As a child of course it was all about the excitement, finding myself shut out of rooms where parents were hastily wrapping presents, and not being able to get to sleep because I was too busy listening out for Father Christmas.
Later, from my mid-teens onwards, I quite often went out to pubs or clubs with friends on Christmas eve. This was a particular favourite activity of a guy I got together with shortly before Christmas in the year that I was 17. I think joining in on his typical Christmas eve out with his mates at the various rock pubs in the centre of Birmingham was one of our first or maybe second dates. By the next year, we'd broken up, but were still friends (occasionally with benefits), so I went along for the same thing - and at that age, something you've done twice already feels 'typical'.
I've pretty much lost touch with the guy since, but I've been out for drinks on Christmas eve at various other times since with different friends or my sister, so it was definitely reasonably typical for a while. I've always been mildly surprised by how few people seem to be out doing the same thing, but then again I haven't done it myself either for a fair few years now, so maybe more people have started going out on Christmas eve than I realise. Anyway, I always liked the feeling of liminal, non-standard time, with all normal activities on hold and a free rein to just sit around, drink and relax, and also the feeling of weaving my way home half-sozzled through the cold dark evening, ready to creep ever-so-quietly to bed and then wake up to Christmas in the morning.
In my mid-twenties, we began hosting family Christmas parties at my parents' house, at least one of which was on Christmas eve itself - though more often they ended up being held on the 23rd. Three got written up in my LJ, here, here and here, but they stopped in 2007 because shortly after that my Mum got cancer, and it became too much for us to manage after that. At least twice we also went to a carol service on Bournville village green on Christmas eve itself.
But in parallel with those traditions, and still continuing to this day, is the habit which my sister and I have developed of staying up until midnight on Christmas eve and toasting in Christmas together with a little drink of something. I'm not sure when we started this, but it has definitely become an annual fixture now. In fact, this year I will be driving all the way from Birmingham to Warwick and back on Christmas eve just to share it with her, in spite of the fact that I'll then be returning again the following day for Christmas itself (which we are holding at her house for the first time ever). But I think I will enjoy the epic journey through the still, cold wintry night as an experience in itself, and I am certainly looking forward to some (very restrained) toasting in front of her wood-burning stove. After all, Santa will just stay home if we don't raise a glass to him on his way around the world.
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