Metatalktail Hour: We Are Family September 2, 2017 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! AugustWest wants to know, do you have any unusual family traditions?

As always, avoid politics, talk about whatever strikes your fancy, and send me suggestions for future topics!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 5:09 PM (120 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I forgot I asked that. Every Sunday night from the time my oldest was 2 years old until they moved out of the house, Sunday dinner was Chocolate milkshake night. We also celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives on Saturday of Thanksgiving week because of the traffic on Thursday in the NYC area.
posted by AugustWest at 5:22 PM on September 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

We declare a winner of Christmas. The best way to win Christmas is to save someone's life, which my mother has done TWICE with the heimlich. #2 is to save the life of my parents' dumbest cat, who likes to get himself locked in the fridge to die but will also accept "stuck in a heating vent or ceiling such that he requires human assistance to extricate himself." (He is very dumb.) #3 is to give a present so good the recipient cries, while you double fist-punch the air and shout, "HE'S CRYING! I WIN CHRISTMAS!"

I am attempting a beef rib roast and yorkshire puddings tomorrow for Sunday Feast! Wish me luck, offer me tips. (Also serving peas & carrots, and roast potatoes.) On the plus side I've never eaten a Yorkshire pudding so if it's awful, how would I know?
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:35 PM on September 2, 2017 [35 favorites]

My wife got pretty annoyed that none of my immediate family says "Bless you" after sneezes. Just one of those things, I don't know why we don't.

I've since compromised and now offer up that "You are sooo good looking" when she sneezes.

Also we don't really have traditional meal for holidays. Last several Thanksgivings have been chicken grilled at home, Rocky Rococo's pizza (sausage, obviously), salmon, and a home made baked taco dish.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:45 PM on September 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

On Yorkshire puds - once your roast has come out of the oven, strain the vegetable solids (if any) through a chinois, and return the pan with pan juices to the oven to come up to 425 or 450. Carefully pour your pudding mixture into the screaming hot pan juices and close the door. The sides will quickly rise and become crispy while the center sets. Think cornbread, but light as air-ish and not dark brown. Practice makes perfect.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:47 PM on September 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ooh, and regarding winning Christmas: We do a gift exchange, and basically see who can get the best deal or perceived value while staying under the gift limit. I'm the self declared winner of 2016 because I gave a Amazon gift card with a value that was higher than the limit, due to a promo Amazon had been running.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:58 PM on September 2, 2017

When my parents were still around, we had a family tradition of playing cutthroat hearts. If you think of hearts as some sort of jolly, sort-of-childish game for people who can't handle poker, you haven't played with my family. We had learned over the years how to fake each other out and cover up the fact that you're planning to shoot the moon until it's too late for anyone to stop you. The first time my then-fiancée (later wife) played with us, she ran away from the table crying. We were brutal! But we loved each other and laughed about the games when the pain subsided.

Also, Yorkshire pudding is so damn good! I look forward to your report, Eyebrows.
posted by languagehat at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Off topic but here goes my late afternoon evening:

Dang it, cat has found another lizard inside. It's behind a microwave cart stuffed behind the table. And I'm busy moving bedroom furniture but if I don't evict the unwanted tenant, one of the felines will undoubtedly present me with a carcas at the wee hours of sleeptime.

Move stuff to get to critter. WHAT THE HELL! It's a snake!!!!! I shriek, cat freaks.

Round one: snake.

Cat is back to being unwantedly helpful as I start moving all the things to be able to better see just who this uninvited critter really is. Cat is in way. I grab cat to move her fuzzy butt and am trying to hold/release a writhing ball of daggers.

Round two: cat.

Manage to finally sequester cat out of way. Snake has moved. Shit. Where? Move ALL the stuff. Everything. Consider nuking but hold that option in reserve. Snake has morphed into curtain. (Isn't that where all the murderers hide? Behind the curtains?) OK; this has to be solved.

Round three: curtains.

A plan is hatched. Find box. Find sheet of cardboard. Find broom and flashlight. Find dwindling courage along with resigned resolve to free Willy, err, snake. Move more furniture: snake and curtain are exposed to the free world; raise curtain with broom; dump box over snake; quickly weigh down box; grab cardboard; lighten up weight and slowly slip cardboard under box; snake is residing between box and cardboard. Breath.

Round four: box.

Weight down box again and clear path to door; open door widely; go very carefully pick up box and cardboard; cardboard starts to bend; exposing escape gap; clamp down hard on box-cardboard sandwich and sprint towards door with reptilian companion. Get outside and gingerly place sandwich on ground. Wiggle box off cardboard a bit; note snake head peaking out; sprint back inside, drenched in sweat.

Round five: mightshould

Spend next hour seeeping up dust bunnies and picking up cat toys that were hiding behind things.

Just thought I'd share....y'all are welcome to visit anytime and I promise no boxes will be dumped over your heads. It's grand out here in the sticks.
posted by mightshould at 6:05 PM on September 2, 2017 [25 favorites]

We have a stuffed-animal (stuffed-vegetable?) Christmas tree. About a foot and a half, two feet high, with little stuffed strawberries (???) dangling off all its branches. (Possibly this was prophetic on someone's part, since where I live now strawberries are in fact a winter fruit and a Christmas-cake thing.) We're humanist Jews and basically look at Christmas as a non-birthday opportunity to give and get presents, but my mother always puts the stuffed-tree out, even now when we spend Christmas separately because it's a rotten time for international travel.
posted by huimangm at 6:13 PM on September 2, 2017

My family has always played what we refer to with the oxymoronic name of "multiple solitaire". The way you play it is that everyone has their own deck and plays a normal game of Klondike but the ace piles all go in the center of the table and anyone can play on them. So if you put a card down on an ace pile and multiple people have the card that goes on top of it, then they all scramble to be the first to play it. This leads to lots of yelling, mad scrambling and often scraped knuckles.

Once everyone has finished their cards, you count the cards in the center and the one who has played the most wins the hand. Just make sure before hand that everyone has a different back on their deck so that they can be distinguished from each other.
posted by octothorpe at 6:18 PM on September 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

In our family, you give gifts to everyone else in the family when it's your birthday. It's a way to say thanks to everyone that loves you. For all the support they provide throughout the year. It's corny. But I love it.
posted by Fizz at 6:23 PM on September 2, 2017 [27 favorites]

On the plus side I've never eaten a Yorkshire pudding so if it's awful, how would I know?

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this on here before, but I was in college before I discovered that Yorkshire pudding batter and pancake batter are the same thing, so Yorkshire puddings taste kind of like pancakes. But not American pancakes. My mom was incredulous that I didn't know this, which is fair, given that I'd made both.
posted by hoyland at 6:26 PM on September 2, 2017

octothorpe--we played that all the time when I was a kid! We called it Double Solitaire, Triple Solitaire, etc. So much fun!
posted by bookmammal at 6:47 PM on September 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not super unusual, but we pass on women's maiden names as middle names. Oh, and I'm the third generation to get married on the bride's birthday.

What else...uh...homemade pizza on Christmas eve...homemade pajamas for Christmas...s'all I got, champs.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:09 PM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was just thinking about this, and this was the only thing I could come up with:

For most of my life it was just me and my mom and dad, and at home we mostly, sadly (like, we were literally just sad) kept to ourselves. But after talking to my mom the other day I was reminded that for 45+ years -- since an elementary school spelling/vocabulary lesson -- my mother and I try to use the word 'abscond' whenever possible, eg "I see you trying to abscond with those cookies!" I'm not even sure how that started, but it did, and I'm glad.

It's not much, but I think we all did the best we could. And now that I think about it, hearing my mom, whose dementia is getting worse, joke that the nurse absconded with her glass of water is not the worst tradition in the world.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:33 PM on September 2, 2017 [32 favorites]

Christmas presents labels always say they are from fictional characters. One year, my mother made all of my Christmas presents from Babylon 5 characters. G'Kar gave me a lovely winter hat that year.

Fizz - Y'all are like hobbits! Fantastic.
posted by ilovewinter at 7:51 PM on September 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

On the night of the first Passover seder, my family does one thing backwards. The tradition is that half of one of the three ceremonial matzahs is broken and set aside before the meal. This is the Afikomen, and it's meant to be the final thing eaten that night, after the entire meal has been cleaned away and prayers have been said, but before certain songs have been sung.

In most Jewish houses, what's supposed to happen is that the head of the house hides the Afikomen somewhere and challenges the young kids to find it, since the songs can't happen until it's eaten. Some small gifts are usually their prize for finding it. But in my family, my father always makes a big show out of getting up to wash his hands, so that the little kids steal it from the table and hide it. Then he makes a comically inept show of searching for it, and the presents are the prizes for successfully hiding it.

