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There was always music. From the evening on, we’d ready the radios – one for each room – hoping they’d all have the same antenna range. Each one would be set in a corner, turned low, and tuned to the same Christmas radio station. Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby would echo through the house, giving us a soundtrack to our movements, to the excitement. Candles too. Candles more than electric lights, and eggnog. Always eggnog.

One Christmas Eve we had gotten bags of “reindeer dust” from the Christmas Bazaar (oats mixed with red and green glitter) to make sure that our house wouldn’t be missed. We ran out onto the street and threw it into the air. Something so simple, yet I guess it was those little things that really make it magic. It’s believing, right?

I remember a time when we all had the flu, and spent the night buried in piles of tissues and wading through the mist of humidifiers.

Sometimes we’d open a gift on Christmas Eve if Ned and I were persuasive enough – usually, they were pajamas which were genuinely always exciting for me (still are). One year I got a yellow bathrobe that I then promptly attempted to incinerate at breakfast Christmas morning as I reached over the candles on the table (I did mention lots of candles).

Each year at the Harvey house, Santa did not get cookies and milk, he got a beer and a bowl of Fritos corn chips.

I once remember counting the angels on the ceiling of our church at 5pm Mass while picturing the Santa Tracker on the news and wondering where he was right then and how long it would take for him to get to our house.

When we got older we went to midnight mass (never on Christmas day, that was for getting up and sitting in our pajamas for at least a few hours). Dressed in suits and dresses, reds and greens, we’d pile into the poinsettia-filled church and wave to the others we knew. Father Reed’s paper mache creche still to the right side of the altar. If we were lucky, we’d be able to sit up in the choir loft. One year when we walked out onto the wide granite steps, it started snowing.

The center of Christmas Eve was always a bit more focused on each other, just a bit less of distraction, a bit more appreciation. A night when everyone sits around the living room just because.

For a few years, I tried to visit friends and go to parties, and they were wonderful, but I’d always come back to wanting to sit curled up on the couch watching the last Christmas movies we didn’t get to.

I remember so many years of procrastinating until the last minute and then wrapping presents with a barricaded bedroom door…and then remembering how terrible I am at wrapping presents – especially on the carpet while in a rush.

And now here I have Christmas Eve in Florence, in Italy. I’ve had Rami’s homemade eggnog and then walked to the Duomo for Midnight Mass. I’ve had Mum and Ned here and had dinner in a wine cellar lit with Christmas lights. Even last year, an odd year when everyone was working, I set up my music and my hot chocolate, I bought myself a book and I snuggled on the couch under blankets with Stitch while we waited for Rami to get home.

So many people were worried about me last year being alone, but now looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted last year to be any other way. Now here we are and Rami is home and we’re having a fire outside. We’ll sit in our Adirondack chairs with the tree glowing through the window and Luna on our lap and I honestly couldn’t think of anything better.

Merry Christmas Eve Everyone!

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