the lid off the box. Join the chorus of oooohs and ahhhhs. Me, by that time, asleep on the couch. Sigh. Miss those Christmas’s.
    Jo Ann

  24. Wade says:

    Hey there,

    You don’t know me – I recently tripped over your blog – I can’t remember how . . .

    Anyway, I got a laugh from this post because it is exactly what my wife and I experienced during our first Christmas – although my family was the one guilty of a “sprint to the finish line” Christmas.

    I actually enjoyed the “one at a time” tradition of my wife’s family so much that I tried to instill it in my family’s routines.

    They just looked at me like I was insane! Apparently a tradition is a tradition!

    Great blog – I’ll keep stopping by!


About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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Husband, father and cancer survivor & Senior Minister for the Childress Church of Christ. Tweets about life, marriage, Texas Rangers and randomness.
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