The Year Jazzman Was In Charge Of Present Disbursal…

TreeWhen we lived in Florida, I was scheduled to work Christmas Eve night, something every nurse has faced during holidays. Now that meant I’d be gone when the kids were asleep and I’d have to leave the “scattering” of presents under the tree to the Jazzman. I’d made three piles in our bedroom of wrapped presents with the stockings stuffed for each child on top of them. I gave Jazzman strict instructions on waiting until the kids (all in elementary and middle school) had gone to bed, then he was to mix up the presents under the tree, and lay the stockings to one side. (We didn’t have a fireplace, so that’s as good as it got.)

Well, the next morning, I got an interesting story from the kids.

Apparently Jazzman went to sleep before putting out the presents. OH NO!

So my youngest daughter and son woke up at around 5 am and imagine this…NO PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE!!

Well, being the smart kids they were, they quickly figured out Jazzman hadn’t done his bit. So they knocked on the bedroom door to wake him, saying, “Dad, you forgot to put our presents under the tree.”

So, Jazzman hauls out the 3 piles and puts them under the tree. In 3 piles.

The kids: No Dad, you have to mess them up like this.

And they proceed to make a huge mess of the presents, mixing them all up. In the mean time, Jazzman has decided he was awake and started making coffee. The kids put a big kabosh on that.

The kids: No Dad, you have to go back to bed now.

Jazzman: Why?

The kids: Because we have to find our presents and try to figure out what they are.20131224_011416-1

Jazzman: What do you mean find your presents?

The kids: Every year while you and Mom sleep, we get up early and find all our presents. We make a pile, then try to figure out what each one is. Then we put them back in a mess under the tree.

Jazzman, looking sleepy and confused: But they were in neat piles. You two just made the mess.

The kids: Daddy, this is our tradition!

Jazzman gave up and crawled back in bed. He said he layed there with the door cracked, listening to the two of them giggle and rattle the wrapped packages. Finally, they went back to bed, too. When I came home, I had to wake everyone up to open their presents, unaware of their little tradition.


Close to the Fire final for Barnes and NobleI love that story. It’s amazing the traditions our kids pick up that we don’t even start, while others are intentional. I must make Buckeye candy every year, as well as chocolate mint cookies, peanut blossoms, coconut jam thumbprints and m&m cookies. I have to decorate cookie cutter cookies with the kids and now grandkids. We have to go to church on Christmas Eve just to hear my daughter sing O Holy Night. Everyone must get a stocking full of fun things and everyone gets warm socks. Oh yes, I also have to have a homemade cheeseball on Christmas Day for them to munch on while dinner is cooking.

So, dear readers, what is your favorite family tradition? Is there a food item you must have? Do you presents in a certain order? Does your family have something you must do every year in order to make the holiday a success? Since it’s holiday time, I think I’ll give away a copy of my newest book, CLOSE TO THE FIRE to one reader who posts a tradition today.


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  • Jane says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    We like to have one non traditional dessert along with the pumpkin pie and sugar cookies. One year we had chocolate lava cake and last year we made lemon cookies. Sometimes we’ll all tear into our presents at the same time, but sometimes we take turns unwrapping them.

    • Jane!

      My mom loves lemon cookies. It’s the one cookie she always made simply because she liked them. My dad was notorious for swiping anything with chocolate in them. 🙂

      We fluctuate between the tearing into presents and going one at a time, too! Grandkids make the waiting seem like forever!

  • Helen says:

    Hi Suz

    I do love your Christmas traditions and ours are pretty mcuh the same as yours I too have had to work on Christmas Eve and have had to leave the putting out of pressies to hubby but luckily he got it right LOL all the presents mixed up and Santa sacks on each of the kids beds and we always have home made Christmas ckae and Christmas pudding for lunch and the kids and now grandkids always help me stir and make a wish.

    And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    We had a great holiday although very cold New Zealand is beautiful but I have come back to hot humid weather

    Have Fun

    • Helen,

      Now I’m curious…what is Christmas cake and Christmas pudding? Is the pudding sweet or savory?

      Glad you had a lovely trip to New Zealand. I was living vicariously through your FB pics!!

      • Helen says:

        Hi Suz

        Christmas Cake and Christmas pudding are the old English ones with lots of fruit the pudding is boiled in a cloth or steamed in a bowl for about 6 hours and the cake and pudding have lots of rum or cherry in them and I love them 🙂

        Have Fun

        And now I am back I need to start making them 🙂

  • flchen1 says:

    LOL! I’ve been so caught off by the “late” Thanksgiving that our “usual” Christmas prep is a little off kilter. The tree’s not up yet (the LR isn’t even cleaned up!) I am reminded that I ought to pull out the Advent calendar and catch up!! The annual treat-making will commence in a week or so… aiyiyi…

    No need to include me in the draw–happily I’m just looking forward to time over the holidays to enjoy your latest release, Suz!

