Partridge in a pear tree not included. 

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My favorite part of the holidays used to be waking up on Christmas morning knowing Santa had paid a visit the night before. It was the butterflies-in-your-stomach, can't-sleep anticipation I craved. Even my 10-year-old-self understood that Saint Nick brought an overwhelming excitement and joy-filled celebration that was unmatched by any other day of the year.

As I've grown older (and hopefully wiser), I've started to recognize exactly why Christmas creates this euphoric bliss: it gives me the chance to share meaningful traditions with the ones I love most. And when it comes to traditions, my family has plenty. We're pretty much set where customs are concerned, from playing minute-to-win-it style games that often get too competitive, watching a movie on Christmas Day, gathering for our annual bunko night complete with seafood gumbo, and Pawpaw doing a dramatic reading of The Night Before Christmas. But there's one tradition that holds weight in my heart above them all.

It's my Meme's twelve days of Christmas. Every year starting exactly 12 days before Christmas, my grandmother would give all of her grandkids a gift each day leading up to the 25th. She says the 12 Days of Christmas song inspired the idea . . . although I don't remember ever receiving a partridge in a pear tree. Meme was valiantly committed to the cause. She would start planning months in advance and track down her kiddos no matter the trouble; softball practice, piano lessons, theater auditions, and grade school didn't stand in her way. Come rain or shine, she was there hand delivering a special gift. They ranged from big to small, and with each present my anticipation of Christmas grew stronger. I remember one December day in particular when Meme gave me a pair of moon shoes (those goofy-looking bouncy contraptions). I leaped around our kitchen and living room for hours and hours. She somehow knew the perfect presents for each of us without ever asking.

But the gifts were just a nice bonus – the real joy came with knowing I got to spend extra time with my grandma. She would stay with me awhile and play with my new toys or chat about my latest adventures. Her devotion gave me wings, and I never had to question how much she cared. One day I hope to carry on the tradition with my own grandkids, and when they ask where it came from, I'll smile and tell them about the Meme who made Christmas unforgettable.