In times past (when our children were small), Christmas day was a whirlwind of rushing. The day ended with total exhaustion and normally sweet children were upset and melting down quickly.
Our children were always up at the break of dawn to see if Santa had come. (We their parents, often didn't get to bed much before 1am.) Gifts were torn open with excitement from under our tree and breakfast, usually homemade sweet rolls, were eaten. We then headed to my Mom and Dads, more gifts. Then we would all rush off to Springfield and be with my Grandmother for Christmas dinner and more gifts. Late afternoon/evening we headed to my wonderful husbands mothers house for another big meal and more gifts. After 12 hours of gifts, eating and picking up paper, we were CRAZY!
No one ever wanted to change, some of this could have taken place Christmas Eve. Everyone wanted Christmas Day! Again, I say CRAZY!
As we moved through the years, of course my Grandmother is no longer here, Richard's mother has also passed and my Mother refuses to participate at all. To keep the family gathering, Richard's sister and I took turns hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas for our families. My sister and I still got our families together on Christmas. Still Crazy but the kids were older and there were fewer meltdowns and they had developed some endurance by this time.
As our children married and started having families, the houses seemed to shrink, me moved to buffet style dining on paper plates and people sitting at tables placed anywhere possible. It was difficult to hold a conversation, things seem to be constant movement, those who went through the line first were done and moving to deserts while others were just sitting down to eat their meal. Crazy, but it worked and I am grateful that we still gathered.
Again changes came, after loosing Richard's sister, we decided to just do one holiday gathering, taking the pressure off eating two or three Thanksgiving dinners on Thanksgiving day and the same with Christmas day. Slowly the girls (our daughters and nieces) were beginning to host the events. It was nice to see them taking a turn with the family traditions. This year I decided to jump in and take another turn!
Being the now oldest in the family line, I haven't forgotten the "old" way. Our parents set the table with their finest china, grace was said, serving dishes were passed around the table. People talked while the food was being passed, laughter heard at the kids table and everyone was a part of all conversations. It seemed slower and less hectic with everyone sitting at once.
This year at our house we went back to that tradition. We had a sit down meal with all the trimmings. I wanted to honor the china that has been carefully treasured through the years. I wanted my girls to understand how important this china is to family traditions, mostly because of what it represents to me. The twelve place setting of white Noritake with a silver band around the edge came as a wedding gift from my birth father, over forty-three years ago and the ten piece flowered place setting came from my husbands wonderful mother in 1989. Both of these people are no longer with us, but I hope they joined us for a few minutes as we gathered together and remembered them this year in 2012.
Our living room was cleared of extra furniture, the dining room table was moved to the living room. All eight leaves were put in the old oak table. (I purchased this table at an auction before we married for sixteen dollars.) I cloaked it with Christmas table cloths, and pulled out the china and cloth napkins. We also set up another pair of tables and covered them as well. We had a place for twenty six people to sit together in one room and the Christmas tree was brightly glowing in the background.
Yes, it is a lot of work, getting ready for a family holiday sit down dinner. And yes, it was worth every moment. I have wonderful children and nieces who did the total clean up. Before the evening was gone and my feet were up, they had everything back in its place and it looked as if nothing of any note had happened.
A few pictures and this blog will allow the memory to live on. I again feel blessed and gratitude is overflowing. Merry Christmas to all that shared the table, to all who read my stories and to all of our ancestors who led the way and started our family traditions.