I am not talking about the rosy-breasted, first sighting of the spring. I am talking about the season’s last holiday event in our family. On the Sunday after Christmas, or the following Sunday if it was too close to the big day, the aunts, uncles and cousins had a big party. It was a moveable feast. Correction, we were the ones who moved, not the feast itself.
Each family was in charge of one part of the meal. The first family provided the before dinner drinks. This was still the era of cocktails and Mad Men. Second family had the salad course, third family hosted the main course. Dessert came next and was the responsibility of the fourth family. And finally there were the after dinner drinks supplied by the fifth family. Which part of the meal you hosted was rotated each year.
The outstanding feature of this get together was that each course was held in a different house, hence the term round robin. As you can imagine, it was an all day affair even though we all lived in the same metropolitan area. I heard this week from the son of one of my cousins that this tradition remains alive amongst his friends as the Christmas Tree Crawl.
Unlike the night before Christmas, this party centered around eating and drinking. It is cold in Wisconsin and folks enjoy a good meal. You might think that all this drinking and driving would be a problem. But actually everyone was pretty moderate, so worry not. And there was plenty food and time between each house.
When the cousins were all young the parents must have had quite a time bundling, unbundling and rebundling everyone in their snow suits to travel from place to place. We however, didn’t think about such necessities as a problem. It was always a great adventure for us. What a relief it must have been when we could all take care of our own bundling.
One of the best parts of the day for us kids was the travel between homes. You would rarely travel with your own parents. If you did there would always be a cousin with you. We sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs as we drove to the next house. Our hot breath frosted up the car windows. Then we would draw pictures on the windows, snow men, angels, our names, messages such as Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The red, green and amber of the traffic lights glowed in the frost. We judged the displays of holiday lights as we passed.
When we arrived, each household would show off what had been found under the tree from Santa. One family always had a train around the tree which was great fun. Most everyone had a piano or accordion in the house (this was after all, Wisconsin) and there was more singing and dancing too, by the end of the day. And of course there was the eating.
By the end of the day the parents were exhausted. Us kids were totally wired from all the Christmas cookies. The only thing left of the feast was dirty dishes and our full bellies.
Eventually, as we all grew older the round robin ceased to exist. But it continues to be a favorite memory for all of us. Actually the essence of round robin still exists. Every summer as many cousins as are able, get together at a lake side retreat for a weekend of fun.
Long live the Round Robin.
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