“Our family gathers at our home on Christmas Eve. Um we exchange gifts before Santa comes and usually have a really nice dinner like tenderloin, followed by a birthday cake for Jesus and all the kids gather around and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candles. And they we use, use isn’t a good word, but we use Christmas crackers, and everybody stands around the table and pulls the crackers. Usually in the cracker is a hat and toy and a joke in each cracker. So everybody shares their joke and puts on their hat, and this is usually right after dessert. And we do this just kind of to have fun I guess. And then Kate usually performs a concert and plays Christmas carols. And that began about ten years ago, and all three kids would play in the concert because they played piano, but as the other two dropped out of piano, Kate was the only one who kept it going. And a cousin played once, but Kate is the only one who plays now. It pretty much just adds festivity to the celebration.”
Informant: The informant is a fifty-two years old, a mother of three. She is of Irish, French, and German descent, and was born in Chicago. She moved to Dallas when she was three, and she is the oldest of three children, with a younger brother and sister. She is an active member of the Catholic Church.
This particular holiday ritual is interesting because it is similar to a birthday party. I think that this is due to the fact that the family is Catholic, and therefore recognizes the true meaning of Christmas as the birth of Jesus. Therefore, they celebrate Christmas Eve as they would celebrate the birthday of a family member. Every family member gathers together as they would at a birthday party, and they even have a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus.
This reaffirms that this time period, Christmas Eve, is a liminal time, as Jesus is brought into the world. The magic that surrounds the beliefs about Santa and Christmas Eve are incorporated in the family gathering and sharing of presents, while the Catholic teachings are kept in mind and celebrated as well. The blowing out of candles by the children can represent making a wish as children would for their birthdays, but doing it for Jesus.
In addition, the use of the Christmas crackers is interesting. Everyone is able to partake in the silliness of this practice by putting on a hat and sharing a joke. This brings the family closer together in celebration. It is also a very childlike performance, reaffirming the likeness of this celebration to a child’s birthday party, which is true to the Catholic meaning of the holiday.
Also, the concert that is put on by the children supports this as well. The children are able to demonstrate their skills and entertain the adults by playing the piano. Although only one child continues, who happens to be the youngest in the family, it is still representative of the festivities of Christmas Eve as childlike. This honors the birth of Jesus as a newborn child, by making the ritual of Christmas Eve as celebrated by this family as like that of a child’s birthday party.