I wrote an article earlier this year, revealing that I am in fact one of twelve siblings – I know, ridiculous right? The funny thing is that having a big family is only odd to everyone else, because I couldn’t possibly imagine my family at any other size. With Christmas around the corner, this is the time of year I get the most comments about how I must be dreading the day, but that actually couldn’t be further from the case. I absolutely love Christmas day with a big family and here’s why…
Firstly, the noise levels are insane. It doesn’t help with the fact that all my siblings are big characters in their own way. No one is that similar either because we really do value our own independent identities. We all bounce off each other in different ways and that always results in constant loud chatter and laughter. However, we do have a strong unifying love of practical jokes and Christmas is the prime time to carry it out. A few years back, myself and my brothers bought t-shirts that said ‘go f*** yourself Cian’ and wore them readily to surprise my brother, Cian, as he entered the room. That year he had managed to convince my whole family to start referring to me as ‘Meg’ from family guy which is still the case now, so I think my actions were justified. Another long-standing joke in our family is how my brother, Leon, is a princess because he whinges at everything. There is banter about this all year round but the best thing is how, for four years in a row now, he’s received a fairy wand and tiara as his present – I would be shocked if this didn’t happen again this year.
I believe the best thing about my family is that we don’t take anything too seriously. For example, we’ve never been the type to get hung up on what presents we are getting. To make things simpler and cheaper we’ve resorted to secret santa which has been amusing for so many reasons. One year, we all got confused as to who had who, and it went so badly wrong that I actually ended up buying my sister’s new boyfriend a pair of pink and blue converses, and now that’s just another running joke at Christmas. We see secret santa as something that goes one of two ways, buying something ridiculous just for a joke or something really lovely that they would never have thought to buy themselves. We’re all towards that age where anything you would really want or need, you would have just bought yourself already earlier in the year. So the focus has never been on getting everyone the nicest present, it’s far more about pulling off the funniest joke. Of course, all the kids in our family aren’t included in this and they get presents from all of us that they would like.
Cooking for the thousands is what Christmas must feel like for my Dad and Step-Mum. We rarely ever have a Christmas day where there isn’t 20+ people attending once you factor in my parents, siblings, their other halves, children, grandparents and my next door neighbour. We have a the-more-the-merrier philosophy as a family, and maybe that’s odd to some people who might say ‘isn’t there enough already?’ but we think that’s what Christmas – and every other event of the year – is all about. The food preparation is definitely the hardest part of the day but, thankfully for me, I’m never involved in that process – bonus of being an inept chef. My Dad and Step-Mum tell us all that the kitchen is a no go area, I know the saying is ‘many hands make for light work’, but with our lot that would be a huge mistake because we would definitely be more unhelpful than helpful. Thankfully, because of their impressive organisational skills (I mean you have to be organised to have raised 10 kids), they can definitely handle Christmas dinner. After all these years of big meals and cooking for the thousands on all those family occasions, I would presume that cooking a Christmas meal for 25+ people is second nature by now. When the food is all served up on tables, and we all begin to tuck in, this is when the only 10 minutes of silence throughout the whole day occurs. The only way to silence a Millard is to feed them.
After food, we rest with several rounds of teas and coffees (because we’re from the Midlands – also known to Southerners as ‘the North’) and wait for endless puddings and excessive snacks to arrive at the table for the second feast of the day. Once we are all fed and content, we start the games part of Christmas day. When you have a big family it means you definitely have more than enough players for all games and we even have enough to set up multiple games at the same time for people to choose from. My Dad is a board game geek, which means the choices are endless and the younger kids are kept very entertained. Our favourite game for all family gatherings is referred to as ‘The Game’ (yes very original). It is a lot like charades, but with rules. So first of all we split into teams, and then everyone has to write down 5 films or TV shows or characters onto pieces of paper, fold them all up and mix them in a bowl. In the first round, the person acting out can say any word except the words on the paper. In the second round, they can say only one word and the rest have to be actions and in the third round, they cannot say anything and have to act it out entirely. This is when our competitiveness goes overboard; like all siblings, there’s nothing we hate more than losing to each other and it can get heated even now when we’re all ‘grown adults’.
That’s the overall gist of a Millard Christmas: pranks, excessive food, games and lots of laughter.