    • Fedora,

      Isn’t it odd how one thing being delayed can throw the whole rhythm of Christmas off a bit? I have to figure out if the Jazzman has time to pick up a tree this weekend so we can get it decorated. If not…it might be closer to Christmas by the time it gets up!

      With kids in your house, I agree you need to get caught up on the advent calendar. It’s a tradition!! 🙂

  • Mary Preston says:

    We have a lot of traditions. I think one of my favourite is when we decorate the Christmas tree. We place the Angel on the very top, last. She then watches over us all during the holiday season.

  • Shannon says:

    I don’t go home for Christmas much anymore (once every 5-10 years) because I spent more Christmases I care to count in O’Hare. Sleeping on the floor, eating what ever the restaurants haven’t run out of, and dealing with long lines to get re-booked is not a tradition I like. The good news is that the new Denver airport only has long delays. So family traditions have died.

    When we were kids, we opened extended family presents on Christmas eve. Mom and Dad had tea after dinner, and they could stretch out tea time forever. Santa, parents, and sibling gifts were opened Christmas morning.

    We usually went to Christmas Day services. For a couple of years, I would get up and go to National Cathedral. The Cathedral is lovely, but the service is broadcast so sometimes they have us doing things a little out of order, like singing the last hymn while still receiving communion. I may have to try that again. For those who like their sermons short, this event has that advantage.

    • Shannon,

      OMG, being stuck in O’Hare at Christmas is NOT a tradition I’d want either! Staying home and traveling in less stressful seasons is a much better choice!

      Love your parents after dinner tea for presents. I imagine the kids liked it, too!

      LOL on the short sermon on Christmas Day. I imagine it’s attended by loads of people who appreciate a quick service. 🙂

  • Patty L. says:

    Our traditions start the friday after thanksgiving when we put up our Christmas tree. We also have a huge (50 people) Christmas Eve party at my house to celebrate the holiday with my brothers and extended family so that all the kids can have their day with Santa presents at home. I always hated traveling all day Christmas to see family. So the Christmas Eve party was designed so that we could do our visiting without ruining our kids Christmas day. The family has grown and the party is a tradition that everyone wants a part of so it gets a little bigger every year. The niece told me the other day she looks forward to it more than the actual presents. Made my day!

    • Patty!

      What a complement from your niece! And wow 50 people?!?! We’re crowded with 20 here.

      I imagine your house is decked out to the nines and it’s packed with people and fun!! What a fun tradition. 🙂

  • sandyg265 says:

    We don’t really have any traditions other than trying to find a day to all get together.

    • Sandy,

      Sometimes that’s the hardest thing, isn’t it? We do Christmas night. That way all the kids have done their family Christmas, been to the in-laws and we get to have them for as long as they want to stay.

  • May Pau says:

    For us, it is just the Christmas cookies. The kids love eating them and decorating them.

    • May,

      I think the holiday baking with kids is as much fun as decorating the tree or getting the presents! They take such joy in it…and of course are the official taste testers!

  • Jacie Floyd says:

    We used to have a lot of traditions, but now that the kids are grown and live in other cities, we adapt to whatever works best for everyone. But when we go to our family home in Indiana I’m required to bring my traditional homemade treats. I make Holiday mints, which are a real pain, homemade granola, puppy chow, chocolate truffles, and my husband has added his homemade cinnamon bread for everyone. Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven!

    • Jacie,

      LOL and now I have the Pillsbury Dough Boy running around in my head!

      I’m trying to convince my Aunt Carol to send me some of her special decorated Christmas cookies this year…brings back memories from when I was little. Loved those cookies!!

  • Shannon Whitmer says:

    When I was a kid, my dad was a Marine, so we never lived near any family. In the morning we’d get up, open stockings, dad would make pancakes and bacon (whistling the entire time!) and we’d open presents after breakfast. Then, that evening, we’d go to the Mess Hall for dinner. We’d have steak, and each of the kids was given a lunch sized paper bag filled with nuts. I loved going home and cracking those shells open and eating the nuts.
    My husband’s family always spent Christmas Eve at his Nan’s, Christmas morning at his parents. After our kids’ generation came along, we switched to My in-laws’ for Christmas Eve, home for Christmas morning. Now that they are all gone, everyone comes to our house for Christmas Eve. It’s a potluck, but we always know what’s on the menu because everybody brings exactly the same thing every single year!

