13 reasons for Santa to visit
Christmas dinner is the one meal of the year when the Maher family will sit down together at the table – all 15 of them. By Rosita Boland
The Maher family from Carrickmacross Co Monaghan. Photograph: Philip Fitzpatrick
All over Ireland tomorrow households will be marking their own Christmas Day traditions and rituals. For the Maher family, in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, it is the one day of the year they all sit down as a family together for dinner. That’s because there are 15 of them in the family; 13 children and parents Paul and Edel Maher, and there isn’t enough room in the kitchen to eat together on a daily basis.
“We bring out the kitchen table into the livingroom, push back all the furniture, and join it up against another table,” says Paul. “That way, everyone gets to sit down.”
The Maher family home is a modest sized house with dormer windows. The only indication that a big family live here is the white minibus parked outside. “It seats 14, but even that’s too small for us now,” Paul says ruefully. The arrival of their 13th child, Daithí, a few weeks ago, means the family have now outgrown the minibus. They also have a car, which Paul uses to drive to his security job at Dublin airport.
It’s hard to know where to begin talking to the parents of 13 children. Why so many? What happens at Christmas? How do they manage every day?
When I arrive at the house mid-morning, the fire is lighting, baby Daithí is whimpering in Paul’s arms, and Caoimhe (1) is waking up from a nap. Everyone else – Eoin (15), Cian (12), Darragh (11), Cathal (10), Conor (8), twins Odhrán and Oisín (7), Fionn (6), Aisling (5), Cillian (4), and Sadhbd (2) – are out at school or playschool, or with Edel, who’s currently doing a pick-up in the car.
Paul dictates the names of all the children to me, and their ages. He gets the ages of two of them wrong, as Edel points out right away when she gets home shortly after and glances at my notebook. She’s come back with Darragh, Sadhbh and Cillian. Darragh has injured his hand and the doctor has recommended an X-ray in Drogheda, so that’s the logistics of another unexpected journey to fit into the day,
There are four different drop offs each day to different schools, and four pick-ups, although the two older boys now walk home together. There are also regular evening journeys for GAA practice. As we sit talking while the parents fill me on the daily routine, I realise Edel hasn’t taken off her outdoors jacket. There’s no point, because having come back from one pick-up, she’s leaving again shortly, this time in the minibus, to do another one.