I am fully aware that one’s holiday plans are in no way a contest but if it did happen to be a contest, I think I’d win. Because have you ever celebrated Christmas at a funeral home?
My mother has 11 siblings. Those siblings got married and had babies. And then those babies grew up and got spouses of their own and also had babies. From my grandfather down to the youngest great-grandchild there are roughly 100 of us and of that 100, about half show up for Christmas Eve. Along with anyone else we find that might need a place to go for Christmas– because if you’re already feeding fifty people, what’s 52?
My grandfather lives above his funeral home in northern Minnesota. When I say to new friends– I’m going to the funeral home to visit grandpa– I usually followed up with a quick clarification that my grandfather is still alive. It’s a good conversation starter. And an easy way to freak people out.
Buffet style– all great Minnesota things like wild rice and cheesy potatoes and pork tenderloin. There are also grocery bags full of breadsticks made by my auntie Angel that I look forward to mostly all year. And I eat about 20 of them.
My grandmother always ordered birthday cakes for Baby Jesus– those delicious sheet cakes that are mostly frosting. For some reason it is one of my most favorite Christmas traditions, mostly because I think it’s so funny.
We spend a lot of time singing Christmas carols. The younger kids are way into it because they know that once we exhaust every single Christmas song we know, they get to open gifts. The great-grandchildren usually perform standing on the coffee table (often their best rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle” or the “ABC’s”), my mother wears the official ugly Christmas jacket and then we finish with the grand finale of “The 12 Days of Christmas”. We almost always get some of the words wrong.
I’d like to make a joke about waking the dead with our bad singing voices, but that might be crass given our location. But truly, we were not blessed in that regard.
The other stuff:
The younger kids run loops in a pack around the house playing with their new toys, Papa turns off his hearing aids because we’re all being too loud, the older kids sneak out front to smoke cigarettes and sometimes we go check out the casket room for good measure.
Roll that all together and you’ve got my official family Christmas. It’s bonkers but I also wouldn’t miss it for the world. It seems to be a good litmus test for potential spouses as well– would you like to come to Christmas at a funeral home with 50 of my closet relatives? No? Then this probably isn’t going to work out.
I’ve been searching Facebook for hours (well, minutes) and this was all I could find– my mother to your right in the one and only ugly Christmas jacket while little Maija and Shea rock their Christmas coffee table performance.