    • Shannon,

      I’m marveling at your restraint to wait until after breakfast to open presents! But I imagine with a Marine father, you were used to doing things in a certain order.

      When we still lived in Columbus, we’d take our kids to my parents on Christmas Eve so they could have Christmas all day at home. Mom would have a meat and cheese platter, potato salad and baked beans. I’d bring the cheese ball and a tray of cookies for desert. Miss that!

  • Poor Jazzman! Bamboozled by kids!

    Traditions are important. They keep us grounded in a world that just keeps spinning faster and faster.

    One of our traditions is my niece and nephew decorating Mom’s tree on Thanksgiving night. They have a great time and usually decorate the outside of the house as well.

    One of the highlights of the decorating is the setting up of Pop’s Train. My Dad bought a Christmas train set the year of my nephew’s first Christmas and set it up to run around the tree. My Dad has been gone for 17 years, but the kids, now 23 and 21 still insist on setting up Pop’s train.

    When my Mom’s sister was alive we always got socks and underwear from her every Christmas. Not cool when we were kids, but as we grew older we liked it and now we miss it.

    My Mom always makes a Japanese fruit cake and a Lane cake at Christmas. That is a tradition we count on every year !

    • Louisa,

      I agree, traditions are very important, even the ones some of us might not be aware of, like poor Jazzman. BTW, the trying to figure out what was in each box, led to some interesting wrapping by my kids as teens. They’d get each other CD’s, so they’d wrap them in big oddly shaped boxes and even throw in the silverware to try and keep the others from knowing what their gift was by just the shape! 😀

      Love the train idea. I imagine if we tried that here, Rusty puppy and at least one or two grandkids would try to chase it around!! hehehe.

  • Suz, what a great story!

    We each open one gift on Christmas Eve, which is also when we have our big meal. On Christmas morning, we have coffee and stockings (the dh and I fill each other’s) first thing. Then the dh fixes Swedish pancakes like his mom used to.

    We also fix his family’s fruitcake recipe, which is not a compressed block of candied fruit but is more like spice cake with some candied fruit and brandy in it. But that’s in the runup to the holiday.

    • Nancy,

      That sounds very laid back and very cozy, not at all chaotic. (Uhm…you can imagine ours is more controlled chaos!) I love opening the Christmas stockings. I fill everyone else’s and Jazzman fills mine. Last year he put in this retractable back scratcher!! OMG…favorite gift ever!!

      Your DH’s fruitcake sounds more what I’d like to try.

      • Suz, I have one of those backscratchers!

        We used to have more chaos when the boy and his cousins were small and we would gather during the holidays at my parents’ house. When it’s just the three of us, yes, it’s way quieter. Sometimes I kind of miss big holiday gatherings, though.

  • Minna says:

    There are some traditional foods we always have, like rutabaga casserole and freshly salted salmon, though these days we mostly buy them from a store instead of cooking everything ourselves.

    • Minna,

      What an interesting traditional meal! I may have to show the Jazzman the recipe for salted salmon. We grill a large salmon filet along with flank steaks to feed the family on Christmas day.

  • Suz, I have to say I cracked up at your story. There’s just something so…male about that! And how lovely that the kids were in on the conspiracy but still played along so beautifully. Can I come to your place for Christmas – I like the sound of the menu!

    • Oh Anna, the kids have lots of Jazzman stories! It’s always interesting when he’s involved!! 🙂

      Okay…official Ferrell Christmas menu:

      Appetizer: homemade cheeseball and candied pecans
      Salad: Spinach with strawberries and shaved vermont white cheddar.
      Main meal: Grilled marinated flank steak with sauted onions and mushrooms on the side, grilled salmon, crab stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, Twice baked potatoes (although this year I’m trying potato gratin casserole) and rolls.
      Desert: Buckeyes and Christmas cookies.

      And we could squeeze you in, Anna!

  • EC Spurlock says:

    What a terrific story, Suz! Isn’t it funny how kids seem to make their own traditions when we’re not looking?

    We inherited some of our traditions from my husband’s family – we always have to have sugar cookies (cut and decorated by the kids), thumbprint cookies and brown sugar fudge, and the first gift of Christmas was new pajamas handed out on Christmas Eve. (I think the kids got a little frustrated that they didn’t get to pick which gift to open on Christmas Eve and that it was always pajamas! Our older son finally rebelled and said he had enough pajamas, thanks! The younger one and hubby are still getting them this year, though, because they both need them.)

