A Big Family Christmas
When you have a big family, all with their own busy lives, it’s not always easy to get everyone together, even to celebrate Christmas. We try and be flexible though, so this year we decided to celebrate Christmas early.
Sometimes months or the better part of a year goes by before we’re all in the same room. The biggest reminder of the time away from relatives are the children. New arrivals, and previous ‘new arrivals’ that have started to walk and talk. My own son being no exception, having done a massive amount of growing over the last eight months.
My one brother in-law jokingly asked where my son was, as the young man in front of him was surely too be big to be his nephew.
We arranged for everyone to arrive at more or less the same time since we’re always busy with food preparation till the last minute. Once everyone started arriving, we very quickly had a house full of people. Enough that we had to cook two turkeys…
The air filled with Christmas conversation and the smell of turkey, stuffing and freshly baked berry and rhubarb pie.
Before any of the guests arrived we planned out seating arrangements. We wanted everyone to feel welcome and included; the atmosphere light and pleasant.
Earlier this year I wrote an article about how my kids used to be shy. They have turned into very social, outgoing young people, yet human nature loves those comfort zones. It was no surprise that when we discussed seating arrangements, they both claimed seats next to their favorite cousins.
They’re both older now, so our expectations of them have become a little different. It’s time for them to practice being good hosts themselves and I wanted them to interact with all the guests, and even to lead and steer conversation so that all our guests were included.
I explained to my kids that part of being a good host was becoming a director of conversation. To ask thoughtful questions and to make sure that the conversation moves along smoothly and stays lively and interesting.
We talked about what that looks like. We primed them with some very specific questions for different guests according their individual careers and interests.
They could, for instance, ask their aunt who has a cake business about her favorite cake or what had been a hit with her customers. One of their uncles is an avid outdoors-man. He was sure to have countless stories of hunting safaris, etc.
Because we had so many guests we had more than one table set up. We placed our kids at two different tables with both familiar and unfamiliar guests. My son was less than enthusiastic about this idea; he rather wanted to sit with his favorite cousin. But he had a whole day ahead to have fun with his cousin.
We want our children to fly and so we keep giving them gentle nudges and the odd not so gentle shove ? outside those comfort zones. This was no different.
Our Dinner Scripture: 1 Peter 1: 3 – 9
With everybody seated with a plate of food in front of them, my normally chatty son became as quiet as a church mouse. My husband started asking my brother-in-law questions about being out in the bush. He interrupted his story with a: “Sorry, but do you mind starting over. I think my son will find this very interesting.”
My son joined the conversation, and by the time coffee and pie arrived, my son was looking at photos of his uncle’s last safari. A safari deep in the wilderness where pet dogs and children under 12 are not allowed….because of the crocodiles! Their cabin was on stilts over the water surrounded by giant crocodiles, and hearing about a hike where they had a close call with a hippo had my son wide-eyed and firing off one question after the other. No more coaxing needed. Mission accomplished.
In the kitchen us women were having a cleaning bee, and my daughter was making jokes and keeping the conversation light and fun.
We took the conversations outside were some of the adults were already watching the younger kids playing. My daughter reminded my son that when they were little, they loved it when their older cousins would spend time with them. “They were like our heroes” she said.
She reminded him that it was their turn to pay it forward.
She’s like a magnet to really young kids. Her sunny personality really draws them to her. While she had the 2 and 3 year olds occupied, her brother entertained the older boys with back flips and stunts on the jungle gym. The jungle gym sure got a good workout.
As I stood and looked at my family chatting and laughing my heart became very full. Ultimately we are made for relationship. Relationship with our Creator and relationship with the people who share the bubble we call our lives.
The kids had wanted to get a movie for the evening, and so when I picked one up at the movie shop, I grabbed the first Christmas movie I saw off the shelf without giving it too much thought. Later that evening, after all of our guests had gone home, we watched a movie called Saving Christmas. It wasn’t at all what I expected in a Christmas movie yet the message was still very good, though targeted, I think, for those parts of the world where Christmas has become politically incorrect. We may have many of our own challenges here in South Africa, but we are blessed that Christmas can still be celebrated in full. A few weeks ago we were at an outdoor public Christmas carol party, where hundreds of people joyfully joined in the singing of Christmas carols.
Joy to the world indeed!!!
To all my friends out there – I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May God’s richest blessing fill your life in 2017 and may your life always be a living testimony of His grace.