With 9 days to Christmas, many of us have already started in on our oddest traditions. No matter how you approach the season or what you celebrate, this time of year is always somewhat ritualistic—in the best possible way. Here are some of LD’s WTF-inducing holiday traditions.
FAMILY PAJAMA TIME
Mom purchasing pajamas for each member of the family to wear the night before Christmas. Heaven forbid they’re matching, but it’s still nice to get a new snuggly pair each year.
WATCHING TV WITH THE POPE
As a family of lapsed Catholics, the time to shine is generally Easter and Christmas and so each year Mom starts putting the guilt trip on everyone to go to mass with her. When everyone says, “eh fine, if we have to,” she never follows up on making us actually go. Instead she tunes in each Christmas Eve for midnight mass with the Pope on TV and tells us all how beautiful it was the next day. Nothing like church on the boob-tube.
THE NSA’S SECRET WEAPON, THE ELF ON THE SHELF
For some reason unknown only to the legions in hell, Corporate Christmas America decided that we don’t have enough traditions on our own and must therefore construct one designed to strike fear into the hearts of children, cost parents an arm and a leg, and teach the next generations to get used to the feeling of being watched. Oh yes, nothing spells Christmas cheer like having a creepy pint-sized elf staring at you for 25 days from shelves, corners, fans, and anywhere else Google or the NSA can think of to get a good angle on you. With its creepy plasticine pedo-bear smile and direct line to the big man, make sure to hide your tax returns, because this Elf’s got his eye on you.
HIDING FROM THE WEEPING ANGELS
Every year we get in the attic with a Pandora Christmas station playing on our phones and start crawling through the boxes. We’re lulled into a false sense of security until we get to the furthest boxes from the hole-in-the-floor exit, and there piled high are all the Angel tree toppers and cherubs, staring, endlessly at us. Like clockwork we freeze, drop the boxes in our hands, and back out slowly, trying not to fall out of the attic, and never taking our eyes off the angels. So thanks “Doctor Who,” for inserting a little horror into our Christmas.
Out of context, the concept of buying a large tree, covering it with lights and ornaments, sticking stuff under it and taking it back out when it dies is kind of hilarious. It sounds like a drunken guy’s half-baked idea: “Let’s put a f*ckin’ tree in the living room. For BABY JESUS. Also, hang these socks there on the wall. Looks great.”
CHILI FOR DINNER
The in-laws have “Cincinnati chili” for Christmas dinner. NEED WE SAY MORE. (Safe to say that is one family tradition we will not be adopting).
IF THERE’S A TREE IN THE FILM, IT’S A CHRISTMAS MOVIE, DAMMIT
ABC Family’s ongoing war with Hallmark and Lifetime to corner the 24/7 Christmas quarter has led to them getting a little desperate in what qualifies as a holiday film. Thus far the requirement seem to be that an evergreen tree makes a cameo, someone happens to be wearing a coat, it snows at some point, it’s Harry-freaking-Potter and/or Disney made it. After all, nothing says Christmas like a rat cooking French food.
HELLISH COMPANY HOLIDAY PARTIES
You spend all day every day at work and then right as the holidays come around and there’s a break in sight, your company throws a holiday party. How nice, right? WRONG. You’re more or less obligated to go because everyone will notice if you don’t and you lose valuable “social” facetime with the butts you need to kiss for a promotion. It’s always at the exact time to make getting home and changing and getting to the terrible place it’s held difficult, but too late after work to make just staying a good option. You feel obligated to bring a significant other who would rather be force fed dirt than mingle with your coworkers you bitch about every day, and if you don’t there are the prerequisite questions about whether you’re seeing anyone. If they really wanted to show their appreciation, they’d throw the thing during work hours so everyone could screw off and/or just divvy up the cash they spent on the shindig for holiday bonuses.
EMBROIDERED NAPKIN ON THE SHELF?
