There are seven of us. Add two parents, nine in-laws, twelve grandkids, and 6.5 great-grandkids, and you’ve got more than our family home can handle comfortably. This was the first time in quite awhile that all of us have been able to get together at the same time. While seemingly chaotic, the family gathering follows some fairly rigid rules and timelines.
First, there is the family photo. This has to be staged early in the evening, due to lighting conditions and the amount of time it takes to get everyone in place. Inevitably, there are those that are arriving late, and the constant debate whether or not to take the picture under the correct conditions and Photoshop the missing, or wait for them. Fortunately this time, everyone arrived in time and no photoshopping was required. As each pose was made, a dizzying array of cameras and flashes blinded the posees. Nevermind that most of the images were digital and could be easily shared. Each person wanted a shot with THEIR camera, and there were a ton of cameras. Finally, the crowd was gathered on the front steps of the home, and it was agreed that only one official camera would be used so that our wait in the cold air would not be prolonged.
After the photo comes dinner. Due to the masses, this is always buffet-style, with everyone grabbing a spot to balance plates and drinks. Kids are fed first, then the adults. Of course, the kitchen is the hangout of choice. Soon, it’s packed more than any fire marshall would allow as everyone jockeys for position around the table.
By the time the adults have finished, the kids are restless, and ready to dive into the pile of gifts under the tree. Theirs are handed out first, with paper and packaging shrapnel flying everywhere. Our parents also receive their gifts, which they protest as being too extravagant. The kids run off to demolish their new toys, and the adult gifts are brought out.
Again, a strict set of rules is followed. Each gift may only cost $10 or less. The gifts are placed in the middle of the room, and numbers are handed to each participant. The person with number one goes first and selects a gift from the pile. Number two can select from the pile, or may steal number one’s gift, at which time number one must pick another from the pile. This continues, which each number advancing when someone takes a present from the pile. More rules have developed as the game has evolved. You cannot immediately steal a gift back from someone. Gifts are left wrapped, so packaging becomes paramount. This year, there were three number ones, three twos, etc, so the game moved more quickly, but even more chaotically.
Ours has always been a musical family, so after the game comes the singing. In addition to the carols, various grandchildren pull out guitars and perform for the adults. This year, we tried something new. Our family sang Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus a capella – and did a passable job from memory. I’d love to hear our group do this with music and with some kind of accompaniment. We even toyed with staging our own version sometime in the future.
Such has been the Taylor Family Christmas Gathering for at least the past thirty-five years. Our Christmases have always been a time of joy, and a recognition of how blessed our family has been. Over the years, our numbers have only been diminished by the passing of one spouse and the divorce of another. As large as it is, our clan is very close, and our gatherings are always tempered with the knowledge that there will come a time when we cannot all be together. Until then, though, we will follow our own liturgy of Christmas that has so entertained us.