It was Christmas Eve, and I was around six years old. My parents were all over the place, busily getting ready for the big event, as only Catholic parents of six children can on such an occasion: Multi-course post-midnight mass meal preparations, last minute gift wrapping, and pre-Christmas gift snooping were all in full swing.
Suddenly, we heard the sound of car horns beeping. Peeking out the front door of our house, my father announced that we had company. “SURPRISE!” our visitors all yelled as they entered our home. Roughly twenty-two of our Canadian relatives had driven 500 kilometers to visit us for the holidays, all unannounced. The ensuing mayhem made for the most memorable Christmas of my life.
My parents took this massive and last minute surprise visit in stride, but the logistics were still mind boggling. With over thirty hungry mouths to feed, three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and supper) had to be served in three separate shifts. When the last breakfast shift was over, the first lunch shift started to drift in, and so on throughout the day. Although the parents of each additional family attending did their own cooking, my mother still hovered around and helped all day, to make sure nothing went wrong in her kitchen.
We had our regular Christmas tree in the parlor, but our relatives came bearing gifts, so many in fact that my dad had to go out and buy a second Christmas tree to set up in our basement. Since it was Christmas Eve, all my dad could find was this ridiculous silvery artificial thing, with metallic blue ornaments. I mean, it looked sort of pretty in a man-made kind of way. Looking at the picture today, I think sarcastically “Nothing screams Christmas like a metallic silver and blue tree”. But we were young, and a second tree, no matter how artificial it looked, meant more gifts!
During the next few days, the air was filled with joy and laughter. There was also music, dancing, games, and cheerful conversations going on in every corner of our house. Best of all were the piles of young cousins who slept all over the floors in sleeping bags, while their parents nabbed every available couch and bed.
Each morning, my youngest cousins and I would gather in one big puppy pile in the sleeping bags that were on the floor of the family parlor. We would play and giggle, while my aunt and uncle groaned at us to keep the noise down, having partied a bit too hardy the night before. And then the screaming and giggling really began as my uncle would give up trying to sleep, joining us on the floor, growling and tickling us all.
Despite the attempts of modern commercialism, more than forty years later, Christmas still brings to me that special feeling of excitement, wonderment, and youthful energy. May the holidays bring to you all many happy moments, and time well spent with friends and family.
(Do you have any “Crazy Christmas” stories you’d like to share? Send it to me by email, and I’ll be glad to give your story a spot in my blog!)