what i miss most while traveling is my family. this holiday season, i won't be home for christmas. while i'm enjoying the discovery of many british christmas staples (i cant believe i'd never heard of christmas crackers!), i'm feeling a bit homesick for all my family traditions.
every year, my dad's side of my family gathers together on christmas day. i have about 35 cousins on that side, so you can imagine the epic size of the event! for as long as i can remember, we have sung christmas carols together at the gigantic gathering on christmas day. in preparation for the singing, an excited energy floats around the room while people refill their bourbon slushies and find their place around the room. one uncle always leads the songs, sometimes unintentionally beginning songs on notes that make certain later notes quite unattainable to average voices! many harmonies are attempted and some are proudly achieved - although some years are definitely better than others!
the infamous song that makes everyone perk up, prepare their ears, and roll their eyes is oh holy night! the several-part harmonies reveal themselves as the family's volume increases excitedly. the voices intensify toward the climax of the song, when my aunts and uncles stand up, comedically reach out their arms, and wail "oh niiiiight diviiii-iiiine!!!!!!" inevitably, there is always an encore of the last verse of this christmas song, because the final crescendo is just so satisfyingly hilarious! at the end of this battered carol, we all smile and clap, and laugh at ourselves once again.
after going thru 20 or 30 carols, the last song we sing is always jingle bells.... dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh.... as soon as this song begins, *santa* appears at the top of the stairs!! while we finish the song, he patiently makes his way to the christmas tree, through the rushing crowd of adoring children and jovial adults. at the end of the song we all cheer for santa and he tells us about his year. he usually adds a bad joke about the reds or the bengals or some other local college sports team. he distributes all the presents, one by one, with the aid of a few lucky little helpers. then we cheer him off again as he returns up the stairs to his sleigh.
when i was young and there were fewer family members, i grew to recognize santa as my uncle, mitch. now, it has become a little game to try to recognize who santa is among all of my too-grown-up boy cousins!
here's one of my favorite old pictures of the events - me, my cabbage patch doll and my mom singing with my cousin, her cabbage patch, and her mom... and the rest of the family!!!
the caroling spectacle was fun as a young child, horribly embarrassing as a teenager, and delightfully wholesome as an adult, because it's so much an endearing part of my family's culture. i will immensely miss the family gathering this year, so maybe i'll sing some carols by myself! happy holidays!