Christmas has most often been a letdown for me. A lot of hype for the month of December and then the two weeks off at the end of the month are most often very anticlimactic. It's never been a special holiday for me. In fact, I can't remember a single Christmas that stood out for me.
But that changed in 2012. Lisa's parents hosted the entire family for Christmas. 18 people at the time (16 adults and 2 one-year-olds). It was a bit of an overreach if you ask me, but there was this concern that as the family was growing so quickly in separate directions, it may be the last time we would ALL be able to get together. Turns out it was.
The thing was though, at Christmas' past with my in-laws, someone getting up off the couch to go get more eggnog was often the most activity we would see in a day. They were as boring as watching paint dry. And we all knew it, and we all complained afterwards, but no one ever did anything.
WELL... I was fresh out of college with my new event planner certification and thought I could change the world. I had my business up and running by then, I had been on tour, I was making a name for myself in the community and I had produced about a dozen concerts already including Kid Rock that summer and Journey just a few weeks before Christmas. A family Christmas gathering? Come on! This would be fun.
So I called up my mother and father-in-law and pitched the idea of me spreading my wings and showing off a little. I told them I wanted to show the family what an event planner does, and what I was now capable (and certified) to do! My father-in-law loved the idea and immediately empowered me to take over. He would provide the venue and even fund the event if need be, and I would take care of and organize all the details. It came as no surprise to me that they hadn't planned very much yet.
Lisa and I immediately got to work and began planning what would become the most epic Christmas of our family's history - still talked about fondly and referenced to this day!
We were there for seven days, and each day had a major activity planned with minor ideas and options available on the side.
Day One: Gingerbread House Competition
We wanted to make a statement from the moment we walked in the door. Again, remember this family was NOT used to having anything planned. So we forced everyone to draw names out of a hat and form teams. Then we gave each team a bizarre theme to adhere to and a gingerbread house to decorate with about $100 of candy and random toppings and ingredients. Every team got a mystery item and extra points were awarded if they could incorporate that item into their design. We had no idea everyone would become so creative and competitive. The energy in the room was like nothing I had ever seen from this family before. I was on cloud nine. It had worked. We had sparked something.
Day Two: Game Night
Our family loves games, but no one every took the initiative to plan a games night. I can't think of any "event" simpler than a games night. Get drinks. Get snacks. Clear off tables. Set out the same amount of chairs around the tables as there are people. Drop one (different) game on each table. Tell people to find a chair. And... GO!
The hot ticket that Christmas was a game called "Scotland Yard" Everyone wanted to be at that table! Once again, it was well past midnight before we finally packed it in, because everyone was having SO MUCH FUN!
Day Three: Ethnic Dinner
I took the risk of all risks. I suggested we NOT have a turkey for Christmas dinner. This is how you get repudiated from your in-law family and banished from all future family events. I know this now. Grandma - the definitive matriarch of the family would have none of that idea. So, I claimed Christmas Eve as the night to host my ethnic dinner idea. With 16 adults in the family, I assumed there HAD to be some culture or heritage we hadn't seen yet. So, I asked each family unit (7 in total) to make one dish for a potluck style meal - but the food had to represent something from their culture or heritage. We had Mexican, German, Taiwanese and Dutch cuisines to name a few. It was so much fun, and so different than the usual.
Day Four: CHRISTMAS
Then Christmas happened. By this time, we had almost forgotten why were even all together, we were just having fun as a family. But obviously Christmas was the focal point and the anchor of the whole week. But we got involved in Christmas too. We made photobooth props and left them on the fire place in front of the wall of stockings. We went over the Grandma's house for Turkey Dinner. As soon as I walked in, Grandma gave me the "stink eye" and banished me to the kids table. But other than that, Christmas was fantastic.
A tradition our family has is that we always go to a Christmas Eve church program, but in lieu of that this year, Lisa and I actually planned and hosted an entire Christmas program ourselves. We opened it by performing 25 Christmas songs in under 2 minutes. We had seen this video on YouTube, and we actually contacted Igniter Media and bought the music and background track for the song. We then spent the entire trip to Alberta memorizing this song and blew the socks off everyone in the family when the lights went down and we opened the program with this showstopper. I played Johnny by the way - and hit EVERY cue perfectly. Click the link below to see the original video. Sadly, we don't have a video or even a picture of our performance from that family Christmas.
Day Five: Outdoor Skating and/or Indoor Wacky Bowling
On Boxing Day we attempted to give everyone a choice of what they wanted to do, but by this point everyone was having so much fun, they didn't want to miss out on anything. So I think we ALL went bowling. For some, it was the first time they had even HEARD of wacky bowl. They were intrigued, at least until they realized it wasn't a spectator sport. Full participation was mandatory. But our family are all good sports and we had the time of our lives. I think the high score was 17 - which isn't bad for Wacky Bowl.
Day Six: UNtalented Show
You've heard of a talent show, right? But have you heard of an UNtalent show? We tasked everyone to come up with a hidden talent, or something they WISHED they were talented at, and perform. My father-in-law yodeled, my cousin juggled, Lisa danced, my brother-in-law performed a stand-up comedy set and I attempted magic. I don't think we've every laughed so hard in our life. It was another memory that has stood the test of time.
Day Seven: Minute To Win It
To end the week, I drew inspiration from a hot TV show on at the time, "Minute to Win It!". I came up with (and/or stole) about 20 games and each person drew a game from the hat and had a minute to complete it. Again, much to my surprise EVERYONE got so invested in the activity, we used the clock still to signal a minute - but often we encouraged the person to keep going because it was so hilariously awful, or so inspirationally amazing!
That was a Christmas I will NEVER forget. That is and forever will be the bar. Right now, we all may be in a season of simpler Christmas' because of our kids, but one day, when our kids are a bit older, I will recreate this epic week long event.
In the meantime, my goal for Christmas 2021 is to organize and plan more. There are still activities we can do as a family and even include those who end up visiting. This year, our Christmas was ruined by the flooring renovation that got postponed and rescheduled for the week of Christmas, literally finishing up on Christmas Eve, leaving me scrambling to even get a tree up in time for Santa to arrive. It wasn't a good Christmas, just like the majority of Christmas' past for me.
Next year I want to tell a different story. I know what I'm capable of, and I want to make Christmas holidays magical again. I want to be organized. I want things to be planned in advance, and to even have some anticipation and build up. I want to create a tradition or two. We don't really have any yet. With our kids already 4, 4 and 6, its time we set some traditions. The years are going to go by so quickly. We may only have 12 more Christmas' before Liam moves out...
Oh, and I want to blog about it. I want to share plans, recipes, how-to guides, and advice and suggestions for you and others to use. It's a big goal, but for my fourth goal of my #2021Twenty I want to plan and organize a great, fun, memorable Christmas again.