We have a medium to large (extended) family. Though in the overall scheme of things, it’s probably small by some standards.
As long as I can remember (and I’m nearly 40) the family has gathered at Christmas time. We’ve gathered at other times of the year as well but rarely all of the family. We certainly saw each other during other times of the year but we (ALL) always got together at Christmas.
This was centered around my mom’s side of the family and included…
My mom’s parents, my aunts and uncles (2 of them) and their siblings, my cousins.
It was usually at my grandma’s house until we kind of out grew that, then it moved to my aunt’s house which was the larger of all the houses. They lived farther away than any of us, but that’s kind of what made it fun. It was a trip to Aunt Susan’s and was often an over-niter. You’d have to know my Aunt Susan to appreciate the atmosphere, imagine a house with more stuff decorating it than a Cracker Barrel. All very tastefully decorated mind you.
My mom had two sisters, they all three had 2 kids. (which meant I had 4 cousins)
Stick with me on the math here.
At worst we had
2 grand parents, 6 adults, and 6 children. (14 people), and as the clan got a little older some of the older cousins may have brought boyfriends and then girl friends, though at times one or two couldn’t make it because of school or work or what have you. On average I don’t ever really recall having more than say 16 or 17 people.
This has continued on through my generation, we’ve still gotten together every year, though the last 5 or 6 have really been a struggle. The grandparents have aged, gotten ill, been unable to attend, and have finally passed. Prior to that one of the sisters passed and prior to that my Uncle Bob passed away, so the numbers have changed and so have the dynamics. Cousins have married and divorced which had changed the availability of some of the cousins. They might have been with the other parent at the time of the get together, but I really don’t recall them ever missing to be honest.
Now, in a sense the burden of putting this shindig together has passed on to my generation. My grandparents are gone, one of my aunts is gone, so it’s up to me, my sister, and my cousins to pull this off if we’re still going to do it. Of course I’m the only male in the group, so the burden then shifts to my wife by marriage (check the marriage license, it’s in there somewhere) even though she is not an original family member.
I think overall our family is closer than most and I don’t just mean geographically. We are fairly close in that regard as well. We all live within a 150 mile radius with the exception of the ‘Canadians’ 🙂 who live on a deserted island in the middle of lake Erie. She is also the one that is closest to my age and perhaps the one that I would personally like to spend more time with and it seems I never get the opportunity to do that.
Every year we try to corral our group and get together for the holidays. The numbers have increased though:
We’re down 2 grandparents and aunt and uncle.
12 Siblings (myself my wife, my sister and her husband, each of my cousins and their spouses).
Each couple (6) now has at Least 2 kids, though some are grown and gone, or may be in the military or unavailable.
We have (4) kids
one couple has (2)
Another has (3)
Another has (3)
the other two have (2) with each having an adult.
So if we ALL got together and no one brought a boyfriend/girlfriend we’d have 30 potential people in play.
This shouldn’t be that hard.
It’s important I think for the kids to know their cousins and family. I wouldn’t trade my family Christmas get together’s for anything. It’s not about gifts, it’s about being with family, playing with and getting to know family. Reaffirming that you don’t like some of them, yeah that’s part of it too.
It literally is about the one time of the year (except for funerals) that I may get to see my Canadian cousin, or her kids.
There was a push this year to skip it. Instead of having Christmas, let’s do something around mothers day, or in the spring. I know if we bail on Christmas, then that’s it, it’s over. Yeah, we might get together in April, or May. But it won’t be the same. Once you turn your back on Christmas you won’t go back, and if you do it won’t be the same.
Christmas is about getting together, hanging out around a fire place, playing cards, eating until you can’t eat anymore. Catching up and looking forward. That’s what you do at Christmas, and it’s done at Christmas time.
At some point we outgrew my Aunt Susan’s house. I’m not sure when that was. We’ve tried things like park lodges, hotels, and bed and breakfasts. By far the best experience was a big bed and breakfast as it was the most like home. Hotels are too sanitary. It’s like we’re all in a hospital lobby waiting for something to happen. But hey, at least we’re together. I’ll take that if it’s all I can get.
I figure at the rate we’re going we’ll be able to pull this together maybe one more year unless we as a family decide it’s something we want to keep alive. Right now the one person that’s been pushing this is my wife, on my behalf, and she’s technically not part of the original 6 siblings that should be putting this together.
We are so fortunate to even have the opportunity it’s shameful that we aren’t all jumping at the chance to keep this alive.
I know the holidays can be hard on the one’s who’s parents are gone, and now grandma is gone too. But we’re still family. They still have us and we still have them.
This is time for my kids to spend time with their grandma and grandpa, and their aunt and uncle and their great aunt and uncle and their second cousins, etc.
Maybe I’m just being selfish, or maybe I should be more selfish and just want to stay at home with my kids. After all this is just a huge inconvenience. It is yet another weekend we have to plan and prepare for. Yes, it costs us more money, and yes it’s around Christmas time. But the cost is insignificant in what it means to in the end to all of us. These get togethers are important. They may not seem like it on the surface, but they build memories and usually good ones. They are all good ones for me, even though I know that more than one of them wasn’t my best Christmas performance in my life. I still look back and am ever so thankful that I had and have a family to share it with.