We rarely got together with my dad’s family on Christmas day although we always did have an event together to mark the holiday. We always referred to the gathering as “the White Christmas”. Because the family was large (10 brothers and sisters, their spouses and all the cousins.. about 40 of us) and was spread all up and down the east coast, we always got together the Sunday before Christmas.
Since my mom and dad had grown up down the street from each other we would quite often stop at my mom’s mother’s house on our way in to say hello. Then I would walk the two blocks to my dad’s parent’s house…. walk through the screen door onto the porch… and open the front door into the area referred to as the hall. As I stepped through the door, the smell of my grandfathers cigar filled the air. It was always a bit cool out in this hall and the floor creaked under the linoleum rug that covered the majority of the painted wooden floor. The Christmas tree was always standing right there in front of the door. And then it all started… the hugs and handshakes… the laughter and unbelievably loud talking. And the food.. goodness there must have been another 50 people coming besides the 50 that were already there!
My grandparents house was so small that no one got to sit at the table. It took their entire table to hold the food so everyone sat whereever they could find a place to perch. We kids would get our plates and go sit on the steps that went up stairs. They were really narrow steps and it was always a challenge when you needed to get more tea or dessert. I don’t recall ever stepping in anyone’s potato salad or collards but I imagine someone must have done that at some time.
After we ate some of my cousins and I would go outside and play football or anything that would get us out of the craziness. That was until it was time to open gifts. Since there were so many of us we just exchanged names but even then there were more presents than you could possibly fit under the tree so they spilled across the floor like a dam had burst and a river of bright colored papers had engulfed the entire room with the exception of a small path to get through.
The gift opening just added to the total chaos of the event. Tearing paper, shouts of joy and laughter from a prank gift… just a very pleasant mayhem.
The crowning event of the day was the ringing of the Christmas bells. Some of my aunts and uncles would grab this string of bells and run out the front door down the sidewalk ringing the bells and shouting “Merry Christmas” at the tops of their lungs. I would think how embarrassing that was… but now… not so much.
I miss the craziness of it all. So many of the people that were a part of this have passed away. Those of us that haven’t are so busy with our ever growing families and with life in general that we just can’t seem to find the time to get it all done. It makes me a little bit sad but you know…… I am so happy that I can still find myself dreaming of a White Christmas.