CHRISTMAS WITH SIX KIDS
I am the oldest child in a fairly large Roman Catholic household. Christmas is a BIG deal, it lasts from December 1st until the end of January when our tree is officially the biggest fire hazard imaginable. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Here's how it goes down in my house:
- •My parents make us all write Christmas lists every year.If it's not on the fridge or emailed to them by Black Friday, they force you to sit down and come up with items (even very broad ones - like "clothes" - as a placeholder so they remember to take you shopping) under the threat of no gifts.
- •They enter all the lists into an Excel spreadsheet.Green highlight means go buy, yellow means ordered or put on hold, and red means bought. Items they aren't sure about yet remain white. As gifts are bought, they are entered into the spreadsheet and turned red. It's the only way they can keep the gift distribution fair and keep track of how much they are spending.
- •Gifts are kept in garbage bags in my parents' closet and under their bed.One bag per child. Ideally, gifts are wrapped as they are bought, but usually there is a stack of grocery bags sitting on top of the trash bags waiting to be sorted, wrapped, and labeled. My mom would kill me if she know I posted this because she's so embarrassed of the mess, but this is the state of their closet three nights before presents are due under the tree. Everything under their hanging clothes is presents as well as what is blocking half the floor. It's organized chaos.
- •Last minute shopping is inevitable.AND super fun when we go to Target after Christmas Eve Mass together as a family, running around hiding presents from each other in our nice clothes.
- •Sibling Secret SantaIs how we have been handling the huge disparities between what a 20 year old and a 10 year old can afford - this way we all just buy one gift instead of five. We draw names in early November and ALWAYS exchange sibling gifts on Christmas Eve, after church. My 13 year old sister always figures out who everyone has and everybody always comes to me to ask what they should get their person, so it never is actually a secret by Christmas Eve, but it's still fun to pretend.
- •Church happens on Christmas Eve.Don't even try dragging everybody out of the house on Christmas morning without opening presents, and with eight people who have to open it takes awhile. We go the night before at either 4pm or 8pm, depending on if we have our shit together early enough. Most years we go to the 8:00. This year we're just planning to from the start, even though we hate the singer at that time.
- •Santa still exists.We're all in on the secret now, but considering they played the Santa game for 18 years before everyone knew my parents aren't really seeing why they should stop playing it up when grandkids will start coming in the next 10 years. Weirdly, the 10 year old is the only one who wants to remind us all of the truth constantly instead of playing along.
- •Over 20 types of cookies are made and frozen until Christmas morning.We have them for breakfast and then dessert when the extended family comes over later. 4/8 of us have celiac, meaning at least half of the cookies have to be gluten free, but not all, because some of my mom's favorite recipes don't taste right gf and my gluten-eating siblings protest. My mom hates to cook but loves to bake so it all works itself out. (I just got home and the 10 year old was pulling these out of the oven. I ate two after learning they were gf.)
- •There are no mandatory family Christmas movie nights.There is 10 years separating myself and the youngest, so it's always been rough deciding on a movie everyone wants to watch and is able to watch. Christmas Vacation and Elf are really the only ones everybody loves, and we just put them on whenever they come on TV. Whomever wants to watch does, no one really bothers with the DVDs. It was just never a battle my parents thought was worth fighting though almost every other family I know will sit and watch some designated movie together at Christmas.
- •Lots of people come over on Christmas Day.All the extended family who wants to comes to our house on Christmas, and we do appetizers and desserts. It's too crazy to pack all six of us and our new fun stuff in the car to a smaller house of another relative, so my parents just spend Christmas Eve cleaning and cooking and let our house fill up with people the next day. It's really fun but we know to lock the doors to our bedrooms so little cousins don't mess with all of our new stuff - there has been many a broken toy over the years!
- •Gifts don't end on Christmas morning.My mom will be finding gifts in her closet for weeks after Christmas. Everyone is guaranteed at least two more, and many times it's things you already know you are getting and have to ask her about it. But it always gets found (or held until your birthday)!
- •The gifts you get might not be yours.One year I got two alarm clocks - I didn't even need one. They were immediately passed onto my brother and sister who DID have them on their lists. My 19 year old sister and I regularly have to swap gifts because of colors or just simple mistakes, and one year Santa filled the stockings backwards so my 16 year old self got the 6 year old's toys. Also, sometimes gifts will have two names (things like video games or movies) but whomever opens it remembers for years it as "theirs."
- •It's such a fun time and there is always an extraordinary energy.Christmastime at my house is always the time when I crave a big family for myself one day. I love the millions of memories we've made over the years and I love how thankful everyone is for all we have at this time. It's really cliche, but family is seriously the best part of the whole season and I'm so lucky to have such a great one.