Commemorating a Christmas miracle. Sharing the love of reading. Hosting a special dinner.
These are some of the ways families make Christmas Eve traditions memorable.
The night before Christmas is typically a time for special family gatherings and other holiday festivities.
Some families gather for a special meal or an early gift exchange. Others visit local neighborhoods and holiday light displays to see the twinkling Christmas lights. And many families attend Christmas Eve worship services and religious observances.
Several of The Oklahoman's readers shared their favorite Christmas Eve traditions:
Sharing Christmas joy through reading
Jan Larsen's family knows which gifts they will open Christmas Eve and what will be in those treasure boxes each year.
Larsen, who lives in the Deer Creek area with her husband, Brad, has been giving her four children two books each Christmas for the past 12 years. She said she gives a Christmas storybook and a classic book that was read to her when she was a child by her mother.
Each book includes a custom-made label with a picture of Larsen's parents and how they tried to instill a love of reading in their children.
Larsen said she is trying to do the same thing in a fun way. She said it gives her a chance to help build their family book collection and share fond memories of yesteryear about her parents.
“The book collecting at Christmas is a way to keep them alive in the children's memory,” Larsen said.
The Larsens' son, Tyler, and his wife, Jennifer, said they read the books to their children, Makenna, 6, and Brynlee, 4. Tyler Larsen said he loves the way his mother shares her love of reading and also gives him glimpses of what was important to his maternal grandparents.
“The ability to read really stems from families taking the time to read to the children,” he said.
Larsen said she has told her family about how her mother would drive 30 minutes from their Arizona citrus farm to a book mobile in the closest urban area so that they family could check out books. Larsen said some of her favorites from childhood included “Sir Kevin of Devon” and “Five Chinese Brothers” and she scoured eBay and other places to find the books to pass on to her children.
Christmas books that have been distributed over the years include “The Carpenter's Gift,” “Cowboy Night Before Christmas” and, of course, the Dr. Seuss classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Meanwhile, Brad Larsen is in the book-giving mode this Christmas. He said he has collected several vintage Bibles, some dating back to the late 1500s and early 1600s, that he plans to present to his children and their families Christmas Eve.
Nicole and Tim Knox, of Tulsa, will start a new Christmas Eve tradition.
Nicole Knox said they plan to present snacks to families whose children are in the critical care unit at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center at Christmas.
Knox said they know all too well what it is like to have a child in a life or death battle at the hospital.
She said last Christmas Eve, the family's doctor made a home visit to see their son, Judah, who was then 11 months old and battling strep throat. The doctor said he thought the child had bacterial meningitis and sent the couple to the hospital where the boy could be cared for.
Knox said she quickly learned how serious the situation had become when a large team of doctors and nurses entered her son's hospital room and began treating him for the deadly infection. Knox said the couple had planned to take their four children to Christmas Eve worship services at their church, the south Tulsa campus of LifeChurch.tv. Instead, the worried parents spent the evening at the hospital where they were eventually told that their son had about 12 days to live and if he did not die, he would have extensive brain damage.
Knox said a doctor came into little Judah's room Christmas Day and shared more medical information with them. Knox said the woman then prayed for the boy and they joined her in asking God to heal him.
“She said ‘I know we serve a God that's bigger than this (illness),'” Knox said, recalling the doctor's words.
Knox said their prayers and those of countless family, friends and church members for Judah were answered with what the family calls a miracle.
“Within two hours (of praying), he was crawling around. They had to kick us out of ICU because he wasn't sick anymore.”
Knox said strangers who previously had experienced similar situations had dropped off encouraging cards and snacks for them and other parents whose children were hospitalized. She said that's why the family will start a new tradition of giving back to people experiencing such trauma at The Children's Hospital. Knox said her husband, who is a pastor at their church, plans to write the families a letter of encouragement as they face challenges.
“We didn't ever want to forget it — what they did for us,” she said. “If we can bring goodness to them during that scary time, we want to do it.”
Maria Edgington, of Edmond, said when she was a child, her mother hosted a Christmas Eve dinner that she called a “Nazarene supper.”
Now Edgington has such a gathering at her family home each year.
Edgington said she and her husband, Chuck, their four children and close family friends dress in clothes typical of biblical times and sit down to a meal made to resemble one that people in Jesus' time might have eaten.
Edgington said they eat fish (chicken for family members who dislike fish), nuts, dried fruits, hummus, breadsticks and matzo bread.
She said she tries to come as close as possible to a traditional biblical times supper.
The group eats by candlelight and Edgington said they eat from wooden bowls she has collected over the years.
She said one year, her family traveled to visit out-of-town relatives and her children said they deeply missed their traditional Christmas Eve supper.
“It's fun and the kids realize this is how the Savior would have lived,” Edgington said.
Edgington, a Mormon, said she has enjoyed sharing this tradition with her children and she hopes they share it with their own someday.
“I appreciate my parents instilling such traditions in us,” she said.
“I can't tell you what all my presents were, but most of my best memories of Christmas were from Christmas Eve dinner.”