I have no idea how we got it backwards like this. My only theory is that my cousins and I were all born around the same time, so rather than challenge a bunch of developing 3-5 year olds to coordinate a search over the years, it was preferable for him to give us the easy job and then control the outcome.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:15 PM on September 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

My husband and I have a tradition of whenever we go to a fancy restaurant on vacation we tell them it's our tenth anniversary. It started because I can't ever remember how long we've been married so for the longest time I told people that it had been 5 years and then, on a vacation that happened to coincide with our anniversary, when the hostess asked if it was a special occasion I knew it was our anniversary (it wasn't), thought maybe we had been married longer than 5 by then, and blurted out in a panic, "It's our 10th anniversary!" That was 5 years ago. Since we try to go on one nice dinner when on vacation it's become a tradition, to the point that for a few years now in our monthly budget we even have a little fund we set aside a few bucks for called, "10th Anniversary Dinner".

Humorously, this year is actually our 10th anniversary and we have not and are not going on vacation this year, let alone to any fancy restaurants. On our actual anniversary we were re-sodding our yard and forgot. But it's okay - because we already have about 4-5 different pictures of us in nice clothes in a nice restaurant smiling over a little cake or dessert that says, "Happy 10th Anniversary!" on it.

Sometimes in the next 2-3 years it'll probably become 15 - or maybe we'll just keep on celebrating 10 years.
posted by barchan at 8:18 PM on September 2, 2017 [28 favorites]

Whenever my brother and I go out to smoke weed we call it a "safety meeting."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:21 PM on September 2, 2017 [11 favorites]

Any time we are together in a new place, my parents and my brother and I still play the card game "Plump" (in Swedish it means "blob", the U.S. name is "Oh Hell"). You can play many rounds, but coming in last in the first round in a new place makes you the "Mas" i.e. the butt of jokes. We have a log book for our old sailboat. Every time we were in harbor (and that was often) somewhere, it has recorded who was the Mas for that place. My mom has a daily book sort-of-diary as well, and her old ones from when we were kids often has who was Mas somewhere as well.
posted by gemmy at 8:27 PM on September 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

On each of our anniversaries, and sometimes other times, my boyfriend or I will inform each other, "We've had a good run." He started it a few years ago. ("What?! We did have a good run.") (See also: "I thought you cared about me!" "I did!")
posted by ferret branca at 8:37 PM on September 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

We fervently strive to not start any new endeavors when it's a new moon. Like full stop, I get a call from my dad about the moon phases to remind me when it is and is not a good time to work on difficult stuff.

I think that's actually a superstition, not a tradition, though... hmm

Oh ok nvm here's one

Christmas season only begins when we have watched: Harry Potter (any of them), The Santa Clause, and, just for my parents because I hate the movie, A Christmas Story.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:54 PM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mother suffered from massive untreated anxiety, which manifested in many ways. Pertinent to this story are two: finding it impossible to throw anything away and knowing exactly how all of her possessions were placed. So my brother and I played a game (which I may have described here before) where we moved something a fraction of an inch and then timed how long it would take her to notice: usually less than a minute after she entered the room. There were weeks between bouts, but the person who moved something that took Mom the longest time to spot was declared the winner.

In hindsight it was cruel, and I feel a little bad about it especially because it made my father laugh, but we kids were her captives. My brother achieved the record by turning a table that appeared to be symmetrical around 180 degrees. It had a fake drawer on one side and a real one on the other, where cocktail napkins and coasters were stored. The deception lasted until the next time guests were present.

One day we told our friends, another brother and sister pair, about this phenomenon. It was a rare occasion where we had friends visit, because that wasn't usually allowed (although my parents entertained often); honestly I think it happened less than ten times during my entire childhood. Anyway, they didn't believe us, so we demonstrated by rotating a small snail figurine about ten degrees. Mom came in, and her face became contorted with her "something is wrong!" expression. Her eyes scanned the room and alighted on the snail. She quickly returned it to the "right" position and gave a sigh of relief: order restored. Our friends were gobsmacked; after 20 years, I recently saw both of them at a funeral and they both brought it up.

When we were cleaning out our parents' place, both of us grabbed a lot of small tchotchkes, unbeknownst to each other. And now we have two related traditions. I snagged the snail, and hid it in his house. He retaliated with another similar object, having had the same idea. Now, whenever we visit, whoever is in possession of the snail hides it in the other's house, preferably somewhere both obvious and tricky or funny. Second, we send each other envelopes containing a single example of objects that my mother was unable to throw away, e.g., used twist ties, old plastic bags, lanyards from meetings, a single sock, an expired coupon from 20 years ago, etc. No repeats. No context. No note. We've graduated to sending these items in envelopes we've cadged or recycled from somewhere else: NASA, the IRS, Larry Flint Enterprises, etc. We think it's hilarious, but then we both like dark humor.
posted by carmicha at 8:59 PM on September 2, 2017 [38 favorites]

Many years ago, upon learning that my then-boyfriend and I were dating, an acquaintance said "Maybe it will work out." That phrase is now trotted out at events big and small. After a particularly bad pun, our wedding, the birth of a child, cleaning up cat puke, etc.

none of my immediate family says "Bless you" after sneezes.

This is my family of origin, too. My dad thinks saying "bless you" is bizarrely bringing religion into sneezes, akin to saying thunder is really God clapping.
posted by gatorae at 9:04 PM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hanukkah contests! When my parents throw their yearly Hanukkah party, there's a basket of assorted knickknacks that are awarded to the person with the first menorah whose candles all go out, the last menorah to have a candle still lit, and anyone who wins a round of Hanukkah Bingo (yes, my parents somehow found a Hanukkah-themed bingo set). We also sing Go Down Moses at Passover.
posted by capricorn at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

do you have any unusual family traditions

Marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:52 PM on September 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

So many Christmas traditions....ima focus on one my nuclear family (my kids and wife) started. Oldest son's 2nd Christmas, he was 2 1/2 years old. We had a plastic tree and I set up this crappy battery operated 4.99 special train my cheap ass parents sent around the base of this tree. On Christmas Eve, I replaced the train with a Lionel O gauge train, with a station and houses and a Santa with a bag of presents and a water tower and kids making a snowman and having a snowball fight and the train included the Lionel 2011 Commemorative Christmas box car. Every year since then we've added Lionel's annual special Christmas car, as well as added to the village. This year, I'm going to build a prewired lay out with flickering fireplace fires in the house, working train crossing gates and sculpted hills for kids on sleds to ride down.

Yes, I'm fully aware I'm crazy. A certain amount of insanity is allowable with respect to electric train layouts.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:01 PM on September 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

As mentioned a few years back, way back in the day we made scrumpy (this is in rural Worcestershire, so that means a particularly strong cider) for selling on our farmshop. The overall legality was, like the drink, somewhat hazy but that went for more than a few practices in farming things in the Vale of Evesham of the time. Some was entered into a few contests; one year I named it Sipshade, which was an anagram of an accurate description of more than a few of the regular customers who bought it. I recently found a picture of this, which was fun.

From teen years I usually got to try the first half pint out of the barrels (you did not want to have a full pint if you were planning on doing anything cognitive for the rest of the day, or driving a tractor, or out with the shotgun). Guess that was a tradition. That and me having to stall the customs people for a while if they turned up at the wrong time e.g. the autumn my stepdad was convinced the scrumpy was not strong enough, so to give it a slight "boost" he added two bottles of vodka as well as [redacted] to each barrel. As if on cue, the customs folk turned up halfway through this process. Which was awkward.

The summer of 1984 I remember for two things. Frankie Goes to Hollywood being relentlessly top of the charts with various songs, and the scrumpy that year turning your poo orange. Those regular customers swore it was the best we ever made. Several never returned in future summers, but that was probably as it was a cold winter (on the rare occasions there was scrumpy left if there was an early hard frost, it came in useful as an antifreeze).

Also remembering stubble burning, a practice made illegal some years ago due, not so much for pollution or climate change reasons, but because a few farmers wouldn't do this right and the odd hedge or two got burnt, or as more city folk moved into the countryside and couldn't cope with the fact that this is a working place and not a vast outdoor museum, so more objected to things like smoke or manure smells. I still fondly, though distantly, remember running down the twenty two acre slope at dusk, dragging a fire stick and setting a huge swathe of dried stubble alight, then running back up the slope to see the flames of others doing same in fields near and far across the Vale.

+ + + + +

Haven't done anything interesting this week because of admin, work and feeling bleurgh. Did do the first lot of Christmas shopping, so that's various things ticked off the list, including purchasing the first Christmas Pudding (yay!) for storage, and buying the first packets of cards, and eating the first Christmas Pudding (I have no willpower). We are well into autumn now though, so not too bad a crime.

