Salvatore Vuono

As I was growing up, Christmas Day was always a big let-down because Christmas Eve was so important to my family. My grandma just couldn't wait to open gifts on Christmas morning so Santa always made his very first stop at our house on Christmas Eve! We were usually sent to the show or somewhere else so he could make his magical appearance. Once we were snowed in so we were banished to the bedroom for awhile and I swear I heard jingle bells.

After getting married my husband had different ideas about Christmas. Santa came in the middle of the night so there weren't presents until the wee hours in the morning. I knew this made sense but I still missed all of the festivities we enjoyed on Christmas Eve in our home. That's when I began to plan a special family Christmas Eve each and every year.

Food is always important at our family get-togethers and our Christmas Eve food has to be something spectacular. When planning your own Christmas Eve at home make sure you have plenty of food to last all evening. I suggest a big potluck buffet with lots of finger foods.

Christmas Eve at our house always has a theme. I like to plan a different activity each year to keep the excitement of having Christmas Eve at home special.

Some of my ideas for activities and themes are listed here:

Carnival Night - Set up carnival games in your family room. Keep them simple but fun. Keep the prizes simple such as candy canes and Christmas candy. Ideas for some of the games include:

  • Pop Bottle Ring Toss - Arrange 2 liter bottles of soda pop in a triangle and use a canning jar ring for tossing.
  • Bean Bag Toss - Cut a Christmas tree shape out of large piece of cardboard or plywood. Cut out three holes to toss small bean bags through.
  • Pin the Nose on Rudolph - Draw a large "deer looking" animal on cardboard. Use a round red sticker, red colored fabric, red pom-poms, or anything that you have handy for the nose.
  • Dart/Balloon Board - Using a large piece of cardboard, spray paint it red or green. Attach red and green balloons with tacks and let the darts fly!

Decorate a Luminaria - Luminaria's are paper lanterns that light the walkway to your home. Purchase some paper lunch bags and small tea lights to make your luminaria. Have all of the family members decorate a bag in honor of someone special. They can draw pictures, add stickers, make small cutouts, and just get creative in decorating their luminaria. They can honor Jesus, a family member who has passed away, someone famous, or anyone they love. Once the bags are decorated, each person tells why they chose the person they did. Take them outside and line up along your front walkway. Place a small amount of dirt, sand or rocks in the bottom of the bags and then place the tea light in the center. Using a long propane lighter, light them, sing a Christmas carol, drink hot chocolate, and enjoy how beautiful they look in the dark.

Make Gingerbread Houses - You can be as fancy or as plain as you want with this activity. I chose to use graham crackers and each family member makes their own house. Make sure you have plenty of frosting and candies to decorate the houses and to eat! I used long banquet tables and put plastic tablecloths on the floor to catch the frosting and to make clean up a little easier. Vote on the best house and give a small prize.

Family Games - Play your favorite family games for hours. You can play board or card games, action games, or even Wii games. Include everyone and have small tournaments. We like to play games that get everyone talking to each other.

Do Something for Someone Else - Tie a quilt for the children's ward in the hospital. Wrap presents for an unforunate family and be a secret Santa for the night. Volunteer as a family at a local shelter. Go caroling around your neighborhood. Plan any activity that will benefit someone else.

Birthday Party for Jesus - We are celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas time so why not have a real birthday party for him. Plan cake and ice cream for dessert. Have each family member give a gift coupon to someone else that would be based on Christ-like values such as helping, loving, serving, or treating each other kindly. Hang a white stocking on the fireplace for the coupons and have each person draw one. Read from the scriptures and talk about your favorite stories from the New Testament. Don't forget to set a place at the table for Christ and invite his spirit to share the evening with you.