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My frugal Uncle Santa

Every Christmas, our whole family would get together at someone’s house to celebrate the holidays. These were some of my fondest holiday memories. Now I come from a pretty big family, which has been growing larger and larger every year.

We used to host this Christmas party every year for about 40 of our closest relatives at our house. Now, that’s just one side of the family, counting some cousins, aunts, and uncles. But years gone by, all those cousins are having children of their own and it’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together, so we can’t always accommodate everyone.

Having one big party was pretty hard on the family who was hosting. Sometimes we’d have people help in the kitchen. But not always, and it always ended up being usually the same families who hosted. We were one of them and there were another two aunts that would alternate between hosting Christmas and New Year’s.

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be

More as in more often, not quantity. In years past, we tried having two separate parties, so a whole bunch would go to one house and another group would go to the other’s party. And the next year, we would alternate who was going to who’s house for Christmas. I know, complicated, right? But everyone had a great time.

We’ve tried pot lucks for a couple of years, then that went away and now we’re resorting to renting out a big place to accommodate the whole gang. Ugh! We did this last year for the first time and it’s not my favourite. The hall is catered, so everyone dishes out $50 for a 4-course sit down meal! To me, it’s more about getting together, than the food, but try telling that to the old Italian ladies.

Before the party, there’s lots of mingling, but that’s short-lived until the meal is served. The tables are spread out like a wedding and everyone is seated in their usual spots. Again we’re talking about 100 guests here for only ONE side of the family. You can only imagine, but I’m sure you have better ideas.

But there’s one tradition that’s stayed true all these years…

Down from the chimney with old…Uncle Nick?

Years ago, my uncle was talking to a friend of his at work about Christmas traditions, and he began telling my uncle how every year he’d dress up as Santa Claus at his family Christmas party just for the kids. My uncle’s always been the life of our family, so it piqued his interest. He asked him where he got his suit. And his friend said he bought it, but he’d be happy to lend it out as long as their Christmas parties didn’t coincide on the same day. And it’s probably been 15 years that he’s kept this tradition. On Christmas Eve, he’d sneak off and go to some magical place (usually the upstairs bathroom) and transform himself into Santa with a bag of goodies for the kids and adults, that come and sit on his knee for the photo op.

So where does this Santa get his gifts? For years he’s been asking family members to stock his Christmas bag full of gag gifts. Things that cost a dollar — anything from toothpaste and mouthwash, to chocolates and back scratchers. The kids and adults all sit on his lap, take a picture with him (and a couple of elves who have since joined in), and pull an individually gift wrapped gift from his red bag. The kids had a blast and it was always a laugh seeing what the next person would get – “Oh look! Zia (Auntie) got a bar of soap!”

As a disclaimer to all the children out there reading this. This isn’t the real Santa and his name isn’t even really Nick. But it just goes to show you that you can start a Christmas tradition for free or next to nothing. Traditions don’t cost money. And although our set up has changed somewhat, call me a big kid, but I still look forward to seeing my Uncle Santa.

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