December 24, 2005

Family Tales: the Twelve Hours of Christmas

My cousin Mark and his extremely gracious wife, Polly, really do Christmas Eve the way it Should Be. We all add our little traditional dish to the spread, but they are the true Founders of the Feast. Santa visits and piles gifts on the little'uns while the adults drink eggnog and grasshoppers and nibble on various hors d'oeuvres, after which we set up the buffet and get down to seriously stuffing ourselves silly. We don't do anything in moderation, so this is really Serious Eating.

We need it to fortify us for what comes next. We need the food and drink to anaesthetize us sufficiently that we are willing to do anything, no matter how ridiculous or demeaning, in order to sit still for a few moments. This is the time that we all dread, and yet secretly look forward to - because of course it is the highlight of our evening when we can comfortably watch our loved ones making asses of themselves.

Every year we do a sort of Christmas Vaudeville during our Christmas Eve Extended Family Bash.

Don't get me wrong. We're a talented bunch. We number among us a guitar player, a concertinist, a saxaphone player, a poet, an actor/singer, a church choir member, and several ink-stained wretches (writers of various stamps). We've got the requisite number of darling and extremely well-behaved Charming Tots Dressed In Yuletide Finery and we've corralled a reasonable number of Surly Underdressed Adolescents. We've got plenty of Enthusiastic Support Singers and Bit Players. And Those Who Cannot Do, Direct.

We Rock the Yuletide, Baby.

But you will understand that the group is *really* talented when I tell you that they were able to make the entire following song (desperately scribbled at the last possible moment before the Pirate, the Vampire and I scrambled out to the car) scan when sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". And you will know that my family is *really* a generous and lovely group of people when I tell you that almost all of them knew which one of them was being poked at in each line... and that the person being poked always laughed loudest and most sincerely when their line came up.

The Twelve Hours of Christmas (last verse only here, for brevity's sake):

On the twelfth hour of Christmas, my family always says:

This is the last goodbye,
Thank them for your present,
Don’t hit your cousin.
Someone take a picture,
Who made the eggnog?
Did I make enough?
Where is that Santa?

Would anyone like more chicken salad?

Thank goodness that it snowed,
Did you wear that last year?
We got lost again, and
I think this is the best Christmas we’ve had.

And yes, by the end of the night, someone had said every one of these things. Except one; for once I found the house without even one mishap. But the first thing everyone said when we walked in was: "Did you get lost? Did you pass the house?"

And I did miss an exit on the way home.

True to the twelfth hour line, it took forever for people to say their goodbyes fifteen times, and for the men to herd the women (still hugging and chatting and giving each other directions) out the door, and for everyone to follow each other down the drive, shouting all the things they just at the last minute remembered needed to be said. We have refined the Minnesota Goodbye to an art form.

You won't find a more chaotic, silly, managing, kindly, warm, odd, generous gaggle of characters anywhere.

I love them, each and every one. They deserve the Merriest of Christmases.

May yours be as bright.


Blogger mama_tulip said...

I snorted out loud when I read about your family's reasonable number of Surly Underdressed Adolescents. It just wouldn't feel like Christmas if my two younger brothers didn't show up in their respective Slayer and Judas Priest rock t's. At least my youngest brother showered.

3:50 PM  
Blogger mE said...

Take it as a token of his affection. And take a nice, deep whiff of Oliver's baby-scented head. Your days are numbered... :D

11:24 PM  

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