Did also buy a replacement cheap and cheerful snappy camera, as the other one - which has seen action in multiple US states and English counties - pretty much expired after one too many rough adventure. First picture taken a few minutes ago from my bed (SFW).
posted by Wordshore at 10:59 PM on September 2, 2017 [17 favorites]

We go to the sub base dining hall on Thanksgiving day and have dinner with all the sailors who didn't have anywhere else to go. It's a good time, and we've been doing it for 17 years.

* Except for the one year they decided it would be active-duty only and we weren't invited. They never did that again.
posted by ctmf at 11:28 PM on September 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Our family always gave out Christmas presents on Christmas Eve night, which I understand now is quite unusual.

Tbh, I'm stumped coming up with anything else. Your own family's rituals are always normal, I suppose.
posted by smoke at 11:29 PM on September 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have owned a brown plastic "chocolate" Easter bunny for about 25 years, maybe longer. She is about two feet tall, and is always invited to the family Easter dinner. She dresses up for the party in either long green beads or a shiny, crystal necklace around her ears.
posted by Cranberry at 11:34 PM on September 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

One year when my mom, dad, sister and I were making the drive from Nebraska to Indiana for Christmas (I was probably ten so 1980-ish) we had the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas tape in the car and it got played over and over. One of the songs on it is The Twelve Days of Christmas where each Muppet and John Denver sang one of the days. It was cute when I was 10 but my mom has taken it upon herself to preserve this "family tradition" and it's horrible.

Much of my extended family lives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and my mom hosts a family meal somewhere near Christmas every year. When we moved to New England in 1989 my mom and dad started the tradition. My dad's been dead for over twenty years now but every single Christmas my mom prints and distributes the Twelve Days of Christmas lyrics and everyone has to choose a Day. Then she puts on the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album (now on CD) and everyone has to sing along with their fucking Muppet part with the same drama and intonation used by said Muppet.

I hate it so much. It's no longer amusing or relevant and we're a family of awkwards who mostly hate being in the spotlight. She seems to enjoy it so I tolerate it but it's part of why I dread the family Christmas.
posted by bendy at 11:40 PM on September 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

I am one of five children, all fairly close together in age. We all played band instruments, so my mother (and dad, when available) went to literally 10 straight years of middle school band concerts from about 1987-1997 or thereabouts.

I now teach orchestra at the middle school I attended, have for fourteen? years, and my parents still live in the neighborhood and attend Every. Single. Concert. I. Conduct. The awful thing about your kid being the conductor is that the age/quality of the group never improves like it would when your kids move into high school...they are really good and talented middle schoolers but they're still 14 year-olds who have played for, at most, three years. They sound pretty good by May and then boom! new school year and you're back where you started with a new bunch.

I am pretty sure that my mom could be in the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Middle School Concerts Attended As An Audence Member. This will deservedly be in the top few bullet points on her posthumous application for sainthood. When my beloved principal moved on to another job at the end of the last school year, at my final concert he presented *her* with flowers and gave a speech to the kids about dedication, family, and support that almost made me cry. My students talked about it all week afterward.

Anyway, my favorite unusual family ritual is going and getting nachos with my folks after I conduct a middle school concert. We go over my dad's notes- sample, worth a look, he does it every time- and I vent, decompress and have a milkshake instead of the beer I really want so I don't make them sad and there you go. Family! The best, sometimes, once you have found some ways to interact without making each other bananas.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:49 PM on September 2, 2017 [41 favorites]

I haven't been home for actual Thanksgiving in about 15 years because travelling from one side of the country to the other for Thanksgiving is my personal idea of hell. But I usually make it home the week later for Second Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Sheni (in homage to Pesach Sheni, this day later in the year after Passover where you celebrate Passover in case you missed it). On my Mom's side of the family, every nuclear family does their own thing on real t-day. But a week later we all gather at my Nana's home for giant deli-trays and homemade kugel and pumpkin pie. It's way better than real Thanksgiving and I think every one knows it.
posted by atomicstone at 12:29 AM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

My family used to listen and sing along to Alice's Restaurant every Thanksgiving. When we all moved to different parts of the country, we would call and do it on speaker phone.I loved it at the time. Rather sad that politics and all have kind of put an end to that.
posted by greermahoney at 12:44 AM on September 3, 2017

Wordshore, in a town of egomaniac chimneys.
posted by Oyéah at 1:55 AM on September 3, 2017

When I was growing up, Christmas had one unusual family tradition: We'd do presents on Xmas morning (not that unusual) but the stockings weren't looked at until Christmas night, right before bed. They were usually filled with a mix of practical gifts (e.g. pencils with our name stamped on them, for school of course) and small sweets.

It wasn't a big deal, really, but splitting up the stocking gifts from the rest of the presents was a sweet idea and I don't really do Christmas anymore but if I had kids I'd be doing this same thing with them.
posted by hippybear at 2:10 AM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Christmas Day is just sixteen weeks from tomorrow. Excited!
posted by Wordshore at 4:35 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

In April I started inviting my foreign passengers to Sunday dinner. They always accept if they are going to be around. It's a chance for them to see a household that totally breaks every stereotype they have about the rural US. They always ask about the guns and the shattered drone mounted over the fireplace and then if they could shoot a gun. We don't have assault rifles or Barrett's just stuff that makes sense for coyotes and boars and ducks but it looks like a lot to them.

We've had people from Sweden, Scotland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Iceland, Jamaica, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Korea and Japan so far, sometimes in combination. That is when it really gets fun. Usually they are in their mid-twenties. The time the 3 French women insisted on bringing and preparing dinner was one of the best meals I have ever had. Not quite Babette's Feast but close. All of us have learned so much. The kids love it. They grill them about their lives. Sometimes we wind up trashed and they stay the night. They send the kids really cool things when they get home and if we ever get to any of those places we have somewhere to stay.

That's probably going to dry up in the fall but I'm so glad I started doing that. Some of the most interesting conversations I've ever had. The sense that all people are just people. Got some Czechs coming tonight.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:59 AM on September 3, 2017 [18 favorites]

My parents always fake-trumpeted a small fanfare when something fell, banged, and/or broke. I'm the lone survivor steeped in this tradition. Sometimes people give me funny looks.
posted by Namlit at 5:11 AM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

My large extended family loves puns. Also they love to interpret what someone else says in a "punny" way. Sometimes this requires a prompt to elicit a pun-able phrase (yes yes it skirts very close to cheating), and in my family this tends to center on coming up with ways to get your interlocutor to say something that sounds vaguely like 'thanks' or 'thank you'. Then you reply "you're welcome" and cackle with glee. Examples include: "What's 5q + 5q?" and "What are those big military vehicles called, the ones with turrets?" &c.

And of course we love to tell long-ish stories that end with a punny line, such as the Mel Famey baseball saga and the teak-thieving bear, although the audience for this latter tale is dwindling in direct correlation with the percentage of the population who are familiar with the poetic works of John Greenleaf Whittier.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:34 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

On New Years Day, for lunch, we have caviar service and champagne while watching a Fifties melodrama, preferably in lurid Technicolor. You know, where because they can't say the word 'nymphomaniac,' Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind is described as "a woman who loved too much... and too often," or where Constance Ford slaps Sandra Dee, knocking down the plastic Christmas tree, in A Summer Place.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:38 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

My little brother was obsessed with ships and shipwrecks as a small child, to the degree that we fell asleep to a mix CD that was just sea chanties and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald over and over until I got fed up with sharing a room with him and moved to the attic. The whole family ended up learning an awful lot about ships, and whenever we were waiting for things (in a restaurant, for example, or on long car trips), instead of playing 20 Questions like most people, we would play I'm Thinking Of A Ship.

My family celebrates Christmas and Chanukah, and so every year for Chanukah one of our presents is a Christmas ornament that commemorates something exciting that we did over the past year. I'm 29 years old, and I am pretty sure that this year my mother will be giving me a PhD Christmas ornament, or maybe an orangutan.

Finally, because we celebrate Christmas and Chanukah, and my birthday is in early January, by the time my birthday came around as a kid nobody really wanted to celebrate EVEN MORE and like, presents are cool but they all came at once and then nobody ever had a particular reason to be nice to me the rest of the year, and also January in New Hampshire and Michigan is cold and indoor birthday parties are hard sometimes. So, my parents would always let me have a Half Birthday Event where I could invite a friend or two to a baseball game and they'd give me a half-wrapped present and half a birthday card, and we'd have half of a small ice cream cake. It was great! And, yes, for my 29.5th birthday, they sent me half a birthday card, and one earring.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:47 AM on September 3, 2017 [19 favorites]

In my immediate family, we all like or love each other a pretty normal amount, there are no feuds or people not talking to each other, anything like that. But we only call each other when there is a specific issue or problem to discuss, and we only visit each other very rarely. Right now we are scattered across two countries, but in the past we have been spread through as many as four countries on multiple continents. Even now that we are concentrated into two countries, the average distance apart must be nearly 1000 miles. I think we are all just independent and somewhat private people who like maintaining our personal space.

