Daniel and Masha, the youngest kids, both have trouble picking away at the wrapping paper on their gifts with their tiny hands. Christopher gets anxious and steps in to help, tearing the paper off with a couple of quick swipes – the sooner this one is opened, the sooner he can open one of his own.
We’re taking turns, opening one gift at a time – the youngest goes first and so on. There are sixteen of us. The night rolls on, gift after gift. Half of us are self-appointed referrees, shouting out opinions whenever the system breaks down. (Someone is out of the room – do we skip him? If we skip someone – do we give him an extra turn later? All of the kids are downstairs playing and it’s time to start a new round – Do we call them in or do we start a new round, this time starting with the oldest person?)
Masha cries when her turn comes again too soon. “This isn’t my present!” She points at her name on the label, “See, it says ‘To Not Masha’.”
Everyone is exhausted by 10:00 on Christmas Eve. We all go to sleep, only to get up on Christmas day and continue the gift opening.
Most of us have opened all our gifts by the time we break for Christmas dinner at around 3:00. I head home a couple of hours after we finish eating, my sister’s kids still have presents to open. It’s been about 24 hours since we started.
It was madness. It was like The Berenstain Bears and Too Many Presents (if there is such a book), except we never learned our lesson and didn’t have a healthy and restrained Christmas in the end.