Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent Calendar 7 Dec: Christmas Parties

Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

When I first read the prompt I was a bit stumped and couldn't really recall that many Christmas parties.  My parents go to a Christmas party every year put on by the hospital where my mother works, but me?  There were a few school-related "holiday parties" over the year, I think we also did something similar in 4-H every year too.  Occasionally one of our neighbors on the street where I grew up would host a holiday block party and those were always fun but not terribly memorable.  But then I remembered the Christmas parties my great-grandmother would host every year until she went into a nursing home in the mid-1990s (and even then, I think we did a party once or twice). 

My great-grandmother lived in a large home which had been in the family for years so it made sense to have it there.  We would have the party near Christmas, usually on Christmas Eve and it would be a potluck affair with everyone bringing their "signature dish" (to this day I equate certain relatives with certain dishes).  After eating all the adults would go sit around the living room in a semi-circle of sorts facing the tree in the corner with great-grandma in the middle, while we kids sat on the floor and tore through presents.  Since there were so many great-grandchildren (thirty in all) each of us all got the same thing but for some reason we always thought we'd get something different from the cousin next to us.  I remember one year all the girl great-grandchildren got Snow White Barbie dolls and all the boys got Hardy Boys books (I wanted the Hardy Boys books, that's why I remember).  I wasn't really interested in what the grandchildren, like my mom, got but I think they were all kind of the same thing too, usually throw blankets or home decor type things.  Another year, I think the last year that we had those parties, all of us girls got sterling silver tea services (child sized of course).  I loved that tea service, in fact, I loved it so much I took it outside to play with it and you can guess what happened next.  I still have it even though it is terribly rusty in places.  I've tried restoring it but have had no luck and I really doubt that a professional would be able to do much with it.  I always remembered the tree at those family get togethers as being huge and awe inspiring but I was in the home recently and the ceiling can't be more than 8ft. tall and there was always a large star or angel topper so the tree couldn't have been more than six feet.  Oh well, I guess when you're seven everything looks a lot bigger...

At the time I didn't really have an opinion one way or the other on those parties but in retrospect I miss them.  We still have family gatherings (and some in that same home too) but they aren't the same and we rarely get together around the holidays.  My great-grandmother died in 1998 four days before Christmas so now when I think of the holiday it is full of mixed emotions.  I'm happy I have all those memories of my great-grandmother and those Christmas parties, but sad now when Christmas comes around because I have the added memories of her passing and the Christmas of 1998 when everyone in the family came together not for a party but a goodbye and where the warmth and happiness we all felt was replaced by grieving and, I think, feelings of being a little lost.

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