I come from a big old Irish Catholic family. I am the youngest of eight kids. There are currently 26 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All eight of us are married, and for as long as I can remember, my family has gathered together for Thanksgiving. This is no small feat for many, many reasons.
First, my siblings are spread all over the US. I have sisters in Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Michigan. My two brothers both live here in the Pittsburgh area. My nieces and nephews are also spread way out, from California to New York and all over in between. My parents are still here in the Pittsburgh area, but their house is way too small to host such an enormous crowd.
So, four of my siblings alternate being host/hostess of our annual feast-a-thon. Last year it was in Indiana. This year it is in Michigan. Next year will be Ohio, and finally, we will have it in Pittsburgh the following year. My little house is way too small (thank God) so I am always a guest.
The next major undertaking would be feeding all of these people. We don't always have everyone, but we are usually close. I am estimating about 35 people for Thursday's dinner. Generally there are two turkeys, or there would be no leftovers. There is almost always a ham, too. Then all the sides, breads, salads and it's all followed up by dessert! I'm bringing nine pies (thanks to my daughter's Band Trip Fundraiser) to contribute to this feast.
Friday night's dinner is also a huge family tradition. We always have lasagna, made in huge restaurant sized trays. We also have spinach salad with hot bacon dressing! I'm drooling just thinking about it. And for that dinner, there are often "honorary" family members. Neighbors and friends of the host will often be invited. Sometimes they come just to see what a huge family gathering like ours looks like. Some come because they have been before.
What else ... ah... where do all these people sleep? When my parents were still hosts of this event, everyone slept at their house. We all took up every inch of floor space, couch and corner. Now that everyone is much older (and has creaky bones and a need for comfort) most people stay in hotels. My girls and I will still crash on the floor somewhere, though. All of the grandkids (who are not married and have kids of their own) crash in the finished basement. It's a tradition they all look forward to ... late nights of laughter, video games, card games and silliness.
There are lots of traditions associated with this gathering. We have a group of fitness buffs who participate annually in whatever local Turkey Trot is going on. We have some die-hard shoppers who can't wait for Black Friday. We have some very intense poker players who can't wait for the annual poker tournament. There is always a reading of new children's books—Christmas themed—by my sister, the fifth grade teacher. Another sister (and teacher) recites "The Night Before Christmas" while also doing performing it in sign language. Finally, there is a giving of early Christmas gifts to any grandkids still in high school or younger.
The 20- to 30-year-old cousins make an annual trek to watch football at Buffalo Wild Wings. (They manage to find one no matter where we are!) My brother-in-law takes the younger cousins to a movie every year. And every year, my parents glow in the fact that their marriage, which began on Nov. 23, 1954, is what sparked this huge gathering of people. My parents celebrate 57 years of marriage this week!
So, while you are with your family and enjoying a sit-down dinner of turkey and all the trimmings, ask your self this: Where would you seat 35 people—ages 3 months to 79 years—for dinner? Then, say a little prayer and thank God that you don't have to figure it out!