The party at Uncle William’s house took the form of an organized program. I think that’s the only way it would work with such a large group. The festivities began at 6 in the evening and everyone ate appetizers from the dining room table. People were free to mingle, eat, drink, play the piano, sing Christmas carols, etc. Around 7, after making sure everyone had arrived, the table was officially opened and a line formed so folks could get a serving of yummy food on their plates. There was more mingling, singing, drinking and so on.
At 8, the actual program began. Everyone was herded into the living room and two of the teenage boys held up a large American flag. We all said the Pledge of Allegiance, then sang the National Anthem and state song. Uncle Joe read from the Declaration of Independence and Grandfather’s military medals were handed down to the next sibling to display for the next year.
Next, all the grandchildren gathered around Aunt Marie while she read the nativity story from the Bible. She also told us that she and Grandma used to pray specific Proverbs for each grandchild and she read each one to us, then handed us our printed out card with the Proverb on it.
Then, each of the siblings (they included me, even though technically I am a “grandchild”) got up to tell everyone else what they’d been doing the past year. Aunt Janet said she always gave her siblings a gag gift on their 50th birthday, and this year it was Uncle George’s turn. She’d saved a pair of his purple and gold satin boxer shorts from the 70’s, had them framed with a poem and a picture of him wearing only those and a fedora while frying fish at Cape Cod. He said he was going to have to be more careful about where he threw out his underpants.
Aunt Kathy gave me an old picture of my grandparents holding their two oldest daughters (the second one is my birth mother). My grandmother was only 21 in the picture.
The book The Night Before Christmas (by Major Henry Livingston Jr., not by that poem-stealing asshat Clement Clarke Moore) was passed around and everyone read a line. Then the grandkids swapped gifts and left the room.
Now it was time for Bad Santa. All twenty-six wrapped, but untagged, gifts were placed in the middle of the room and twenty-six people drew numbers from a jar. I was number 18. Number 1 chose a gift and unwrapped it. Number 2 was allowed to take Number 1’s gift OR choose an unwrapped gift from the pile. If Number 2 took Number 1’s gift, Number 1 got to get another unwrapped gift from the pile. The only rules were that you couldn’t take back something that had just been taken from you, and a gift could only be taken three separate times. When it came to me, I chose a box of four bottles of wine that had already been taken twice, so my gift was safe. Others weren’t so lucky!! One girl had nine gifts taken from her.
Bad Santa took until almost one in the morning because of the number of players. There were two intermissions for bathroom breaks, as well as food and beverage runs. The shrimp trays NEVER ran out. Once we were finished, everyone piled back into the kitchen and dining room for more food and drink and socializing. We all had a spectacular time and I was glad to have the chance to visit with everyone. I was also glad to see some old family photographs and see “from whence I came”, as it were.