On Christmas eve, my husband, my children and I all go to my parents house for dinner. We celebrate some of the polish traditions from our ancestors, including setting the table with white linens to symbolize the infant Jesus' swaddling clothing and placing hay/pine needles under the table cloth and throughout the room as a symbol of the manger in which Jesus was born. An extra place is set and left empty in honor of those who could not join us, and as an invitation for Jesus to join us in spirit or in the presence of an unexpected guest. After our meal we all share in "breaking bread", through the use of a special wafer called the "Oplatek". The wafer is usually pink or white and imprinted with scenes of the nativity. After each person has their piece, it is traditional to share it with any animals present, as they were the first ones to witness Jesus' birth.
Following all the solemness, we have a tradition of inviting friends over for dessert, singing of Christmas carols, and usually enjoying a "talent show" by the younger children present. Over the years we have been treated to singing, modern dance, ballet, piano playing, trumpeting, comedy, and even magic! This year, my youngest son chose to display his talent for "belly rolling". You know, the thing that belly dancers are able to do after much training. My son discovered this hidden talent quite by accident one day, and we've been amazed ever since. ;) Our show concludes with a recitation of "The Night Before Christmas" by my mom's husband.
When we finally arrive home Christmas eve, we each exchange one gift with each other. These gifts are all purchased during one shopping trip, during which my husband and I take turns with each of the kids helping them pick out there gifts and trying to hide them from each other. We also share what I think is a pretty common tradition, that of everyone receiving new pajamas to wear Christmas eve. I wash them before wrapping them, so they are all ready for wearing and cuddling. The rest of our gifts are opened Christmas morning, followed by lots of fun family time at home.