As far as I can tell we all like it that way (but because we don't talk much we have no actual idea of each other's feelings, of course), so it makes it especially interesting for me to read all these stories of much more normal families who call each other to chat and who get together for holiday dinners. It all sounds both fun and a bit claustrophobic, at the same time.

Also we don't really have traditional meal for holidays. Last several Thanksgivings have been chicken grilled at home, Rocky Rococo's pizza (sausage, obviously), salmon, and a home made baked taco dish.

My partner and I don't bother with traditional holiday foods (unless we are going to a potluck dinner and have to bring something traditional), mostly since so much of it is so bland, but we usually try to cook something a bit different or interesting for a holiday, even if the food is entirely unconnected to the said holiday. I think last time we made a complicated coconut curry based on recipes from Africa.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is Jewish Christmas at the Chinese restaurant tradition or law?
posted by Room 641-A at 6:53 AM on September 3, 2017

We had a lot of oppressive family traditions when we were kids (highly routinized Christmases, stressful visiting relatives, mean anxious parents, "you better like your birthday or else" stuff) and so now that we're grown ups, have spent some time making holiday traditions into things we like and that are nurturing to us. Some of this is family, some of this is chosen-family. I've mentioned many of these things before

New Year's Eve - party in the big house in the neighborhood. Everyone attends, adults and kids and dogs. Everyone can drink (if they want) and walk home.
Valentine's Day - a ridiculously funny card from my SO that he's made himself on the work copy machine. Sometimes we get together, sometimes not.
Sister's Birthday - we fall all over ourselves trying to give her the hook-up birthday (usually a lot of eating out at fancy restaurants and stealing a good movie from the internet) because our parents tended to miss/ruin them
Memorial Day - driveway cookout with neighbor friends in VT
4th of July - either watch or participate in a parade (I love parades)
CHILDNADO - me and college friends and their families all get together at my dad's house for a weekend and go nuts
Virgo Month of Leisure (current) - it's a joke that I am often too busy so on my birthday month I try to relax and then usually document how powerfully I have failed this
Civic Holiday - did not do this this year but me and my friend often go do something for Canada's civic holiday
My Birthday - Sister makes me a cake, SO makes me a funny card, we try to do something goofy and enjoyable, her me and my SO
Halloween - I dress up in some crazy costume and had out candy to 400-ish neighborhood kids
Thanksgiving - BIG MEAL SOMEWHERE (it's right around my dad's birthday so we raise a glass to him and do that seder thing talking about Thanksgivings past)
JimBirthday - My SO and OtherJim (aka bondcliff) share a birthday and a first and middle name, so we get together on their birthday every year and have food and cake
Holidaytime - there is usually a Solstice Bonfire in the neighborhood, Xmas eve Chinese Food, watching movies with holiday orphans on Xmas Day and then it all starts over again....
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:02 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

I was actually thinking of this today, because I do this really stupid thing with my kids and started wondering if they would remember it when they grow up and then do it with their kids.

I love lying on the floor, and my oldest daughter is constantly seeking attention so loves lying on top of me. My second baby then gets jealous, so will crawl on top of her and make a stack. Whenever this would happen, I would squeeze them and rock back and forth while atonally singing "sandwich party, sandwich party!" and making up a variety of more or less rhyming lyrics that have something to do with sandwiches. By the time my third baby came this game was pretty well entrenched, and she joined in as soon as she was able to crawl.

They still like doing it for some reason, but are getting big to the point where it is hard for me to breathe and rocking them back and forth is exhausting, but I figure they will grow out of it and start hating me soon enough so I should enjoy it while I can.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:33 AM on September 3, 2017 [24 favorites]

MetaFilter: I figure they will grow out of it and start hating me soon enough so I should enjoy it while I can.
posted by hippybear at 7:35 AM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

My father was an old US Navy submarine master chief, and the father of five girls. He used to invite young sailors who were far from their own homes to our house for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas: that is, he used to invite the young sailors, right up until my oldest sisters hit around ages 14/15, and all of a sudden Dad realized that some of us were starting to think some of them were kinda cute..... Never brought any more single guys home for dinner after that, darn it: afterwards, it was just his old Chief buddies and their families. Darn it, just when the young sailorboys were getting interesting, too....

One birthday tradition he had was taking each of us out to dinner, just the birthday girl and Dad, not on our actual birthday but sometime in the following weeks; he did this from the time we each turned 7 years old until we grew up and moved out. Originally, the birthday girl was allowed to pick any restaurant in the area; that rule got heavily modified to "any restaurant from an approved list" after the year my youngest sister picked a place for her 9th birthday that cost over $300 for their dinner for two --- and that was fifty years ago, so who knows what it would cost now!

My only Christmas tradition, after years of working on the holiday itself and living alone, is to rewatch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It's gloriously awful.
posted by easily confused at 8:00 AM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

The family I've married into is largely made up of quite formal eastern Europeans who take public propriety so seriously it's impossibly to parody. (Fortunately, they seem to like hanging out with scrappy academics, even if we can't be taught to hold silverware in exactly the right way.) But, they have a tradition going back to the earliest days of popular photography: in every family photo-shoot, the whole group turns around and points their (clothed) butts at the camera in at least one shot. There are many tens of photos covering around 100 years of this tradition on multiple continents and annotated in several languages. I don't quite understand why it's fun; but, we carry on the tradition.

My own family is both tiny and marked by a complete disconnect and open rejection of one's parents every-other generation. (Happily, not my generation.) So, I grew up with stuff my mom made up specifically because it wasn't what her parents did. Since I'm never going to have kids, it doesn't really seem fair to call them traditions. But, I have confidence that future isolated parents will make up equally fun things to do with their kids. When you're five, the difference between an ancient ritual and something thought up that morning in the shower is pretty inconsequential.
posted by eotvos at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

smoke, my answer is pretty much exactly the same as yours.
posted by JanetLand at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Family traditions were also massively oppressive and done rolling our eyes and resenting every moment.

Husband and I have a few traditions. We go to sleep at 9 pm on New Year's eve after watching the ball drop on the East coast. Hallowe'en is really the big day around our place. On the first weekend of October, we put up the Hallowe'en fencing and I generally spend the entire month setting up. I do a new theme every year and build almost all my own props. We have a giant party the weekend prior and on Hallowe'en night we hand out handfuls of chocolate to the kids who come to the door, no matter how old. We give kids with really unique or creative costumes a ton of extra candy. Lights go out at 930 pm. On November 1st, I take the day off work and remove every last trace of hallowe'en until next October. Unfortunately, I have a meeting at NIH on October 30th and 31st so no Hallowe'en this year.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:49 AM on September 3, 2017

Although Comrade Doll is a very thoughtful person, she has a weird knack for missing details when choosing greeting cards. And so, one year, I got a Father's Day card that was from "All of [my] kids" when I only have one. Another time, I got an anniversary card that closed by saying what an amazing wife I was.

Since I was never a fan of mass-produced greeting cards anyway, this struck me as weirdly hilarious. And so, we've now made it official: all occasions in this home are marked by poorly matched cards. Happy birthday? No, you get a Get Well Soon card. Mother's Day? Nope, you get a Bar Mitzvah card. Anniversary? You get Congratulations on Your Retirement. We both have developed the habit of occasionally checking the racks for cards commemorating the oddest events. I've got a card with teddy bears wishing some twin children a happy birthday I'm just itching to use for... something.

It's become a game now to see how poorly we can match the card to the occasion. The actual kind words appropriate to the day are written in by hand now.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:26 AM on September 3, 2017 [22 favorites]

My mother and her family emigrated to the U.S. from Germany when my mother was 6. They continued their German tradition of opening presents on Christmas eve. My father did the standard American thing of opening presents Christmas day, and we started off doing that as well. But, my mother really missed doing it Christmas eve. So, the compromise was that once us kids stopped believing in Santa, we all would open one present each on Christmas eve, and the rest on Christmas day. My parents are gone now, but my husband and I still open one thing each on Christmas eve.

My mother's mother's family (German) had a tradition (not sure where or when it started), which we have kept up, of giving new baby girls a present of a sterling silver serving spoon engraved with their initials. I love having my spoon, my mother's spoon, her mother's spoon, etc., etc., and using them for holidays and special occasions.
posted by gudrun at 10:39 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've mentioned this before - when my brother and I were little, my father would tell us silly stories about a made-up friend named "Sam Yakaboochie". Then, when my brother and I first got "too old" for Santa, my father started giving everyone each a gift "from" Sam. I have been getting gifts from Sam Yakaboochie for over 30 years now.

