When I was young, my mom’s family lived very close to each other. Everyone loved to see each other’s Christmas decorations and Christmas tree, especially because we had all gone together to choose and cut our Christmas trees together. However, with the busyness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, it was hard to get all of the family together for parties at each family’s house. This is how the tradition of the “round robin” was born.
My mouth waters and my eyes tear as I relive the memories of those days! My grandma, mom, and my mom’s sisters and sisters-in-law would get together during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and decide the order of movement from house to house and the food that would be prepared and shared. Our round robin consisted of moving from one family’s house to the next and enjoying the food and decorations of each home. Many years we also chose names and exchanged gifts, either among the kids and adults separately, or all together once we got older.
The day of the round robin was different every year depending on work schedules and when the holidays fell. It was usually on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, but sometimes it was just a Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The first house we started at was usually Aunt Becky’s or Aunt Linda’s. They lived next door to each other so that made it convenient. We started with a big breakfast at the first house. I still have recipes that I make over and over again from those amazing breakfasts. There were many different kinds of juices and juice punches. There were sticky buns, baked french toast, and egg dishes galore. Sausage and bacon and warm fruit compote. Oh my goodness what food memories!
After breakfast, we would adjourn to gather around the Christmas tree and the family would show off the gifts they had received. If the members of that family had your name for the gift exchange, then you got to open your gift. If you didn’t get a gift at the first house it was very exciting to anticipate which house your gift was at. Would it be the next house? Or the last house? Oh what fun we had guessing! Once the food had settled and the gifts were opened, it was on to the next house, which was usually next door.
The next three houses we usually just enjoyed some of the hostess’s best cookies and punch while we sat around the tree and examined gifts and chatted. Aunt Lori’s house was fun because they had some animals (including a dog) and a four wheeler. Our house, well, it was our house and we got to show off the gifts we had gotten and give the gifts we had bought for the exchange. Uncle Jim’s house was great because he had horses and usually gave us a sleigh ride. They also had a pond that they would often turn into a skating rink. On different years we would end up at different houses, often depending on the weather, and we would have a big supper wherever we ended up. Sloppy joes or chili were often on the menu, or sometimes a meal reminiscent of Christmas. There were always fabulous dessert treats and lots of delicious beverages.
I will always remember those times. I don’t think that my sisters and I will ever be able to create those memories for our children because we live in towns too far from each other. But maybe, just maybe, my kids will find this tradition intriguing enough to start it themselves someday.