    Other traditions we kind of acquired on the way; like the sequence of bedtime stories that started with Berkley Breathed’s “Red Ranger Came Calling” and went through “Santa Calls” by William Joyce and ended with “The Polar Express” on Christmas Eve, complete with a giant, fancy jingle bell to make it more realistic. (Later hubby would go outside and ring the bell right under their windows just as they were about to fall asleep.) And the handprint cookies left for Santa (because that’s how he knows who lives in this house.) We also each have our special ornaments that are the first ones on the tree every year.

    My family traditions mostly come from my Russian side, so I save those for Orthodox Christmas on January 7. And we always leave the tree up for Orthodox Christmas as well.

    • EC…we used to do the one present on Christmas Eve, too. Often it was from my MIL. Always a hoot seeing what she’d send us. Almost always a game was included. No pajamas.

      And I love your handprint cookie idea. So cute!!

      Who knew I was a Russian Orthodox? Because my tree rarely is down before the 7th of January! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • bn100 says:

    decorating the tree together

  • catslady says:

    I started a tradition of having a tree trimming party every year and it’s a must along with the meal that goes with it lol but I do change up the appetizers. They are grown now so some things are no longer done. They always got a book and a coloring book and crayons every year. And I always read them The Littlest Angel to them which they made me do until there were men in their lives and then I refused because I always sob during the reading of that story lol. I use to make a special cookie too but I don’t do that now either lol. And angels they made in preschool both go on the top of the tree.

    • Catslady,

      You’ve just given me an idea to throw a tree decorating party!! I’m sure if I feed them, they will come! 🙂

      And of course the idea of giving people books anytime is a wonderful one!!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Suzanne, what a sweetly hilarious story! It’s always the kids who “get” it, right?

    When we were little, my dad, who loved Christmas and really got into the spirit of it, almost like a little kid himself. He always pretended that he’d gotten a glimpse of Santa Clause early on Christmas Eve, drawing us out into the front yard. While we were searching, my mom would sneak the presents under the tree. So we always had Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

  • Mozette says:

    So, dear readers, what is your favorite family tradition?

    When my Grandma was a live, we used to all go to her place at Tarragindi, here in Brisbane, for Christmas Day. What a great place… but when she passed away, we held Christmas at Uncle Allan’s house at Holland Park West… and he had a great place too! But 2 years ago, he passed away from Prostate Cancer. So, Christmas has been a little up in the air lately.
    So, we have been trying to have Christmas at Mum and Dad’s place and my brother’s house (but his place is on the other side of town, such a long drive!). Tradition kind of ran out on us early… it’s really sad.

    Is there a food item you must have?

    Home made Christmas Cake… either Mum or I make it. I make mine with cranberries and blue berries… yummo!

    Do you presents in a certain order? Does your family have something you must do every year in order to make the holiday a success?

    Well, we give presents on Christmas Eve, then it’s over and done with… but each year, one of us is Santa and put on the glitzy Santa hat and hand out the presents… lots of fun! But ‘Santa’ gets to open their presents last; which is so much more fun than it sounds, because everyone else gets to watch on… 😀

    • Mozette,

      You’re in that evolving tradition stage. But I think the “glitzy” Santa hat is a wonderful tradition you should continue always!! 🙂

      And Helen let me in on Christmas Cake earlier, yours sounds yummy with the berries in it!!

  • Amy Conley says:

    Sorry so late to post. Came home and crashed last night and didn’t move a muscle until 8:30 this morning.

    I’d have say the biggest tradition around here is hide all mom’s pressies, cause she will snoop.

    When my kids were little they could all open one present from under the tree before bed. In the morning they had to wait for grandma and grandpa, then they could open their stockings, then we would eat a huge pile of biscuits and gravey. After that the real fun began and it was a free for all.

    • Amy,

      You have to hide your Mom’s presents?!?! That’s a bit of a twist. My one daughter used to hide her hubby’s presents here because he thought it a challenge to find his presents early.

      And I’m amazed at the number of people today who open their presents at different intervals! We do stockings first, but the big presents immediately afterward.

  • Laurie G says:

    My favorite family traditional is to decorate the tree while Christmas tunes play in the background. One holiday tradition is that we take a Christmas Eve walk around the neighborhood to see the light displays. We used to go to Midnight Mass but that has fallen by the wayside as we now have little grandchildren to enjoy.

    We must bake my M-I-L-s Spritz cookies. They are buttery treats that melt in your mouth!

    We start the presents with the youngest going first.