I started a family tradition at the age of twelve. I read something in some magazine about a silly round-robin gift a family had, and decided I would start that off in my own family. I found an old costumey cowboy hat that used to belong to my brother, attached a ribbon hatband and gave it to my father with a note painstakingly declaring it "the Christmas Hat", and stating that from that point on, each recipient had to then wear it during Christmas dinner, then add some kind of decoration to the hat and then pass it on to someone else the following year. The "wear it at dinner" rule got amended to "just pose for pictures" after several years when the thing was so bedecked with fiddly shit that it got topheavy. It got kind of buried at someone's house for several years, when family Christmases started getting a little sporadic (more on that later) - but about 4 years ago, whoever had it gave it to my cousin's husband. At this point you don't even have to unwrap the box to know whether you've gotten The Hat, because there's a jingle bell on it. Everyone else in the family stopped and froze when we heard the bell, and I think my cousin's husband was freaked out because we all turned to watch him; and then when he pulled the thing out of the box he got even more confused when eveyrone else started cracking up and I jumped to my feet and victoriously shouted "IT LIVES!!!!!!!!!!"

....This finally isn't so much of a tradition, so much as a practical response to something that has become pretty welcome. ...So, my brother and sister-in-law decided that they would handle the family-holiday issue by decreeing that one year, they'd spend Thanksgiving with our family and Christmas with my sister-in-law's family; the following year, they'd flip it. They've been alternating ever since. And then as my other cousins started getting married and having kids themselves, they started to do the same thing, and would coordinate their holidays around when my brother would be with our family.

The practical upshot of which is that every year, the population at either Thanksgiving or Christmas is just my parents, one aunt, and me. The four of us have decided that for those holidays, we just say "fuck it" and we meet in Providence, Rhode Island for lunch on a weekend before or after (Providence is the most easily accessible middle city for my parents on Cape Cod, me in New York, and my aunt in Newport). It's a day trip for all of us, and we do the presents there if it's Christmas or we just eat whatever we want if it's "Thanksgiving". And then for the holidays proper we are free to do whatever the hell we want - make a big meal if we feel like it, eat nothing but Cheetos if that's all we want, stay in pajamas all day and watch Law and Order reruns, what have you.

I always brace myself before i tell people that, because I feel like they're going to feel sorry for me and I get ready to reassure them that it's fine - but instead, when I tell them that I'm going to be home on Thanksgiving and doing whatever I want, they always blink, then their face goes a little pensive and they say "that sounds fantastic."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:19 AM on September 3, 2017 [9 favorites]

My current immediate family is me and my two cats, and I'm working on establishing a tradition of spending Sunday mornings on my front porch while the cats, in harnesses attached by leads to the porch, poke around in the grass and dirt and pretend they are outside cats, while I drink tea and read the internet. Then I go for a nice long walk (6-7 miles) around my neighborhood while listening to the MeFi podcast or "This American Life." Then I try to get to UU services, which is also a fairly new tradition for me, but they don't start until 11:30 and sometimes the walk takes longer than expected and I'm too late to go, and sometimes I just don't want to give up what seems like my entire Sunday to go to services (esp since the church is a half-hour away), so that's more hit or miss.

I've been enjoying my walks. I had been doing (and continue to do) a lot of hiking, and I had kind of forgotten how nice neighborhood walks can be, too.
posted by lazuli at 11:22 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Room 641-A: a few years ago my family went to a Thai restaurant on Christmas; hope we didn't break the law, though I've wondered about it!
posted by ferret branca at 12:09 PM on September 3, 2017

Since I live in the country of bread-for-breakfast (and lunch, too), which is also the country of many different spreads and sprinkles to be eaten on said bread, it took me a long time to realise that not all families did this:

on your birthday, you get the very special Birthday Boterham (that word means a slice of bread). It's cut into as many pieces as you are turning years old, and each piece has something different on it. This makes it very festive.
When you are turning six, this is easy: you'll get jam, chocolate sprinkles, cheese, apple syrup, liverwurst and peanut butter.
When you are turning twelve, weird things like sugar, a slice of pickle, and a smear of mayonnaise will start showing up and it's probably about time you're declared too old for this tradition.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

My husband and I are about to embark on a family tradition started by my father and me! I've got the USGS earthquake notification service and ever since I signed up my dad and I race over to the Yellowstone area every time there's a series of feel-able earthquakes. It doesn't happen very often, and since there's always a lot versus one big one it's just letting off pressure so we're not worried about a "big" one.* But we both want to feel a Yellowstone earthquake really bad (Yellowstone is near where we're from). And maybe see a big rock slide since Yellowstone area quakes tend to set off big rock slides, as long as it doesn't kill anyone or close a road or hurt property (a very specific rock slide, hahahaha). And it's a little dream of both of ours to just once, just ONCE, contribute a "Did you feel it?" report to the USGS for our home state.

It's never worked. We're always too late. Sad trombone. But it's the journey, really, that's the point. We always have a lot of fun.

But since yesterday the ENS has been going just bonkers with some pretty good ones outside of Soda Springs, Idaho, so my husband and I killed our weekend camping plans and are going to race up to Soda Springs in hopes we get there and get to feel one. My dad's meeting us! I'm so excite, y'all!

Wish us luck and an earthquake big enough to feel but small enough it doesn't hurt anybody or any property.

*Don't worry, I'm a geologist. That doesn't mean I know what I'm doing, it just means I'm more excited about it.
posted by barchan at 2:55 PM on September 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

Today we had our first "Feast" in our new house, our new family tradition started by my 6-year-old when he found out mom knows how to cook like grandma (when everyone got sick and I had to throw together a last-second Thanksgiving meal based on "what I could find at Kroger at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving day" which was pretty legit except for rutabaga*!) and he said wistfully, "I wish we could have Thanksgiving feast EVERY weekend ..." so now we do that. Anyway, we are unpacked enough for fancy dishes and silverware, and for me to make complicated things in the kitchen, so first feast in the new house was a standing beef rib roast with Yorkshire puddings, peas & carrots, and roasted rosemary potatoes, with pan gravy and horseradish. (Because Micro McGee is obsessed with London right now.) The new oven and I are still getting to know each other so my timing was a bit off, but everything was super-tasty! Also Yorkshire puddings are hella fun to make. Anyway, I like this new tradition my kids invented, I like getting to use all our fancy table stuff every week instead of just a couple times a year, I like sitting down to big meal weekly, I like that they already know the difference between salad and dinner forks (indeed, they insist on it and get grumpy if I don't provide two forks).

"It wasn't a big deal, really, but splitting up the stocking gifts from the rest of the presents was a sweet idea and I don't really do Christmas anymore but if I had kids I'd be doing this same thing with them."

We do the same. My parents started it because after a big Christmas morning little kids are often kinda crestfallen in the evening because they've been looking forward to Christmas for so long and it was a big exciting thing and now it's over so they tend to burst into tears of disappointment. Evening stockings lets them still have a little thing to look forward to and smooths out the Christmas comedown a bit.

"a Christmas ornament that commemorates something exciting that we did over the past year."

Same! Which gives you a cute collection of ornaments relating to your life, and then when you move out, my mom mails you your ornaments so your first adult Christmas tree away from home doesn't look quite so sad, and already has its own traditional ornaments. So of course we are doing it for our kids, although etsy makes it a lot easier than it was for my mom!

DirtyOldTown's "wrong cards" thing which I think he mentioned once before tickled my fancy so much that I've started doing it with my brother with whom I share a birthday. I go and find a card about how he's the most special sparkly princess and send him that and we think it's just HILARIOUS.

*So rutabaga is my other important family tradition; some of my ancestors were super-poor Irish dirt farmers with the potatoes. For holidays and special occasions, they ate rutabaga instead of potatoes. When they came to the US, the matriarch made them eat mashed rutabaga on holidays to remember how poor they were in Ireland (and also after a lifetime of potatoes she was not a big fan of American mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving). So her kids insisted on rutabaga, and their kids, and their kids, and anyway, every family holiday in my family involves mashed rutabaga. So it was A LITTLE UPSETTING when we couldn't get rutabaga on Thanksgiving! (We got it two days later and mashed it and served it then.) Mashed rutabaga is kind-of an acquired taste so it also serves as a form of hazing for anyone foolish enough to marry into this extended family farrago.

(It is a tiny bit claustrophobic coming from a gigantic and close family, being all up in each other's business 24/7, but we all practice a form of constructive ignorance, where when I know something is upsetting you and you don't want to talk about, I pretend I have no idea that that thing is happening, even though I TOTALLY do, but we all have lots of practice at pretending not to know that, or not to notice things. (Like it's hard NOT to know someone is pregnant some times but if the mom-to-be hasn't mentioned it, I am pretending I never noticed, to the point where occasionally I had so successfully compartmentalized the knowledge that I was legit surprised when it was announced!) It's even more of a relief if you decide you do want to talk about the thing, because you don't even have to catch me up because I already know all about it, I've just been pretending I don't. Anyway this depends on strong family taboos around not mentioning upsetting things unless the person upset by them brings it up first, and an ability to read which things are in the "upsetting" category and which things are in the "mock mercilessly" category. From what I can tell a lot of close families do not have these constructive ignorance taboos and that seems like a nightmare.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:41 PM on September 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

My Dad always had to have the fireplace alive with cracking logs at xmastime. You'd not consider that tradition unusual, unless you'd grown up in the South: we always had to run the air conditioner to counteract the heat.

