How does time stand still on Christmas Eve?

Published 11:43 pm Saturday, December 17, 2011

For a 5-year-old boy on Christmas Eve, time stands still.

How does it happen? It literally stands still. Family time and football games, hide-and-seek and supper and, still, it’s only 8 o’clock. Come on!

No night in all the nights is like Christmas Eve for a 5 year old. The list for Santa has long since been submitted. The resumé checked — more good deeds than bad.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Time to help Mom clean the dishes. You never help clean the dishes, but you don’t want to test fate on this night, so off you go towel in hand cleaning the mashed potato refuse, but always mindful of that clock.

It’s still early — way too early. Santa Claus is probably in Europe or Africa, or somewhere. Why can’t he be here? The tree looks so empty now. Adrenaline pumps. How will I ever get to sleep?

Sleep is impossible on Christmas Eve. Intermittent patches of rest always interrupted by the tiniest squeak. “Is that him?” you’ll ask, eyes darting around the dark room as the street lights play tricks on your mind casting Santa-like shadows across the barren walls.

It’s got to be time. You pop up suddenly, focusing on the clock blinking 3:30 a.m.

The house is quiet. It’s tough easing down the creaking wooden stairs, each step brings magnified sounds. The rules say 7 a.m. for gift-opening, but this early there are no rules.

The shimmy of the wrapping paper off the tree lights gives the living room a slight glow. Yep, the Big Guy was here. Right here, eating the cookies and drinking the milk. The once empty tree is filled with the possibility of joy and laughter. If only … that clock.

The imaginary lightbulb pops overhead. Brilliant, you say as you ease through the parents’ bedroom door. Standing at the foot of the bed you wake them both trying to fool them. “It’s time,” you say.

They focus on the 3:30. “Back to bed. Not until 7.”

Crushed. Back to bed.

Seconds pass. Lightbulb pops again and back into the bedroom you go. This time more quietly, on all fours, avoiding detection. Easing over to the clock, the finger finds the forward button and — 7 a.m.

“Wake up,” you yell. “Time to open presents.”

Of course, it’s only 3:35 and back to bed you are sent. Another plan foiled. Another almost four hours of miserable, broken sleep until morning.

Amazing how, at 5 years old, we would literally skip ahead in time to get to Christmas morning.

Now all I want is for time to stand still again.