Clarissa and her father with unopened present

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Clarissa S.
Twenty-seven years ago on Christmas Day, my father decided to not open one particular present from his mother. His plan was to save the gift and open it the next day when no one else had a present. However, he forgot to open it the next day and ended up keeping it, unwrapped until the following Christmas. He surprised everyone, especially his mother, by sneaking it under the tree. No one could believe he had kept it unopened for an entire year. Everyone had so much fun with it that the unopened gift became a Christmas tradition at our home. Every year of my life I have seen this mystery gift under the tree. It is always the last gift given out. I always wonder what could be in it and marvel at my father's willpower to have kept the gift for so many years. The gift's wrapping paper is now faded and frayed, the tape is brittle and yellow, but it still shows up under the tree each year.

During the last 10 years or so of my father's teaching career, he started taking the gift to school for the students to examine. Hundreds of children have gently shaken it and asked, "When are you going to open it?" Last year just before Christmas, the local CBS affiliate in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (KFVS12) received a letter from a student's mother telling of the influence the present had on her child. The station sent a reporter to do a story on the present, which ended up airing on CBS and CNN. A teacher in Florida was so touched by the story that she contacted my father and together they have authored a book called The Unopened Gift: A Christmas Story. My grandmother passed away four years ago, but her present to my father keeps her alive in our hearts. I think it is an inspiring story of love, patience and hope; the kind of story people need during these trying times.

Do you have an extraordinary tradition? Tell us!