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How To Survive A (Very Large) Family Christmas, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:10am

I hope everyone, celebrating or not, had a wonderful time yesterday. Let me now review time-honored principles of wonderfulness on Christmas, and other family gatherings.

1. Cook good food. In our case, roast chickens stuffed with lemons and rosemary, (or apples and onions), a rib-eye roast of grass-fed beef with Bearnaise sauce, sauteed kale with olive oil, chile peppers and vinegar, (or pancetta), roast potatoes, salad with home grown mandarins and avocados, and a spice cake with whipped cream, home grown Meyer lemon syrup, homemade caramel sauce, raspberries, and strawberries.

2. Sing songs. Here that meant Swedish Christmas carols alternating with Mariah Carey singalongs. My Mac on the linen-covered table under a crystal chandelier lit with candles. “All I Want For Christmas, Is You…Baby.”

3. Drink just enough alcohol and not too much. This is cross-cultural and needs no explanation.

4. Spend some time in quiet together, after the chaos. We retired to the living room and sat, in companionable conversation, listening to YouTube video songs as requested by the group. Aretha Franklin at 14 singing gospel; Ray LaMontagne’s, “Jolene.”

5. Muster for good will to all. We were 16, from 5 different families, speaking 2 languages. With various histories of past happiness, past sadness, past arguments. Divorces, deaths, sorrows. But, precisely because we were so many people and were so aware of the possibility of misunderstandings (or worse, understandings of things shouldn’t have been said), we focused on goodwill and kindness. It has not always been so.

(Oh, and it doesn’t hurt when your mother, for no reason whatsoever, gives your daughter a necklace. From the family, although, “Not in the direct line.” Originally for a little girl. 6 rose gold medallions the size of thumbnails, strung from a chain, spelling out a name in a diamond-covered, dangling, monogram. Teeny diamonds, but, still. I promise, I am very, very thankful for good fortune. Up in my little 3 bedroom house it’s not so visible. Here at my mother’s, well, it’s a lot.)

6. Finally, luck. Luck beyond fortune. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes not. The same goes for families. This one was a good day for ours. I hope for yours as well. If this year was a miss, luckily, Christmas will be here again in 12 months for another try.

21 Responses

  1. It sounds like you had a very lovely Christmas.
    Really, what could be better than to be surrounded by family sharing a delicious meal and listening to great music.

  2. It's a delicate orchestration with that many people and stories! Thanks to each of you, a wonderful memory, especially for your parents. The older I gets the more I appreciate the goodwill we bring to make an occasion 'special'- It takes a contribution from everyone old enough to cut his own roast.

  3. Isn't that the truth. Some years are better than others and we should all remember that!

    I just found you blog and I have to say I'm quite smitten. I will be 52 next week and can relate to so much of which you write. I have just found my new "uniform" for daily life and it was not easy. But it was necessary. Low- rise jeans, gone. Too low-cut tops, gone. Uncomfortable shoes, good-bye.

    a new fan,


  4. Good for you! We'll be 16 on Sunday. Eight adults and 8 children under the age of 8. I'm taking a deep breath and practicing "good-will" in my imagination.

  5. Love the family scene that you let us share.
    Food sounds yummy too!
    I love that your Mother gave your daughter a family heirloom, it probably felt so good for her to gift this piece on this special day. Is the name on the medallions perchance the name of your daughter?
    Grateful is how I feel after our family gathering here yesterday, 2 moms, one 92 one 82 and the rest of the clan. Even after sending home dinners for the moms we are having leftover turkey for dinner with all the trimmings tonight. Gratitude is humbling.

  6. Wonderful, you are right about everyone bringing their will to make it happy. So nice to hear that your day was a winner.


  7. It sounds like it was wonderful. I've always wanted to be part of a big family. (A little late now. . .) Some say it's overrated, but somehow I doubt it.

    Thank you again for everything.


  8. It sounds like you had fun filled, relaxing and grateful Christmas.I must agree with..hostess of the humble bungalow, about the necklace, what memories.

    Bumby Scott

  9. I hope that you had a wonderful time, sounds like mine – lots of delicious food and singing. Extremely wise advice too – the striving for perfection is pernicious. We were floored by flight delays and illnesses and just thought what the hell. And it works – if the people are there, it's all that really matters. SOOO enjoying your blog and getting to know you and wish you all that you hope for yourself for 2010

  10. Good food and goodwill are key ingredients. It sounds like you had a lovely day; wishing you the same for your new year!

  11. this is perfect. people should print this list out before big holiday gatherings as a guide…
    just wanted to say i'm glad i came across your blog this year, and have a happy new year!

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