When it comes to the holidays, most families have their own traditions that they repeat each year. Whether that tradition is going out and shopping on Black Friday (cringe), baking Christmas cookies together, or traveling to visit family, they all come with memories that will last forever. These traditions are also likely accompanied by excitement and cheers from some, eye rolls and sighs of ‘again’ from others. Luckily my parents never put my brother and I through traditions that warranted the latter.
The ‘Numbered Christmas’ tradition took shape when my brother and I were old enough to know that Santa wasn’t real. Shock. Horror. My mother shops early for gifts – she still requests our Christmas lists before Thanksgiving – and typically has her Christmas shopping finished by the first of December; sometimes earlier. She would wrap the gifts then place them under the tree for everyone to enjoy all month long. She quickly found out that my brother and I had this innate gift of just looking at a present and knowing what was inside by its shape, size, and weight. She said this took all the fun (to her, not us!) out of the presents and frustrated her to the point that she took action.
She started numbering our gifts.
While wrapping presents she would put a number on it instead of a name. She kept a list of the numbers and their recipient on a list, tucked away in a hiding place only she knew. Sometimes she even took it a step further and numbered my fathers’ gifts to throw us off even more. The only gifts under the tree that had a name on them were hers. There were a couple exceptions to the rule: I always got present 27 and my brother always got present number 13. Mine and my brother’s jersey numbers from when we played sports, respectively.
Once Christmas morning arrived, we would sit around the tree, my brother and I pulling out presents, reading out the number and my mom, with her list, telling us who that gift belonged to. It really did make the morning a bit longer and more fun!
This tradition worked extremely well for many years… until it didn’t.
One year, back when I was still in college, we woke up on Christmas morning all ready to open presents. We gathered around the tree waiting to start picking presents and finding out who it belonged to when my mother came into the room and said she couldn’t find her list. She had forgotten where she hid it.
Christmas just got a lot more interesting.
To make matters even more interesting, this was one of those years that she also numbered my fathers’ gifts.
My brother and I thought this was hilarious because what child wouldn’t think that when their mother’s evil Christmas plan finally backfired on her?
My mother has a pretty good memory. So good that she could, and still can, identify the gift solely from the bow and wrapping paper on it. We got most of the presents divvied up correctly. However, things got tricky when she couldn’t remember who the present was for. Our next step? She took the gift into her room, unwrapped it just as much as she needed to in order see what it was, rewrapped it, then brought it to the person it belonged to. At the end of that day, there was only one gift that was incorrect in our piles: I had opened a gift that clearly belonged to my brother.
Fast-forward to about four years later, my parents were dressed up and headed out to a fancy dinner date. My mother pulled out a clutch that she hadn’t used in quite a long time and when she unzipped it, voila! There it was. The long lost number list from the notorious Christmas from years before.
Still, to this day, every Christmas we tell the story of the famous ‘Numbered Christmas’ that will forever live on as the most interesting and hilarious Christmas for our family (so far, at least). Also, we don’t do numbered Christmases anymore. We never did them again after that year. I could never imagine why 🙂