When I was small I naturally loved Christmas Day. But not just because Santa came. I loved it for a family tradition my father started too.
Every Christmas morning we went to mass in a place called Johnstown, a village just outside Navan where my father was born. After mass was over just myself and my dad went on our travels with a packed car boot.
Each Christmas he went to the local toy shop and bought every single one of his nieces and nephews a present and delivered them on Christmas Day. We visited each house, delivered the gifts and had chocolates, pudding, mince pies or whatever else was offered before heading home for our own Christmas dinner.
When all the kids got older and harder to buy for he continued the tradition of visiting but instead brought gifts for his own brothers and sisters. Since his passing it’s something I really, really miss on Christmas Day.
A new O’Brien family Christmas tradition was started a few years back, however. My uncle Mick, the man who gave me away, gathers all the family together for Christmas dinner in the Ardboyne Hotel in Navan. He just doesn’t extend the invitation to his brothers and sisters, the whole clan is invited and we’re a big crowd I can tell you!
I am one of 19 cousins and we’re all invited. So too are our spouses and partners. And of course so are our kids. It’s utter mayhem. Good mayhem though and I’m so thrilled to have an O’Brien Family tradition back up and running.
I’m reasonably close to my cousins and see a few of them throughout the year but I wouldn’t see half of them at all if it wasn’t for Uncle Mick’s get together.
Between the 19 cousins there’s 25 new O’Brien additions, so just picture the mayhem! These little people don’t ordinarily get to hang out together, so it really is great.
This get together is always held on the last Sunday before Christmas. Last Sunday, once again, was a great success.
Aidan and Sarah had a ball. We had quite the big function room this year so all the kids had much more freedom to run around and enjoy themselves.
The only thing that would have made it better would have been if my own father was there. He would have loved to have shown Aidan and Sarah off. Granny O’Brien shows them off a hell of a lot though and they are well able to show themselves off too so they weren’t at a disadvantage!
I think Aidan holds a special place in the hearts of all the O’Briens. After all he’s called after his grandad and he looks like his grandad so he gets a lot of attention.
My uncle Ollie, my godfather, was swinging him round the place. I think he may have regretted starting it because ‘again, again’ is all he heard from Aidan.
Sarah, dressed up to the nines for the big bash, was loving all the compliments on her pretty dress and long hair. She only loves the attention.
The real great thing about the whole event is seeing the small ones together though. One organised cousin of mine brought a box of Lego and it kept them entertained for ages. Surprisingly there was no rows over it either!
A year makes a huge difference. Kids that couldn’t even walk last year were flying around the place. Kids that couldn’t talk last year were yapping away. And kids that didn’t even exist last year were even there. Cousin number 25, a gorgeous little girl, arrived two months ago. Next year she will probably be walking around herself in a pretty dress. She won’t be the baby of the Clan either.
Next year there will be two more additions to the O’Brien Family Christmas Party or the MCD (Mick’s Christmas Dinner) as the host calls it. Who know, there may even be more additions that we are not even aware of yet.
That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Family. Not gifts, not fancy dinners just family. So a big thanks to Uncle Mick for starting the MCD tradition. It’s pure fantastic.
And also a big thanks to everyone who read this column throughout 2017. Us Chambers really appreciate it. I wish you all a happy Christmas with your families, big or small. And seeing as I’m going to take a couple of weeks off, a happy New Year to you all too. Lets hope 2018 is a great one.