Making Merry

Today it took me three hours from start to finish to repackage items that needed to be returned, print out the return label, close the bag and label the bag. Don't even ask how long it will be until I mail it in.

So instead of driving the package to the nearest box (although I just remembered that I think the mailman can just pick it up??), I'm sitting down to recap the merry-go-round that is Christmas. As I mentioned here, I was so excited to celebrate Christmas for the first time as a Harrington in Ohio.

My grandma's celebration on Christmas night is so fun. Life must be pretty blessed when you have ten of your kids together ... and you still have two daughters and a son missing. We counted this year, and there were 57 people people in attendance. 57! Sounds like a jolly good ole time in big Catholic family land, right? We make it even crazier. My grandma closes the doors that lead to the living room and the rest of the house so for the first few hours we are all in either the kitchen, dining room, her bedroom or her bedroom bathroom. So it isn't just 57 people ... it's 57 people in three rooms and using one bathroom. I guess the one bathroom is the most remarkable part, but we are all adamant about our sardine-esque tradition. 

My uncles pass out eggnog, we graze over the appetizers, gather to pray together and then eat dinner taking turns at the tables. My dad passes out whatever home brew he has made for the holiday. After we have all stuffed ourselves silly, everyone is usually in the dining room talking and playing cards when bang! bang! bang! someone is knocking on the door leading to the living room. Bang! Bang! Bang! from the door leading to the patio. Bang! Bang! Bang! from the door leading to the back door. Santa has come and gone. Chris asked if the Santa that visits is possessed and wants to eat the children because it sounded like Bigfoot was trying to beat down the door. Well, actually Christopher, Santa is a kind generous fellow as all of the little kids see as they walk into the living room that is only lit by the Christmas tree and see the mounds of presents. But! The presents are off limits until we have sung Christmas carols and the little kids have performed the Nativity play. 
As you can see, Ryan was very moved by the carols ... and it was basically story time reenacted ... everyone sits, Ryan stands.

Grandma has the only really reserved spot in the whole room. Everyone else finds a couch, bench or square foot of floor space to sit on or a wall to lean against. My Aunt Diane passes out the Christmas carol lyrics that we use every year (RIP to the one that Ryan tore apart), my Uncle Pat plays the guitar, my Aunt Kaylene plays the clarinet and there are enough voices to cover up my lack of a singing voice. Grandma has enough descendants to create multiple football teams and more than enough to perform a Nativity play with the youngest baby playing Baby Jesus. It's a big swaddling cloth to fill, but Conor stepped up to the manger this year. Proud mama moment, for sure. And surreal after watching cousin after cousin and then all of a sudden watching a son??
After all of the toddlers' patience has been spent, presents are passed out and wrapping paper, ribbon and bows become the Christmas carpet. We have a family drawing among the cousins each year that we call LOTD for luck of the draw. I was really lucky this year because my cousin Marie had my name and gifted me a bracelet that her husband made from a wood from a walnut tree on my grandma's farm. I love it, and I love that I now have a piece of one of my most favorite places on earth.

Then all the desserts are placed on the dining room table for the taking. This year, I made chocolate pie from my mother-in-law's recipe so Chris could have a little taste of home. The adults all gather back in the living room and start the white elephant gift exchange and hilarity ensues. All is fair in love and war and the white elephant. Quote me on that.

So what do you think? Want to come? There are a lot of cousins so maybe I can play matchmaker and you can score an invite ;) But be prepared ... you enter the house straight into a galley kitchen that is always lined on both sides with uncles and aunts so you will have to pass through a gauntlet of sorts. It's worth it, I promise. 

 It really is something special, and I can thank Christmas at Grandma's for being one of the reasons I yearn for a big family. 

More photos from Ohio:
My sister and mom (and my dad and my sister's boyfriend) babysat the boys, and we got to go on a date! We saw the second part of the Hobbit.
You can kind of see how his eyes are currently a mix between gray and hazel.

Pretty much where Conor was the whole time. My dad is the professional Conor soother.

Assessing which of my family's sentimental ornaments (the best!) are the easiest to break
At least the kids are showing teeth?

The winner.
The present opener. Conor was the present ignorer.

Linking up with Heidi