My favourite part was later in the day, after opening presents, we'd toss the rolled up balls of festive paper into the fireplace. Back in that day, all of the shiny foil papers would create beautiful colors as the metallic coating burst forth from its papery bondage.
posted by mightshould at 3:56 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

MetaFtiler: Don't worry, I'm a geologist.
posted by hippybear at 4:11 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

I read The Polar Express to my son on Christmas Eve, and now to my grandson.
posted by theora55 at 4:12 PM on September 3, 2017

Point of order - I just noticed that the first recipient of The Hat in my family was my father. In fact, it was my GRANDfather.

And I've remembered another family tradition that came from practical necessity - when I was a kid, we would have the first family present unwrapping at my nuclear family's house, then we would have breakfast, wash up, pile into the car and drive to Cape Cod to spend the rest of the day with my grandparents and cousins and extended family (which would lead to another grand unwrapping, of course).

But - when we had a dog, the very first gift given in my family's house was to the dog - Dad would present him with a huge rawhide chew bone, which he would pounce on and start gnawing at immediately. We discovered that he was CRAZY for rawhide chew bones, and if we gave him a really big one right away, it would distract him enough that he would leave us alone for all of the other unwrapping so he wouldn't be trying to chew on paper and jump on things. Usually he would gnaw away at the bone with monomaniacal focus and would be totally done with it by the time we finished unwrapping everything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2017

Eyebrows McGee, I love that you and your family do a weekly Feast. My mom always tended to cook an extra-nice dinner on Sunday nights, and we usually ate at the dining-room table rather than the kitchen table, and we never really called it anything special or even really acknowledged it but I grew very much to appreciate it and it's one of the things I miss about her. It's hard to motivate myself into making a nice Sunday dinner for myself all the time, but it's something I'm always thinking I need to add back into my life, because it's such a nice way of reaffirming the family time of the weekend. (Again, for me, that would be my family time with my cats, which may be why it's a bit harder to find the motivation to mark it...)
posted by lazuli at 5:15 PM on September 3, 2017

Decades ago in a fine spring month, my older sister (tho very young at the time) drew and wrote in crayon a card to give to my aunt and uncle.


And that has been our Easter greeting ever since.
posted by vers at 5:19 PM on September 3, 2017 [22 favorites]

We go to our tribe's Powwow when it's my side of the family's turn for Thanksgiving (every other year) visiting. Watching the dancers and hearing the drum circles is a highlight for me.

Years and years ago, dad and I made a deal: He doesn't have to remember my birthday if I don't have to remember his. That shit works out great and we get along great.

My wife's family, well her mom's side anyway, makes a point of doing food for every vacation and holiday the same way. That is to say that they let the buying of the groceries, the prep, and the cooking of said food for near-gourmet, literally, level meals overwhelm at least half of the waking hours in every day such that my wife doesn't feel like she gets to spend any time with her mom nor that her mom gets to hang out with her grandkids. Not to meention that her grandmother is caught along with the tide of prep work and doesn't get to visit with folks either and has said as much in the past. The food ends up great, don't get me wrong, it's just something that's quite silly and has been mentioned as a pain point for the last two years by ALL parties involved (the cooks included) to no avail. The same goes for Christmas gift shopping by the way, except throw in traffic and crowds. It's really, really bad.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:25 PM on September 3, 2017

[W]hen we had a dog, the very first gift given in my family's house was to the dog.

One year travel snafus meant that I didn't get home for Christmas until around 1 am that morning. I put the presents I brought under the tree, including one for my parents' cat, Hooter, who had originally belonged to me. That cat was extremely bonded to my father--followed him around constantly-- and so he didn't come into the room with the tree until Dad made his entrance. Hooter looked at the tree and made a beeline for the presents, pawing through them until he selected one, carried it out to the rug and proceeded to open it, tearing the wrapping paper with his teeth.

My parents made a bunch of shocked and apologetic noises, assuring the various visiting relatives that this behavior was unprecedented and uncharacteristic; clearly Hooter had shamed them. But it was fine. Thanks to the intoxicating smell of cat nip, Hooter had chosen the one package with his name on it. He was quite the addict. Although he only lived a few more years after this incident, he always received a Christmas present and always opened it first.
posted by carmicha at 7:31 PM on September 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

Eyebrows, I have a tablecloth that matches your napkins.
posted by carmicha at 7:34 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

We play Chinese New Year's bingo - winner of each round gets to draw randomly from a red envelope tree; each red envelope has a different amount of cash. I don't know if this is unusual, though-- maybe other families do this, too?
posted by gemutlichkeit at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2017

If it's not freezing or raining, we spend Thanksgiving drinking wine on a boat dock on the lake behind my aunt's house and then make crowns. Until about ten years ago, we did Christmas Crackers for Thanksgiving, but one year my Mom forgot to buy them, so we (sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, stepdad, etc) all made paper crowns for ourselves with the craft supplies on hand. We were all adults (or very nearly so). The crowns have only become more elaborate with each passing year.
posted by thivaia at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

This appears to be a little unusual, from folk I've been with -- on Thanksgiving, we go around the table and have to say something we're thankful for.

For years, this wound up being a lot of "for family" and generic-ness from my dad, brother, and self, and my mom was always pretty earnest. I've joined her in the earnest-ness as time has gone on, and I've introduced this to friends now that I'm spending some holidays amongst friends, rather than family.
posted by curious nu at 8:14 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Somehow in my family hiding the afikomen at Passover got switched from the elders to the kids....though my 1st food memory is picking the matzah out of a windowpane at my grandparents.
posted by brujita at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2017

I love that Eyebrows is the unofficial Metafilter Mom. I added her as a contact long before she was a mod for just this reason.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:55 PM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

A couple days before Christmas, sometimes Christmas Eve, my husband, son and I go to the mall to buy gifts. We start in the foodcourt, each with $40. You have one hour to find something for the two others without being caught. We meet back in the foodcourt for coffee, if you show up with a bookstore bag you lose (we love this bookstore... Too easy!)
Thus Christmas shopping is complete in one hour, for $40 each, and the crowds are a fun challenge.
posted by chapps at 1:10 AM on September 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

My family didn't have a huge amount of traditions (mostly just stifling anxiety and rule-following, which I guess is traditional at this point since my generation seems to have plenty of that as well), and my dad was occasionally That Asshole when it came to ruining traditions that I'd thought we did have (we did the same thing every Christmas Eve for the first 6-8 Christmas Eves of my life and then one year he didn't do his bit, claimed we'd never done that and I was making it up, ugh, fury, etc.)

But sometimes he would go out of town on business! And then we'd put on Hunky Dory by David Bowie and play a modified indoor game of softball involving a rolled-up sock and the TV remote as the bat in the living room (which would 100% not have been allowed if he'd known, think of all the stuff you could break or put out of place with a sock/remote combo) and it was GREAT.
posted by terretu at 2:13 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's tradition to have spaghetti and meatballs for Thanksgiving. We're not Italian, we just like it more than turkey.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:57 AM on September 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hmm. Oh! On Thanksgiving morning we eat blueberry pancakes watching the parade. The pancakes have to be so think with blueberries they're more blueberries than pancake. Then on Christmas morning it's blueberry muffins made the same way.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Complete with a bonus we didn't do Santa Claus in our family when we were kids. We knew Mom filled our Christmas stockings, and once my sister and I were old enough to buy Christmas presents the whole family had stockings that we all filled for each other. My mother, sister, and I still spend Christmas morning together and we still put little presents in each other's stockings.

Eponysterically, we usually include socks and underpants among the stocking presents. Family tradition goes that if you open a pair of underpants it goes on your head like a hat for the rest of the present-opening time. The first pair of socks goes on your ears like floppy dog ears. The year I didn't buy any knickers from my sister, I cut and taped together a pair out of paper so she’d have something to put on her head Christmas morning.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:31 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

DirtyOldTown, sounds like your family and my dad with his card recycling would get along quite well.
posted by barchan at 5:56 AM on September 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

@Literaryhero - when sister and I were little, Mom would lie on the floor and say, “I'm too tired to get up. You kids have to carry me to the kitchen.” (Or whatever room she wanted.) Then she would go completely limp, and we kids would pull, roll, and push her through the house, giggling all the way.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:57 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Christmas and Thanksgiving at my parents' always starts with crab dip, which is imitation crab meat chopped and mixed with cream cheese, then pressed in a elongated serving bowl (that only gets used for this), and topped with chili sauce. Eaten cold on top of Ritz crackers.

