There seem to be two distinct present opening methods at Christmas time. I'm going to call them 'One-at-a-time' and 'Everybody-in.'
I come from a family of predominantly one-at-a-timers. One person was designated 'Santa,' handing out gifts in an orderly fashion. Everybody was expected to ooh and aah over every gift. Often we paused for photographs.
In the years of the biggest Christmas gatherings, this must have taken a long time. But I don't remember it being so. Perusal of the opened presents and anticipation of those still in the pile helped to fill in the time while the adults opened up their underwear and calendars.
Dave's family are predominantly everybody-in. Oh, the joy of opening present after present after present, all for me. The thrill of all that paper and noise and energy. The sea of chatter as gifts are opened all around. No chance for boredom here!
Two families of origin, with different ways of doing things.
This Christmas, this is what present-opening looked like for us:
One-at-a-time at home before church. One gift each for four people, two of whom can't open independently. It didn't take very long, and we just had time to sit and read a chapter of SP's freshly opened 'The Enchanted Wood' before church.
After church, it was everybody-in with the extended family. We did presents before lunch this year, which worked really well. It meant that SP had new things to play with between courses (particularly his mower), and F could participate in the presents then go to sleep after the entree. I'll admit to getting a little frazzled, as I tried to 'help' F open her gifts, and open mine, and keep the Present Book*, without lagging dreadfully behind everybody else. And I have very little idea of what other people gave each other. But one-at-a-time would have made lunch quite late.
One special one-at-a-time gift, kept back from the others, was opened over lunch. Even if the earlier gifts and their givers were blurred in SP's mind, we wanted him to know that his uncle and aunt in Melbourne were thinking of him and wished they could be there. This is the nativity set they gave – highly recommended.
I guess it doesn't make much difference either way, really. Gifts were given and received, and love was shared. But I like to think things through, and make them as pleasant and meaningful as possible. I'm always searching for a better way. The best way. Though probably it doesn't exist.
So now it's your turn. What did your family do this year? What's your ideal?
*A household notebook where every gift, at every occasion, is recorded. Originally designed to help in thank you card writing, but I like looking back over the years as well.