Ever since I can remember, I've always loved Christmas Eve so much more than Christmas Day. I remember always sleeping in on Dec. 24, waking up to the delicious smells of my mom's homemade cookies and warm bread rolls slowly making their way up to my room from the kitchen. I would head downstairs, only to relocate from my bed to the couch and hunker down under a pile of blankets to watch Christmas movies all day while I snacked on broken cookies and slightly burnt rolls that didn't make the final cut. Later, my extended family would come over for Christmas Eve festivities before we all headed to church together. And after church, my sister and I would race home to change out of our dresses and back into our pajamas to start our most beloved Christmas tradition: the Christmas Eve quiz.
It's something that's so unique to us (you'll hear my dad drop a random fact in June and say, "You might want to remember that for the Christmas quiz"), and it has given me so many amazing memories over the years.
It started when I was around 10 — I'm 30 now — and my sister and I still race home from church to do it (now with our equally excited husbands in tow). I'm not sure exactly how this tradition started, but the mastermind behind it all is my dad. While I watch Christmas movies all day on Christmas Eve, my dad stays in his den and works at putting together our Christmas quiz. He makes boards with different categories, envelopes with clues, and questions that fall under each one. He asks about random things he's mentioned throughout the year (How many miles is the moon from earth?), facts from nature documentaries that he thinks we should know (What do you call a group of whales?), and fun facts about each other (What is your sister's favorite saying when she's in a bad mood?). Some are open-ended questions, some are multiple choice, and others can involve visual aids or clues from each other. He also makes a lightning round and makes rules for when one of us doesn't know an answer (we can steal the other's prize). And those prizes have changed as we've gotten older. We used to play for things like lip gloss, CDs, and candy, and now we play for money (but still candy and lip gloss sometimes). To keep us on our toes, my dad also changes up the format of the quiz every year. One year we played for a suitcase filled with a mystery prize, which ended up being about 50 $1 bills; to my 15-year-old self, I had just hit the jackpot.
Before we play the quiz, my dad lights a fire, we all get cozy in our pajamas, my mom makes hot chocolate, and we gather around the TV while it plays It's a Wonderful Life. And once the quiz starts, my all-time favorite memories are made. We laugh until we cry, we poke fun at each other for not knowing very basic things, we get competitive in the funniest of ways, and we smile until our cheeks hurt. And every year during the quiz, I look around at my family and am filled with indescribable happiness. I love how my parents can still have fun like they're little kids, I love how they're dedicated to keeping holiday magic alive for us even though we're adults, and I love how we're all fortunate enough to still spend the holidays together. I think it's a huge reason I love Christmas Eve more than Christmas morning, because I know I already have everything I could ever want right there with me.
Even though I don't have kids yet, I can't wait to carry on this special tradition with my own family. It's something that's so unique to us (you'll hear my dad drop a random fact in June and say, "You might want to remember that for the Christmas quiz"), and it has given me so many amazing memories over the years. So while, yes, Christmas morning is pretty great, I wait all year for the moment on Christmas Eve when my dad busts out his custom-made categories board and says, "You guys ready?"