With Christmas coming up soon, I began to think of the family tradition that my family kept. We started the Christmas Eve party about 20 years ago, gathering the family and some friends at my house. We didn’t open Christmas gifts until after midnight, so we did several things before Christmas morning.

We would eat, of course, and socialized with one another, and we had some kind of Christmas-related program. Although they both depended on people, our 2005 Christmas Eve party was different from the first party of 1985.

One important difference was the attitude of the guests toward the Christmas gifts. At the 2005 party, no one cared about his or her gift. The grab bag gifts were secondary, really insignificant. My family and friends took the gifts home unopened.

In contrast, at the 1985 party I listened to several complaints. My daughter complained that the gift she got came from the dollar store and cost one dollar. She said she paid over $10 for the gift she bought. My girlfriend asked me, “Why can’t I get one of the gifts I wrote on my list? It doesn’t make sense to have a grab bag gift list,” she said, “if I don’t get anything I ask for.” My sister asked me why her husband (I forgot his gift) didn’t get a gift.

At the 2005 Christmas Eve party, we had background music. We played CDs by Natalie Cole such as, Ask a Woman Who Knows; Nat King Cole’s single, “The Christmas Song;” and bluesy Dinah Washington’s album, Dinah Jams. However, the 1985 party had only the TV playing all night in the background.

Another important difference was the food. The 2005 party featured a full meal: Lasagna, crisp green lettuce salad, and lots of crusty bread. For dessert, homemade apple pie and egg nog ice cream was served. A choice of three beverages, a mimosa drink, wines, and a variety of soda pop were offered to our guests. On the other hand, the 1985 Christmas Eve party had snacks: a cheese tray, an onion dip and chips.

The most important difference was the program. The 2005 program had many participants. My husband began the program by reading a Bible passage. My eldest grandson read the story, “The Night Before Christmas,” for his much younger sister and brother. I read the poem “Christmas In The Heart,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. My 7-year-old grandson and my 5-year-old granddaughter performed gymnastics.

The highlight of the program was the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We laughed so hard, tears flowed from our eyes. No one could remember, or didn’t want to remember, when it was time for his or her turn to sing. It didn’t help that my daughter pointed to the person when it was time for that person to sing. My husband wanted to know why his daughter was pointing at him, and he never sang one line. When my youngest son’s turn came, he said to leave him alone for the moment, he didn’t feel well. I was caught off guard and stumbled over my words. My girlfriend wasn’t too successful with her part either; she got tongue-tied. At the end of the program my 16-year-old-grandson put on a Santa Claus hat and passed out the Christmas gifts.

Unlike the 2005 Christmas Eve program the 1985 program had two participants. My husband read a Bible passage; I recited a poem.

The 2005 party was significantly different from the 1985 party. Which was better? One was not better than the other. Each was special in itself. They were both enjoyable Christmas Eves.