The holidays are almost here and, if you’ve got a large family, you know that hosting or attending a huge family Christmas get-together can be both amazing and overwhelming. My family – including parents, siblings, cousins and more – totals nearly twenty people. That means that my parents end up cooking a giant turkey and that the entire house usually falls into chaos as the day goes on! There are sounds of giggles, loud talking and somewhere in the background Christmas music is playing.

I wouldn’t change a thing, but it can be a chaotic day.

Over the years we have learned how to keep the merriment levels high on Christmas day, even when the room gets crowded, the noise levels are almost unbearable, and various personalities all get tossed into the mix.

Here are some of the best ways to enjoy your large family’s Christmas or holiday gathering without losing the spirit…

Many hands make light work

Give everyone a task. From set-up, to who’s in charge of the dessert, to clean up time, it helps when more people chip in. The upside is that the host or hostess doesn’t feel their day is spent cooking and cleaning up after everyone. Dishwashing time is just spent gabbing, and setting the table is a breeze when there are multiple helpers.  

Have an agenda

It may be tempting to think that the entire day will just unfold naturally and that everyone will enjoy it, but the fact is that even though the kids may be content to play with their cousins for most of the day (and in our experience, they will be), having a bit of a schedule helps reduce overtired and hangry meltdowns.

We know when the littlest guests need to nap (or be in bed early) and time the main meal accordingly. In our family, it also means we separate gift-giving time. Because we like to follow the tradition of opening one gift at a time (and we all take turns), it takes a bit longer, so we tend to let the kids open their gifts first (usually before dinner), and the adults continue later in the evening when kids are in bed. Talk to everyone in the family ahead of time to plan a schedule that is generally suitable for all.

Make up some Reindeer Games

Don’t let the games be just for the kids! Make it a family affair by planning some fun for everyone. In years past, before kids, we used to do karaoke or play rambunctious games of cards. As kids entered the picture, we continued to play, just in family-friendly ways that could involve them, too. Lately, we’ve enjoyed a silly game that involves a wrapped prize, oven mitts and dice. The group of us sit around the table, taking turns opening a multi-layered wrapped gift while wearing the oven mitts.

Here’s how it works: the person wearing the oven mitts tries to tear off one layer of gift wrapping while the person beside them rolls the dice. They keep rolling the dice until they get doubles, at which point it’s their turn to put on the oven mitts and try to unwrap the gift. This continues until the last layer of wrapping is torn off, revealing the ‘prize’ (last year, it was chocolate and a Starbucks gift card). It turns into a lot of loud fun that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Take a moment for peace and joy

If you spend your entire day cooking, cleaning and trying to ensure a happy Christmas for the kids alone, you may find you feel overwhelmed and not loving it yourself. Instead, find moments to sit with loved ones and listen to the laughter and stories in the room. Perfection isn’t the goal on Christmas; time with family is.

Large family get-togethers mean a lot of noise and busyness and it takes some planning to keep the day running smoothly. But they also mean a lot of laughter and pure joy. By scheduling your day accordingly, and creating some memorable traditions everyone can participate in, you’re more likely to feel very merry on Christmas day.  

And remember – there’s nothing wrong with planning a calm Boxing Day to enjoy some peace and quiet the following day.

Rebecca Stanisic is a freelance writer and digital content creator. She’s been blogging on her website, A Little Bit of Momsense, since 2009 and for almost as many years has helped fellow bloggers and small business owners create and curate relevant digital content for their own businesses.  She’s the proud mom of two and is fueled by fiction and coffee.