By Don McCauley
With six children of our own, a foster child and frequently another stray child or two living in our home, Christmas was always the most exciting time of the year. Everybody pitched in to decorate the whole house, indoors and out, with special emphasis on the tree. We always cut our own so that even the smallest child felt she had a part in selecting the perfect tree. One year we brought home a cute little field mouse that had built a nest in the tree we chose. After they had time to closely observe his big ears and bright dark eyes, the children turned him loose in the nearest bushes on the edge of the woods.
The tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve. The children’s excitement was nearing fever pitch by then, and decorating the tree dissipated some of their energy. The high point of Christmas Eve coincided with the arrival of the neighborhood Santa Claus. He Ho Ho Ho’ed his way into every home, distributing a small bag of candy, an orange and an inexpensive toy to each of the small children. He was busy in our neighborhood. There were six or more children in our house, seven next door and twelve in the house across the street, totaling twenty five children in just three houses.
After the children finally went to bed, the parents still had to put together any large toys that couldn’t be easily hidden assembled. The worst year for my wife and I was when we had to put together a sheet metal miniature kitchen consisting of range, refrigerator, sink and cabinets. Band Aids covered our cut fingers caused by the sharp metal edges. Most Christmas Eves we crawled wearily in bed at 2 or 3 a.m., knowing the children would be waking us before 6 a.m. That scenario was played out in nearly every large working class family we knew.
In addition to the decorating and package wrapping, as Christmas approached, our family stayed busy cooking holiday favorites for visiting family and friends. The youngest children seemed to be the most eager to help. Their “help” slowed the process but we considered it an investment in the future. This interest in cooking, coupled with always hungry youngsters, led to the practice of having our own special evening on the day before Christmas Eve. Instead of waiting for guests to eat the food, we set up a buffet for the children so they could “be like the adults” and enjoy all the treats. The younger children particularly liked acting like the grown-ups. Instead of having to sit at the table, they could eat a buffet, choose what they wanted to eat and go back for more as many times as they wanted. One of the children suggested we call it Christmas Adam because, “Adam came before Eve, didn’t he?” Thus a new tradition was born.
Every year we cooked Dut and Nate cookies. They were actually Nut and Date cookies, but our youngest child called them Dut and Nate and the name stuck. Our menu varied from year to year, but in addition to the Dut and Nate cookies, a typical one might include Swedish meatballs, cream cheese dip with celery stalks, cauliflower florets, green pepper slices, chips and various crackers, cheeses, olives, pickles, rolls of thinly sliced country ham, potato salad, deviled eggs, red velvet cake and the all time favorite; shrimp. That was when a five pound box of frozen shrimp cost $5.
As opposed to hectic Christmas Eves and Christmas days, Christmas Adam
was laid back and restful. The kids kidded about what they got each other
for Christmas (obviously all lies), and had a great time. Nearly always,
a card game developed, with the older ones helping instruct the younger
ones. The parents got a bonus—unlike Christmas Eve, the children were content
to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could expand the idea? Not only for the Christmas season but for other occasions as well. Millions of parents leave their children with sitters on New Year’s Eve. Why not institute a New Year’s Adam on the day before and celebrate with those who mean the most—the children?
© 2001 Don McCauley All Rights Reserved.
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