My family rarely celebrates holidays when we are "supposed to."

With my brother and family in Mankato and my sister and family in southern Iowa, holidays falling in the middle of the week make it difficult to gather as travelling those distances for just one day doesn't make much sense.

As our family has grown, there are also additional schedules to consider with Christmas gatherings on "the other side" to plan around and children's school and athletic commitments adding even more conflicts into the arrangements.

So, with Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, we decided to get together with our family members on the Saturday following Christmas.

My cousin in LeRoy was hosting her family for their Christmas that same day and invited us to join them for a potluck meal.

It would be a rare occasion when my and her siblings would be all together in one place at one time. I was very excited about spending time with them as we had so many times in our childhood.

I have many cousins and love each and every one of them, but my Hawley cousins are more like siblings than cousins. My father and their mother were close in age and as we grew up, our parents spent many weekends together and we visited each others' farms often. We treated each other like brothers and sisters - though my brother was the lone male in the group - fighting and ganging up on each other. Some of us younger kids were deemed unworthy to join the "secret club," but as far as I know, we weren't scarred for life, though it may have been traumatic at the time.

No one was excluded at our Christmas gathering and we talked about those days long ago and laughed at the memories. As our own younger generations mingled, we observed similar behaviors in their play and had another chuckle at the thought that these kids were carrying on our traditions.

We looked through a box of old photographs, of my grandparents on their wedding day and later with their nine children. There were weddings and babies and school photos that should have been placed in a secret compartment to never be seen again.

My cousin handed me a photo of my aunt, who we lost nearly 20 years ago to cancer, and my heart skipped a beat as I looked into her face and remembered how much I miss her. Because we had spent so much time together as I was growing up, she truly was like my second mom.

No matter how much I missed her, however, I felt joy as I looked around the room and saw the smiles of her daughters and felt love as my siblings joined with them for a photo. We were joking and laughing and making smart comments so not one photo is without someone cracking up.

We may not have celebrated our Christmas on the "correct" day, but we certainly celebrated it in the right way - with love and laughter, sharing good memories, with those we love.