My husband and I give each other Mother's Day / Father's Day cards and a small gift, ostensibly from the dogs/cat.

If I'm invited to a birthday party (more or less just getting together for dinner or drinks at this point), I'll buy a children's card for the guest of honor, and modify it so it fits their new age. If they're turning 34, I get a 'Happy 4th Birthday!' card, and add a 3 in front of the 4, and 'thirty' in the written-out parts inside. This hasn't failed yet in making people laugh.
posted by Fig at 6:06 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

--[W]hen we had a dog, the very first gift given in my family's house was to the dog.

- I put the presents I brought under the tree, including one for my parents' cat, Hooter, who had originally belonged to me.

One year, my father's parents wrapped up a bag of Cat Chow and put it under the tree for the cat’s “Christmas present.” When they picked it up on Christmas morning, they noticed it didn't weigh anything. The cat had ripped open a tiny corner of the package and pawed out individual kibbles until the bag was empty.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:07 AM on September 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

I am sure we have more family traditions than just these two, and I don't know how unusual they are, but they are my favourites:

1. On Christmas Eve, if we are in the same city/place, my brother and I sleep in the same room. This was easier when we were both in university and would go home for Christmas, but since moving to different cities it has only happened once in the last 6 years. (I was living in Vancouver 6 years ago, visited him in Boston over Christmas, and although he lived with his girlfriend [now wife], he slept in the living room, where I was crashing, on Christmas Eve... because it's tradition.) We mostly just stay up late making fart jokes or watching something important like Billy Madison, but it's the best Christmas tradition. I hope we get to do this one again someday.

2. Whenever my brother visits me or I visit him wherever we are living, we go to IKEA and have IKEA hot dogs for lunch. Once, I was visiting home (Toronto) for a wedding, and my brother flew in for the day from Boston so we could catch up. We went to IKEA. We had hot dogs. It was glorious.
posted by gursky at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Every year on Easter, my mother hid not eggs, as you might expect, but gummy bears. This would probably still happen if I were ever around for Easter, and it was a tradition maintained from my childhood until I moved away for college. The advantage of this is that if you miss a few gummy bears, they'll keep 'til the next year. The disadvantage is that they'll sometimes wind up turning into small bear-shaped rocks if they have to keep for more than a few years, and there's no way to determine how hard they've become without putting them in your mouth. I'm 35 now, and we found one a year or two ago--it was visually indistinguishable from a fresh gummy bear, but completely inedible.
posted by dizziest at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

My mother and I have entire singing conversations to the tune of the Camp Granada song. I can't remember not doing this.
posted by mochapickle at 3:01 PM on September 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

I eat porridge on toast, which is a habit I picked up from my mother. I am reliably informed that this is fucking weird.
posted by corvine at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

That's fucking weird.
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on September 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Daily-ish tradition: We end the day with a little routine called Faith Five (content warning: Jesus) which we picked up from here and modified a bit. We go around the room telling our high for the day, our low for the day, and what we are looking forward to tomorrow. Then we read a story from the Bible and talk about what we can learn from it, and whether it connects to anyone's highs, lows, and hopes. Then we pray. Then we have a group hug and say a blessing together. (Usually this one.) It's been really good for us. Even for more secular households, I'd strongly recommend a nightly check-in and some kind of bedtime affirmation. We learn a lot about the kids' days through that routine that we wouldn't learn otherwise, and it's a good opportunity to talk about our own ethical values.

Regarding Christmas traditions: we don't do anything super-fancy, but on Christmas Adam (the day before Christmas Eve) we open a present for the whole family to enjoy together--usually a board game. On Christmas Eve, the kids are given one present each to enjoy. And then comes the usual Christmas gift routine. It spreads out the enjoyment a little more, and gives us two extra days to enjoy the all-family present over Christmas break.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:17 PM on September 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh right, when we used to do more traditional present giving-and-getting, the bad presents were always from the cats. They have terrible taste.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:22 PM on September 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

I eat porridge on toast, which is a habit I picked up from my mother. I am reliably informed that this is fucking weird.

There was that family tree of sandwiches post the other day, and now I'm thinking it needs a category for these kinds of carb-on-carb sandwiches. I've never seen an oatmeal sandwich, but I've seen plenty of french fry sandwiches and refried bean sandwiches, and I recall long-ago weird vegan sandwiches that involved lentils somehow.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:50 PM on September 4, 2017

My Grandpa's favorite sandwich was boiled potatoes, sliced onion, and Frank's Red Hot.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:42 PM on September 4, 2017

"I love that Eyebrows is the unofficial Metafilter Mom."

Sometimes when I try to explain my job to people and they don't really know what a "moderator" does, I go to, "I'm the mom for a website." I fix minor problems, call for Real Help for major ones, supervise playdates[/threads], warn people when they're getting too wound up, counsel on interpersonal difficulties, give homework[/post] advice, and give time-outs for bad behavior. I even say "I DON'T CARE WHO STARTED IT JUST STOP IT" on a regular basis. IT'S EXACTLY THE SAME.

(I also 100% use mod techniques on my kids when they're fighting and quote other mods at them all the time, and they find it super-infuriating.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:15 PM on September 4, 2017 [16 favorites]

For the last two years we've had a nachos-only feast the night before Thanksgiving that we call "Noche de Nachos" and it owns.
posted by saladin at 7:26 PM on September 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

if Eyebrows is website mom how come I don't ever get a birthday card from her?
posted by hippybear at 7:34 PM on September 4, 2017

if Eyebrows is website mom how come I don't ever get a birthday card from her?

Because I'm her favorite.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:54 PM on September 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos: when I tell them that I'm going to be home on Thanksgiving and doing whatever I want, they always blink, then their face goes a little pensive and they say "that sounds fantastic."

My birthday falls on Thanksgiving with whatever regularity the 28-year cycle is (four times in 28 years, but not exactly every seven), and I don't actually like turkey, so as an adult I have decided that's my out. If my birthday falls on Thanksgiving I skip all family meals and my wife and I go to a nice restaurant that's doing its full menu so I can order literally anything else. It's nice.

For that matter, on the years we do have Thanksgiving dinner with our local family, my wife is the only one who likes turkey and there's a vegetarian, a vegan, and a picky eater, so we often don't bother with turkey anyway. We've done a salt-crusted branzino a couple times but nothing has really become a tradition yet.
posted by fedward at 8:24 PM on September 4, 2017

In non-holiday-meal traditions, the only one I've really carried on from my family is that all road trips start with Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. It feels weird to get on the highway without singing along to "Mrs. Robinson," so I have it on my iPhone now for just this purpose. That only got started because my dad had a really small list of things he'd listen to, and it was the one thing we could all agree on without any fights. Those were reserved for when mom wanted to put on Neil Diamond again.
posted by fedward at 8:30 PM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

we have a few breakfast/brunch traditions.

1 - Eggs Benoit - make and peel a pile of hard boiled eggs, about 2 per person. Take your egg, and cut it in half. Have a Swiftian discussion about whether it is better to cut the egg lengthwise or crosswise. Mock anyone who disagrees with you. Pop the yolk out of the egg, and put the following into the hollow: curry, paprika, salt, pepper, a few drops of oil and vinegar. Optional, and further points of contention, are mayonnaise, hot german mustard, hot sauce. A few years back my boyfriend also added a few drops of tequila, and though that idea was soundly denounced, it did earn him a place in the family for entering into the spirit of the Eggs Benoit tradition by causing additional argument. Pop the yolk back into the hollow on top of all your chosen ingredients, and eat each half in one bite. Repeat process with second egg.

2 - Strammer Max - a slice of rye bread with mayo, black forest ham and a sunny side up egg. This one is amusing because just a few years ago I was describing it to a friend and needed to look up how strammer is spelt. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Max is also a euphemism for penis, and strammer max (stiff max) is supposed to enhance the sexual prowess of the person eating it. They never mentioned that when we were kids!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:37 PM on September 4, 2017

it was the one thing we could all agree on without any fights.

That was one of ours, too. With the Eagles and Nilsson Schmilsson. On 8-track! But somehow those 3 albums followed us as cassettes long after 8-tracks were gone.
posted by ctmf at 10:15 PM on September 4, 2017

So, up early with time to kill, and following the wise mantra of "Try everything once except hard drugs and line dancing"...

I eat porridge on toast, which is a habit I picked up from my mother. I am reliably informed that this is fucking weird.

