Every year my whole side of the family gathers at the house where my siblings and I grew up to celebrate Christmas. We pick two days, about a week before Christmas, and it becomes a sacred-carved-in-stone-be-there event.
We started this tradition several years ago when I was still in the ministry. As you can imagine, Christmas is not a holiday for the clergy. My sister is a nurse and is never guaranteed having Christmas off, or enough days around Christmas to be able to commit to coming. And, once we started having in-laws in the family, having to share holiday time with other family members became complicated. We avoided all that by selecting some time before Christmas.
My husband and I weren’t able to make it last year. We were busily finishing the renovations on our house before I went in for a knee replacement. Six months ago, my grown sons told me that we were expected this year…no excuses. What can you say when your grown sons are adamant that they want to have you there?!? So we made the trek to California.
We have really come to treasure our Family Christmas. When we started this, I was the only one with small children. Then my brother and sister-in-law’s children came along and now my grandchildren are making up the youngest generation.
There are lots of stories, great food, gift giving, picture taking, and so much laughing, our sides ache. Then the little ones go to bed, and the adults stay up for more merriment. My parents’ house is large enough to still house all of us, so it’s like one giant sleepover with no one getting much sleep.
My brother and sister and I used to be the only kids. Then my sons were the only ones, until their much younger cousins came along. Now my sons and their spouse or partner are at the grown-up table and my nieces and granddaughters are at the kids table. The third generation still does dishes before they pass out the presents that are under the tree.
We are blessed to have all of our four generations healthy and still with us. My sons are now the age I was when we started our Family Christmas tradition! My three nieces are now all teenagers and none of them were even born when we held our first Family Christmas. New partners have come into the family fold and a new batch of babies (my granddaughters!) have created the fourth generation.
Holidays can be an extremely stressful time of year with expectations that are unrealistic for everyone. I have learned that if we can look beyond the stress, let go of expectations, and understand the gift of family, I can look forward to all that it takes to be the first to commit to being there for the Family Christmas. I know there will come a time when I will be the oldest and first generation, and I will want all of my family to be present at the sacred Family Christmas!