In high school, Dad would often stop at a local Mexican restaurant on his way home from work on Friday nights to pick up takeout. His family is originally from Colombia, so he would always whip out a little Spanish while chatting with the family who owned the restaurant, and some of the older ladies loved it. One Friday evening, right around the holidays, we opened up our paper bag of burritos and rice to find a single, hand-embroidered napkin decorated with bunches of purple grapes and the name of the restaurant in lime green capital letters, right smack in the middle. “I know what we can do with it!” Mom cried, snatching it up and rushing into the family room. “It’s a lamp cover,” she said, beaming as my dad shook his head. Over the next few days, the napkin became a tablecloth, an antimacassar, and more. Now—five or six years later—the joke continues. Every time I return home from school, the El Rancho napkin is hidden somewhere in my bedroom. I’ve pulled back my comforter to find it tucked in between my sheets; found it draped like a banner in my closet; spotted it folded neatly in my drawer, disguised among old tshirts. And I always return the favor by hiding it somewhere around the house for my parents to find, maybe wrapped around a keyboard or decorating the washing machine. It’s a weird tradition, but those ladies at El Rancho have kept us laughing, and what better gift can you really receive?
CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER
We’ve recently developed the most annoying tradition ever: Beaufort Stew on Christmas Eve. What’s that? You’ve never had Beaufort Stew? You’re a lucky one. I hate it. It’s cooked in one pot (mistake number 1: I hate mixing foods together.) Then you proceed by adding old bay seasoning, unpeeled shrimp, kielbasa sausage, corn on the cob, and russet potatoes. My family loves it and it’s served in the middle of the table spread out amongst newspaper (kind of like an oyster roast). Every year I beg for something else and every year I lose. Can I just have a deli tray or some festive hors d’oeuvres while I unwrap my presents?
SANTA! I KNOW HIM!
Imaginations are the best, especially when you’re a kid. The concept of a fat bearded dude in a rich red suit is rather strange. It’s even more strange when he eats your cookies and drinks your milk. Santa is there to give you the gifts you feel guilty about asking your parents for. Too expensive? Too silly? Something you swear you need but you’re only dying to have it so you can be the coolest kid in school? That list goes to Santa. Even better: In my family if you don’t believe, you don’t receive. We don’t talk about who Santa really is, and we definitely don’t call mom out on it in public. We’ll give her discrete “thank yous” when no one else is around to hear us acknowledge her role as Santa. I’m 28 years old, Santa still visits on Christmas Eve, we leave him a snack on the coffee table, and his reindeer get carrots and celery. The gifts and how they’re displayed have changed every so slightly as my sister and I have grown up, but in our family the magic of Christmas is alive and well. I won’t be home on Christmas morning this year, but I have made my call and Santa knows to work a little harder to visit my mom’s house on December 23rd this year. It’s a silly, magical tradition and no matter how old I get I will always cherish my Mom and Santa.
EVER THE PRACTICAL FIVE-YEAR-OLD
You could say that I was always an old soul, and as a result I don’t remember ever believing in Santa, or any other magical gift-bearing entity. As a result, I confidently told my kindergarten best friend that there was no Santa, and that it was just our relatives that brought gifts and stuffed our stockings. Little did I know that all hell would break loose from this statement. My best friend was devastated and her mother was furious. Her mom called my mom to chew her out for letting me run around corrupting the youth. How was I supposed to know that, at the ripe old age of five, my compatriots still believed in this ridiculous story? I was given a very stern lecture, and hereafter kept my mouth shut on the subject, although I still smirked at the sheeple that believed in that foolish nonsense. To this day, it’s a story that’s fondly told every Christmas around the table while we eat dessert.
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We play the “napkin game” with a plastic fly. Don’t ask. I haven’t lived at home for 20 years, but it still finds its way back and forth between my dad and me. The best hiding place was inside my contact lens case. Good times. Good family traditions.
In my family, we still write to Santa and anticipate his shaky writing on a card (I am the youngest at 21) but I gotta say, your Beaufort Stew (known as low country boil in my family) is a meal fit for kings. Well, maybe not quite that, but old bay, corn on the cob, shrimp, spicy sausage? How can it be better?