... I tried this and - huh! - it kinda worked. Toast was a nice brown multigrain; the porridge was the standard supermarket stuff. Topped with a little honey for a morning sweet kick, it all combined splendidly. May do this again in future. Thanks, Corvine.
posted by Wordshore at 10:35 PM on September 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Growing up, our family's favourite reastaurant was a Chinese one, where every table had a lazy Susan to spin the food around so you could serve it buffet style. Due to the serving yourself and the fact we were children, there was a fair amount of drips and spills on your placemat at the end of the meal. This evolved into a competition where the winner was the one with the cleanest placemat.

But you could never announce that you'd won, because as soon as you did, a brother or sister would get their dirty fork and smear it on your paper napkin so you lost. And it didn't matter that you didn't make that mess yourself, if it was dirty, you lost. The last time we went to that restaurant was a few years ago and I swear if my 45 year old sister wasn't pulling that exact thing on me twenty years later...
posted by Jubey at 11:58 PM on September 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I generally make my own birthday cake - this started as a tradition when I was a kid and baking was a special treat.

I also dislike most of the food associated with Thanksgiving so my tradition is to bring a side dish that I enjoy. I've extended this to always bringing side dishes to family holidays. Tradition I'm trying to start: including Ashkenazi charoset (first recipe) as a Thanksgiving tradition. It is delicious, harvest time associated and everyone seems to like it (although I swap out the walnuts for my sister who doesn't really enjoy them).
posted by sciencegeek at 3:57 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

My birthday falls on Thanksgiving with whatever regularity the 28-year cycle is (four times in 28 years, but not exactly every seven), and I don't actually like turkey

My birthday is frequently a few days after Thanksgiving, and I don't like turkey either! My family has always joked that I was born early because I just couldn't anymore with the turkey dinner, and turkey sandwiches, and turkey this and turkey that leftovers, and had to get the fuck out of there.

The past two thanksgivings, my partner and I have started something of a tradition of staying home by ourselves and having a big yummy meal that's anything other than turkey (so far we've done Mexican, and pulled pork with appropriate sides). I hope we can keep it up because it's great. No traveling, no irritating relatives, and we still get a big fancy meal with days of leftovers. And no turkey!
posted by gueneverey at 4:45 AM on September 5, 2017

My father had a weird "good luck" thing he did during car trips: see a white horse? Be the first to lick your thumb, press that thumb into your opposite palm, then "stamp" the thumb print with the base of your licked-thumb hand. Bonus fun: trick others to do that when you see a white cow. And he told us about his father's two post-dinner clubs: the clean-plate club and the cherry-bottom club, but no one was ever inducted into the latter in my lifetime, and not because we were only members of the former.

My wife's father has a number of tough-love sayings that are much parodied among the adult children, and even his wife. Upset over an injury? "Show me the blood," and "it's a long way from your heart." Crying in general? "Stop crying, or I'll really give you something to cry about." But it's all gruff bluster from the man who decided his grandfather name is Grumpa :)

Our new traditions: with very little people who misbehave, we have mom or dad time out, in which mom or dad will hold them until they say they are sorry for whatever they did, and they hate it. Loss of physical freedom, even in the form of a hug, is the worst, and we love it :)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

All you non-turkey lovers confound me. Sliced turkey is delicious in sandwiches with horseradish, mayo, salt & pepper. Without the turkey, you don't get the stuffing or the gravy, or the turkey carcass which will yield quarts of fantastic stock. And side dishes. Corn pudding, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, curried squash. I liked it when my cousin, whose Mom was my Mom's sister, lived close enough to share Thanksgiving because she and I make the meal the same way.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also don't like chicken. I've managed to get over my childhood opposition to seafood (in my defense I grew up in Oklahoma, which didn't exactly have a lot of fresh seafood in the 70s) but in the same span I've gone from sort of tolerating poultry to really, no, I've given it many chances and I just don't like it. Lots of people really love the simple pleasure of a roasted chicken, but I am not one of them.
posted by fedward at 9:31 AM on September 5, 2017

Christmas presents labels always say they are from fictional characters. One year, my mother made all of my Christmas presents from Babylon 5 characters. G'Kar gave me a lovely winter hat that year.

I am a little bit sad that they weren't from Zathras and Zathras and Zathras, etc, but we do a similar thing. A silly Blade Runner related thing might be from Uncle Eldon.

It's not a tradition but lately I have had the habit of, every evening, going out into the backyard where I stomp around and threaten and insult the rabbits. Lest the vallhunds kill them (again). Hopefully this habit will be less relevant to my life come winter. We have exceptionally stupid rabbits.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 AM on September 5, 2017

Today is my birthday and I take it back, the cats got me some lovely coffee. I hope everyone else from MeFi with today birthdays is having a good day.

"that sounds fantastic."

Paul Ford had this to say on Twitter today and I totally agree.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I did not Thanksgiving last year because I knew I could not travel to the birthplace of Sarah Palin and deal with my extended family who are juuuust enough awful I went ice skating and then took the dog out on the frozen mud flats on my fat tire bike while my husband, who was working nights on purpose, slept. It was the perfect day. I was thankful. Highly recommended.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

We eat latkes on Christmas. We're atheists who like solstice but as the person who does ALL the gift buying and wrapping, I can't countenance losing the buying/wrapping time by doing the holiday do three days early, so we celebrate on Christmas. Our primary cook is vegetarian and our kids are super-picky, and we blundered into latkes one year and discovered that all three of the kids would eat them, so we moved them into pride of place as the main holiday meal.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Many years ago, my spouse made me an anniversary card that said "Happy Adversary!" I think maybe the word anniversary didn't fit? Or it might have been a joke, or an honest misspelling, who knows. Anyway, since then we've never wished each other a happy anniversary -- it's always Happy Apology, Happy Animosity, Happy Advisory, etc.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:00 PM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

A few of us - loose group of cousins - have an on-off tradition of getting presents that are mistakes in some (deliberate) way. One of my cousin's children is a young boy who is fanatical about Thomas the Tank Engine. So ... I spotted something in a local supermarket yesterday evening which I am very tempted to buy him for Christmas; just having the dilemma of whether he is too young still to be brought into this tradition.
posted by Wordshore at 2:39 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

My oldest friend and I have a robust secret language that we've been using since high school. It's a combination of altered words, repurposed words, and uncontextualized words and phrases that only high school stoners could create. I tried to come up with an example but everything sounds really silly if you don't know what's going on. His husband, who has known both of us for decades now, sometimes tries to play along and it's pretty adorable.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:26 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some breaks in the clouds last night, so seeing the Corn Moon was enjoyable. An explanation of why the Harvest Moon falls in October, not September, this year.
posted by Wordshore at 11:43 PM on September 5, 2017

All you non-turkey lovers confound me.

Regular turkey is basically tofu, without the things that make tofu occasionally nice. (Heritage turkeys are different, often with good flavor and texture; I'm talking about the ones you get at the grocery store at the holidays.) I'll eat it out of politeness, but not with any great amount of pleasure.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 AM on September 6, 2017

The Pluto Gangsta, the 'stealing the Afikomen' thing is actually relatively common, and that's how it worked in my house, too... which leads to my "weird family tradition" story.

I was... not completely inept, but certainly not the most ept Afikomen thief. One Passover, I came upon the BRILLIANT idea of 'dropping' my napkin under the table while Dad was paying attention to Mom reading one of the ENDLESS rabbinical stories in the Haggadah, crawling ever so quietly to Dad's tableside, and adroitly removing the Afikomen from his presence to mine. Plan thus hatched, I waited for just the right moment, dropped my napkin, and made my move.

Which, forty or more years later, is why the middle of every Passover seder since[1] has included the stirring words, "Rabban Gamliel used to say [HANOV3R] GET OUT FROM UNDER THE TABLE".

[1] Yes, ALL of them, including the USY seders that my youngest sister hosted at her synagogue decades later. There are lots of little Jewish kids in the Seaboard region who have NO idea what it means but still think it's funny
posted by hanov3r at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Regular turkey is basically tofu

That's funny, since companies go to great lengths to make tofu actually taste something like turkey, but nobody's running around trying to make anything taste like tofu...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:19 PM on September 6, 2017

We bury the bodies in the front yard, because no one thinks anyone would be foolish enough to bury the bodies in the front yard.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:57 PM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Every New Years Day, we gather at a beach north of Santa Cruz with all of our family friends. Hang out and talk, play, watch the sunset. My English parents and their gaggle of English friends started going, bleary-eyed, the morning after New Years Eve parties, in the 70s, finishing the leftovers and maybe having a little hair of the dog. In the last few years we have started to lose some of the older folks, and new babies are being born. I like to think when I am no more, my daughter and the grandchildren of the people who were on that beach in 1978 will be there, drinking a toast to my memory.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:20 PM on September 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

My God it's full of competitive cakes and vegetables ... hashtag peak English village show ... there will be photographs ...
posted by Wordshore at 7:31 AM on September 9, 2017

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