Growing up, we always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. All 3 of my mom’s brother’s and their families would gather at my grandmas’s house on Christmas Eve. My grandma’s house was small – about 900 square feet, but we all packed into the living room around the tree.

My grandma collected Normal Rockwell Christmas Bulbs and her tree was filled mostly by those. I think the bulbs started in the early 1970s, so there was a lot of them on the tree.

Growing up in a small Wisconsin town, we had the usual Christmas Eve food and drink. Old Fashioned’s and my grandma’s secret slush recipe. I remember finally being old enough to be offered my own Frozen Slush drink – it was amazing.

For food there was always pickled pigs feet, cut out cookies, my grandma’s famous baked beans (I never thought they were all that, but everyone else went nuts over them), raw beef and onions with salt and pepper on rye (my personal favorite!), deviled eggs, cocktail shrimp, stuffed mushroom caps, and ham.

Our family was big, so we exchanged names. The kids were allowed to spend $15 on each other. I remember the year I got a Red Hot Chili Peppers CD and it was quite the scandal because of the Parental Advisory label for explicit lyrics.

We always opened our gifts from youngest to oldest. We always had a garbage bag that was passed around for the wrapping paper, and someone always (anonymously) gave my oldest uncle a macrame owl because he hated them so much.

At some point throughout the evening, someone would yell out that they thought they could hear Santa flying around. We would all look out my grandma’s giant front bay window and swear we could see and hear him too.

One year a neighbor had hired a Santa to come to their house, so we actually SAW him walking down the street. My grandpa convinced him to come in and see all of us grandkids too.

After the evening was over, we’d go home and sure enough, Santa had made a visit to our house. We would open our presents Christmas Eve night, go to bed, and then wake up on Christmas morning to play with them all while we ate cinnamon rolls.

At our house these days, we celebrate what has become known as Emmet Otter Day. A tradition from Dirk’s family when he was little, was watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. It was something he wanted to continue.

But have you ever watched an old VHS tape? Emmet Otter is, you guessed it, an otter. The movie is produced my Jim Henson and features his voice as well as Frank Oz and the character are all very Muppet-like.

We ended up having to bribe the kids so we could watch it without all the whining. We promised them that if they sat and watched the whole thing, no complaints, they would open 1 gift early, on Christmas Eve Eve.

So, the traditional was started. On the day before Christmas Eve, we watch Emmet Otter and the kids get to hold one gift throughout the movie that they can open afterwards if there has been no whining.

We now call it Emmet Otter Day, and when the kids make their Christmas Lists, they include an “Emmet Otter Gift” on their list as well.

So, on this Emmet Otter Day, I hope that you find yourself surrounded by the ones you love carrying on some of your own family traditions.

Happy Emmet Otter Day to you!