It’s Christmas time and the holidays are in full swing. Turkeys have been purchased and awaiting to be prepared. The gifts are all wrapped and put under the tree, or stacked to the side for delivery to friends and family.
Being of French Canadian descent, some of the traditions in our family date way back. The first documented marriage on my father’s side was 1663 and my mother’s side of the tree has been in Canada since 1801. Hmmm, I’ll have to do some investigating to see which recipe is the oldest. Some of the recipes are more recent as the children in our family married and new dishes have been added to our list of traditional must haves; Tourtière (meat pie, usually with moose meat), Tarte au Sucre (sugar pie), perogies, cabbage rolls, Grannie’s famous turkey stuffing and too many desserts to list. The dishes may be different but the tradition remains the same… everyone gathers to share the season.
As we are a large family, Christmas Eve has typically been at our parents either after midnight mass or the earlier children’s mass and includes a buffet of favorites and a Chris Kringle gift exchange. But that too has changed as most of us are no longer close enough geographically to make that happen every year. We do, however, gather with other family members who are close by and there’s always the phone call to whoever is hosting, at whichever location, so that everyone gets to say a few words of cheer to each other.
Christmas Day is typically rotated from one household to another. One year it’s at one house, the next at someone else’s. The hosting household is in charge of the turkey, potatoes and stuffing, and everyone else brings a dish or two of their favourite or specialty.
We can easily have as many as 35-40 people depending on who else outside of the family might be invited, or close by, or not able to be with their own families. There are six children in my family, with 13 grand-children and, at last count, 9 great-grandchildren with more on the way. With that many people getting together and so much food being served, it’s not a hardship to add a few more to the table. It does get loud and with that many people sitting down to eat, we definitely have to eat in shifts.
Before the great grandchildren started arriving, the grandkids would always be the first to eat then were sent to the family room in the basement while the adults had their turn. It was wonderful to see how the older kids would take charge and read stories to the younger ones, play games, watch their favorite Christmas movie, or keep them otherwise occupied.
I remember one time when the adults were eating and we all suddenly grew very quiet. “Do you hear that? It’s way too quiet downstairs. They must be up to something!”
And they certainly were. A couple of us crept down the stairs to see that the grandkids were putting together a Christmas play to perform for the adults when we were finished our meal. How wonderful! I remember doing that when I was their age. With more and more toys and gadgets geared towards electronics that tend to be increasingly exclusive than inclusive, I wonder if there is a chance this would even happen anymore?
Families are smaller, traditions change, but gathering for the holidays, however it may be achieved (via webcam or in person), help to create bonding memories for family and friends. May you always cherish these memories.
To all of you celebrating during the holidays, in whichever way you do, may the holiday season bring you joy and happiness and may you have a healthy and prosperous 2013.