Fathers play a unique role in Christmas rituals according to the head of the Department of Family and Human Development at Utah State University.

They are the so-called gatekeepers of the Christmas morning rituals, determining when the celebration officially starts, said Jay Schvaneveldt.One daughter interviewed described to university researchers how her father's Christmas Day routine stalls the opening of presents and other holiday activities.

"My father takes the longest showers on Christmas morning, his shave is detailed and he takes the longest time to dress. It seems as if he takes pleasure in delaying the great moment as long as possible," she said.

Others questioned by researchers told stories of how their fathers kept them upstairs until a specified time, played certain songs, or made them talk into a tape recorder before packages could be opened, Schvaneveldt said.

Fathers are also usually the ones taking pictures, running a video camera or the tape recorder, he said, making them not only the gatekeepers but also the preservers of Christmas.

Finding that fathers are so influential came as a surprise to researchers, who generally accept mothers as being the "kin keepers," the parent who keeps family records and maintains contact with relatives.

Schvaneveldt said that related research shows that mothers are most often the preferred parent because of their traditional role as nurturer.

The active role fathers take in Christmas Day activities may be an attempt to share in that role.