’twas the night before christmas

We were never first, but we were never last either.

As soon as we arrived, my brothers and I would join the cousins in ooo-ing and ah-ing at the Christmas tree and at our stockings that “somehow” ended up at Grandma’s house.

We would dance back into the kitchen where the chairs had been taken from the table so that we could access the feast of delicious from all sides.  There was always crab dip (auntie Barbie made that) and shrimp cocktail (thank to auntie Lois) and lots of yummy treats (auntie Sandy spent loads of time baking) and then there was a giant cheese ball (my mom is famous for it). And so much more.

On the counter one of the uncles (or all of them) would be carving the turkey.  I can still hear the electric knife sawing away at the bird.  Like a good Dutch family we had buns that someone had cut to put our turkey on.  Further on the counter near the door was a selection of boozes and of course, homemade whiskey slush.

It was so loud in that tiny kitchen as we waited for the last of our cousins to arrive.  Whenever someone new came through the door shouts of “heeeyyyy!!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”  would ring through the house and hugs and presents and winter coats and wet boots would fly around my short head.

It was unavoidable that our stocking feet would step in a puddle of melted snow from the boots of our dads and uncles who were bringing in piles of gifts to be added under the tree.

At this point we were under all the adults feet yelling, “now? now?  NOW?!!!???”

And they would give in and we would tear into our stockings.

Lifesaver books, pens, crayons, jammies, large plastic candy canes filled with green and red m&ms, small dolls, and matchbox cars.  And always, ALWAYS an orange in the toe.

We would fill up our brown paper bags with our names on them comparing with each other as our parents shoo-ed us into the TV room to stash our things until after dinner.

Dinner was a plate of snacks and some turkey and a soda.  The only time it quieted down was when someone would say Grace.  And even then there was usually a fussy toddler in the background.

After dinner it was time for the Christmas tree.  Every single one of us would cram into Grandma’s small formal living room.  There was barely enough room for us let alone the multitude of gifts flowing out from around the tree.

The grandkids went first:  oldest to youngest which meant I was always third.  I was third after my cousin, Jenise.  Whatever she got, I hoped I would get something similar.  She was the epitome of cool to me.  And more than likely?  She and I would get the same thing from my Grandma and we would talk about it and tease our younger cousins for the rest of the night.

It was magical.

We always brought our  jammies to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve because it was loooong past our bedtime when we left.

It was the perfect start to Christmas.

Grandma isn’t around anymore.  She has been gone for almost a decade.

My family has kept the Christmas Eve tradition alive in our own way, but since getting married, I have had to split that time between them and my new family.

This year will be the first year we only go to Cort’s mom’s house.  This is important to me.

I want Eddie to have the wonderful memories of racing into his Granny’s house on Christmas Eve, being surrounded by his aunts and uncles and cousins (someday…hopefully next year!) and bursting with excitement for the joy of Christmas and the magic it brings.

I will surely miss my extended family on Christmas Eve, but we will be building lasting traditions and magic of the season for Eddie.


Merry Christmas to you all.  And to all a good night.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. This was great! I felt like I was there. I am someone who is really big on traditions, especially holiday ones. It was really hard for me when I moved to FL and many of our traditions could no longer be carried out. But now my parents are here in our town, and we are reviving some of them with my daughter. Plus, we are creating new ones, which is so much fun. I feel like I am the kid right now, I am so excited for Christmas!

    • I feel that way this year too! I haven’t been this excited for Christmas since I was little! I think it just proves that Christmas is all about the kids and the magic!

  2. Oh, you had me right there in that house with you! Your words flow so beautifully…..

    I always got the Lifesaver books, had almost forgotten about them! And an orange in the toe was hubs’ family thing. One year one of them was left in by mistake…..you can imagine that didn’t go well!

    Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your family! Enjoy helping Eddie cement his own traditions.

    • thank you, friend! Lifesaver books were the best! eight rolls! That was EIGHT WEEKS of church candy!! Have a wonderful Christmas yourself with your family! Much love to you!

  3. Thanks for taking me to see Christmas to your eyes, Katie! Such wonderful beautiful memories and I’m sure you and your beautiful family will have more wonderful Christmas memories to make. Merry Christmas Katie, Cort and Eddie! Much love from across the ocean.

    • thank you, my lovely friend! Thinking of you today as I watch the Santa tracker…looks like he’s already been to your parts! Hope he brings everything you and Lil A could dream of!!!

  4. Jeff Nagelkirk says

    That is pretty much how I remember also, great memories.

  5. Ahhh…beautiful memory. I am sure the ones you create with Eddie will be that much sweeter.
    Merry Christmas.
    Love you


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