Christmas Change…To Everything There is a Season

My husband and I both come from extended families that believe in getting together to celebrate the holidays. Add in church, work, and occasionally civic organizations and we don’t celebrate a holiday, but have a holiday season that actually starts the first Sunday in November with an event called Friends & Family Day at church.

Once that event takes place, we find ourselves in a whirlwind of dinners and events all the way through Christmas Day. I truly don’t see Thanksgiving and Christmas as separate events. I see the whole season as a season, and unfortunately it’s often so crazy, hectic, and stressful that I don’t enjoy any of it.

This past week I’ve spent more than days in tears than not. I’ve been at the end of my rope in more situations than I knew I even had ropes for. And then this weekend was filled with Christmas. December 1st and 2nd and already we’re kicking off Christmas.

Today was the Annual Sitzes Family Reunion. It’s always the first Sunday of December. Many years it falls on the same Sunday as a school Christmas concert and program. Thank goodness this wasn’t one of those years. Although our oldest did have to march with the high school band in the Christmas parade last night.

I didn’t cook for the family reunion today.

I know some of you are picking your jaws up off the floor right now. Carrie, who loves to cook and sometime show off, didn’t cook one dish? Nope.

When I woke up this morning I felt guilty about it, so I went to the kitchen to see what ingredients I might have lying about and did have what it took to make a peach dessert, but our can opener has gone missing and I forgot to buy a new one yesterday. So, dessert was out of the picture.

I stopped at Wal-Mart and bought fried chicken and a veggie tray with dip. That’s what I took to the family reunion.

Should I feel guilty for not cooking when I’m obviously capable? No. I went. I took food that I purchased with money I worked hard to earn. The important thing is that I didn’t use my lack of homemade food as an excuse not to attend.

The four of us did dress up today and matched. We had our pictures taken as a family. I’ve been thinking that we don’t do that any more. Not in a long time. It’s like once our kids turned eight family pictures weren’t important anymore.

So, minus homemade food, we really did the family thing today.

After grace was said, I joined the line for food. I stood and looked at the many people in front of me. When Chris joined me at the end of the line later I told him, “I don’t think I know 70% of these people.”

Bellies full, sound of folks catching up filling the too warm building, and shouts of “Here comes Santa Claus!” ring out through the crowd. From the newborn babies to most experienced adults, everyone lines up to bounce on Santa’s knee or at least fill his hear with their Christmas dreams.

It might have been the longest line for pictures with Santa I’ve ever seen at the family reunion. Of course we all shot individual shots of the children receiving gifts, but then there were family photo ops and extended family photo ops. Picture taking went on for a long time this year.

Last year I was fearing a cancer diagnosis and wondered if it would be my last Sitzes Family Christmas Reunion. This year there was no fear. I enjoyed the camaraderie. The teasing. The crazy long Santa photo op time.

After Santa Claus comes the annual auction. This activity funds the reunion. All family members are encouraged to make, bake, buy, and bring items to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Sometimes this gets crazy, but it’s absolutely always fun!

The most expensive items are typically food. For example, jars of canned green beans, pickles (dill, hot, and bread & butter), beets, Sauer kraut go for around $10 each. Jerky or sausage always bring high dollar amounts. Peanut brittle can easily go for $10 a bag. Handmade items like quilts, purses, and aprons bring good money. As do personal items from loved ones who have passed.

Then there are those Christmas items that it seems my grandmother and her siblings seem to spend all year making. I had no idea my family members were so talented. Nor did I know they ship the items they make to China to be labeled “Made in China”.

Those auctioneers will try every trick in the book to raise the bidding on each item! Good thing they’re family and that all the proceeds go to the family!

While I don’t know what year this event started in, I know it has been going on for quite a few. I remember it taking place in two different locations. I remember being young enough to be an older kid sitting on Santa’s knee, bringing my newborn babies to Santa’s knee, and now watching the last of my babies outgrow Santa’s knee.

While everyone shows up for this event, my grandmother has been the driving force behind it. Today she announced that it’s time for someone else to be in charge, and there was silence.

You see, sometimes we expect things to go on as they are forever. We don’t expect things to change, people to get tired, or even for people to get discouraged.

Everyone shows up the day of the reunion. Everyone brings food. Everyone visits. Some even stay and help clean up afterwards. Few, if any, think about booking the facility a year in advance, buying the Santa gifts specifically by age and gender per child, wrapping the gifts, labeling the gifts, getting the gifts to the facility, purchasing the paper ware, making sure the staples are covered for the meal, decorating the facilities, buying the decorations for the facility, finding someone to play Santa, finding someone to be the auctioneer, taking care of all the accounting, buying invitations, filling out invitations, maintaining an address database, mailing invitations, cleaning up the facility afterward, and all of the other things I didn’t think about as I wrote this list off the cuff.

My grandmother has done the bulk of that with the assistance of some of my aunts for years. She does it without thanks and with many complaints brought to her. No one understands why she thinks it’s such a big deal or huge undertaking. And yet when she asked for someone to take it over or let it go, there was a shocked silence.

I’m not always a sociable person, and I find the reunions a little uncomfortable. However, for my grandmother, they are important. Today, during the auction, my sister leaned over and said, “Look at how happy this makes grandma. She loves this.”

That was about an hour before grandma’s announcement. She’s letting go of something she loves that brings her joy. I don’t fault her for wanting to let it go. She has worked hard for many, many years, and it is most definitely someone else’s turn.

It’s hard to watch things change. It’s hard to let go of things when you know the next person won’t do them “your” way, but to everything there is a season.

I’m praying that there will still be a season, and that the season will allow my grandmother to see her extended family and enjoy her time with them instead of feeling like she has to be in charge of the entire event. She deserves it.


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