By Jennifer Richardson
After their children grew up and had families of their own, my parents hosted Christmas dinner in a large lodge that accommodated all the family members. With six children and their spouses and sixteen grandchildren, it was quite a crew.
My mom and dad rented the large family style structure for the entire weekend and anticipation was always high as our household prepared for another chapter of this amazing tradition. We arrived with our family and all the gear we thought we needed to manage the adventure.
No doubt some of us were looking forward to the cooking the most. My mother handled the meals and for good reason; her talent and hospitality are legendary. She makes dinner for fifty look effortless. Roast beef and all the trimmings, comforting soups, delicious casseroles—she does it all well.
Another wonderful part of the experience was the outdoor fun. We have ridden dirt bikes and ATV’s, fished, built campfires, and watched every grandchild sled down the snowy, sloping hill in the backyard. Some of the grownups had had just as much fun sledding as the kids did.
There have been some unforgettable gift exchanges during our lodge Christmas celebration. I will always remember the year my father was so touched to receive an album of songs we had sung around our dinner table when we were growing up. My sister and I went together and purchased some studio time and recorded songs and hymns from our childhood that our mom and dad taught us around our big supper table. There were only six tracks on the album, and it only featured my alto and my sister’s soprano, but my dad kindly pronounced it was some of the most beautiful music he had heard.
Some of our more entertaining memories have come from the family talent show. My husband held the position of Master of Ceremonies and he has presided over magic tricks, craft demonstrations, musical numbers, story-telling, and more. He kept the audience laughing with his comical commentary and he awarded a creative prize for every single act.
One year my husband and I offered a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas in which he changed every verse to reflect on something hilarious he had experienced as a marry-in to the Smith family. He brought the house down of course. I was delighted to receive a prize for “the most beautiful assistant” category.
The lodge has also been the site of some very fun gingerbread-house building. We constructed the houses out of graham crackers and some very stout frosting, and we decorate with piles and piles of candies. Every grandchild and most of the parents created a house and when they were finished, they made an impressive display on the eight-foot long mantle above the large living room fireplace.
We played bingo and board games, ate snacks tossed beanbags, put together puzzles, took naps, and got to know any new babies or new members of the family. And as wonderful as these activities were, we all understand now that we were constructing more than family fun.
By creating traditions and memories as a family, my parents invested their lives into building a foundation under their children, and their children’s children. They were forging connections and experiences that brought together the best of who we are, to create a structure that would secure us during times when we may need the strength of one another.
Our lodge Christmases were an amazing experience and my parents’ example has inspired me to create traditions for the people I love. Now that all of our girls are married, I am excited to report that I have secured the very same lodge for our own family Christmas celebration this year. We are all looking forward to making another round of Christmas memories.
I am truly grateful for what my parents have done. Using the opportunities that Holidays offer, they have formed a family that will come together for Christmas dinner, and much more, for generations to come.