Festive Tasks: Door 11, Task 1 – Family Theatricals

Festive Tasks Master Update Post HERE

Task 1: Each family celebrates things in a way that is unique to them! Does your family (by birth or by choice) have a particular holiday tradition above and beyond the classics? Family travel? Family movie night? Family snowball battles?

Those of you who have read either the odd classics published in the 19th century or historical fiction set in those days will know that in the days before the “wireless” (radio), the TV and the phonograph, it used to be quite a common thing for families to entertain themselves / each other and their guests by putting on a performance; acting out a sketch or a charade, playing an instrument (or several), or singing; and it was considered a matter of a young woman’s “accomplishment” to be a good singer and musician … unlike, that is, Jane Austen’s Miss Mary Bennet:

Well, talent or no; my family has carried the tradition of amateur performances on the occasion of family reunions all the way to the present day. At Christmas, when I was a kid, it tended to be a carol or two performed (to my relief, chiefly by my cousins) on the recorder; but to this day there isn’t a family reunion, be it for the holidays, a major birthday, a wedding or whatever else, where there isn’t, in addition to the obligatory speeches, a performance of some sort or other.

We have documentary evidence to the effect that this is, indeed, a very venerable family tradition:

My great-grandmother and friends acting in a comedy (late 19th century)
(I believe this may well have been the sort of play that Miss Austen so vehemently disapproves of as family entertainment in Mansfield Park — indeed they’re even cross-dressing. The horror!)

My mom (front right), her brother and sister (right and back row right) and their cousins, on the occasion of a memorable birthday performance in honor of my grandma and her twin sister (mid-1940s).

And while I’m glad that there is no record of my performing Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria one Christmas during my high school choir days — which may not have plumbed quite the depths of Miss Mary Bennet’s Slumber, Dear Maid, though certainly its most memorable part was my mom’s piano accompaniment –, nor (I hope) of my take on Jeopardy! for my mom’s 70th birthday, using events of her own life or significant events and places relevant to her life, it’s quite fun, at times, to see what the various guests of a family reunion come up with.

My cousins’ families putting on a musical sketch: the little boys in these photos are all long since grown up and have embarked on their professional careers — none of which have anything to do with acting, however.

Yours truly, getting in on the action with a friend one Christmas a long time ago — before I’d started to have piano lessons. We probably had vastly more fun banging away at those piano keys than the rest of the family party had, listening to us.

4 thoughts on “Festive Tasks: Door 11, Task 1 – Family Theatricals

  1. My family used to perform music at Christmastime–my mother or aunt on piano, me on violin, my cousin on flute, and my brother on trumpet! An odd little ensemble. My family now decides on a writing prompt at Thanksgiving and we read the pieces we’ve written to each other out loud on Christmas afternoon.

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