Metatalktail Hour: Family Traditions! February 23, 2019 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! After topic bankruptcy, my list is short and full of only good topics! So this week, If only I had a penguin... wants to know about your home-made family traditions: "By which I mean traditions started either deliberately or accidentally but that serve the function of giving families and especially kids a sense of tradition/continuity etc. Could be anything from "we always eat fish and chips after going to the dentist and chicken after haircuts" (one my family started accidentally because there's a fish and chips place near the dentist and a Mary Brown's chicken besides where we cut our hair) to one I've heard mentioned where you can open one gift Christmas eve and if it's a book you can stay up and read it."

As always, this is a conversation starter, not limiter, and we want to hear everything that's up with you! And post-topic-bankruptcy, hit me up with good topics!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 5:05 PM (70 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

My grandfather would make each of his children, and then his grandchildren, "Santa sacks" -- brown paper grocery bags with Christmas candy, whole unshelled nuts, and an orange. That was what you got for Christmas in the country, back in the day, and even though I didn't crack or eat the nuts, I appreciated them. I can still smell the inside of the paper sacks. (Plastic took over, but it wasn't the same.)

When I was a girl, we would drive to Memphis to the Oak Court Mall every year to see the bigger stores. I remember absolutely dying over the brand-new Good Omens while we rode down Highway 61, which is a mix of influences and privileges that it would take a thesis to untangle. And before we left, we would each get a chocolate-dipped strawberry from the Godiva store, which was a rare treat then.

The Oak Court Mall was riddled with shootings; its retailers fled. Its extremely vaporwave centerpiece, a giant solid marble ball held aloft by water pressure, settled and turned green with mold. Godiva can be found in any drugstore. This is all probably just as well. But I miss chocolate-covered strawberries in some kind of way.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

We've stuffed the kids' Christmas stockings with super fun foodstuffs and candies since they were old enough to have those sorts of things. We have an amazing international market here, Jungle Jim's, and we grab candies and treats and snacks from as many different departments as we can. The kids love it and we love doing it.

This Christmas? THEY DID THE SAME THING FOR US. I nearly cried from happiness. My kids took a beloved tradition and they treated us to it without any prompting or asking or suggesting by us. It was pretty amazing and it made me feel like we scored a huge parenting win.


In other news, I GOT A NEW JOB!!! Y'all, I cannot TELL you how happy I am. I had an interview two weeks ago and then on Wednesday I got an email asking if I was available for an informal lunch with the rest of the team I didn't meet at the interview. That was yesterday, and I got the offer phone call that evening! I have been on cloud nine ever since! I can't stop smiling! My current job is a hot fucking mess with a new, horrible, awful director and I'm gonna be FREE!!!

posted by cooker girl at 5:30 PM on February 23, 2019 [66 favorites]

My family tradition is gardening! Seriously! My Grandpa grew melons and grapes and hydrangeas in a tiny garden in the Bronx, mom and dad basically had a small farm where I garden now, and past my grandpa it was basically shtetl farmers all the way down. I guess it's in my blood.

I got a little over excited at the garden center last Sunday and ended up with packages a tad too heavy to be carrying home on two buses but I managed somehow. I then did some totally unnecessary mowing since the rains are coming back soon- and some wild mint managed to almost kill my poor mower to boot. I finally got to plant my bounty from the garden center including some nice mints that are safely in pots thank you very much. Finally I sowed a new seed bed outside, and some seeds for later inside, among other things.
Rains start again on Monday, so the new beds aren't going out til at least March. More carrots are becoming harvest-able which is nice, and I keep picking my lovely Bok Choy for the dinner table. I'm concerned about the damage too much wind and water can do- as evidenced by a tree crashing through the fence at my local park. Adding to the problems, something is wrong with my potato bags possibly too much water- possibly blight. Whoops! That's what I get for not starting from seed potatoes.

I just cooked a grand dinner for me and my parents, bok choy and carrots from the garden, mashed potatoes and miso-salmon. Made me think of Eyebrow's family feasts, on a smaller scale. Mom's been really sick, but the DR started taking her seriously at long last, and the tests (and fever) show she has a flu like infection. She's starting to feel better, and her fever has broken that goodness. Which considering the flu shots only been half effective this year, could just be the flu. It has meant I've been in charge of everything at home, luckily I live pretty close to a good Asian grocery chain, so I've been able to walk to get groceries. Dad's gashes from his fall are healing well, though I want to murder one of his Doctors. While at the office for another reason, one of the DR's aides offered to re-bandage the huge gash on his arm. Well he used fucking ace tape, and late at night that night dad complained it hurt, and I had to take it off because it was wrapped too tight and he was getting edema in his wrist and hand. swollen like a balloon! Luckily it cleared up. Who bandages a wound on a diabetic with fucking pressure tape! Mom's jokingly been calling me "nurse neanderthal" and I'll just be happy when dad's arm looks better.

Oh and in cat news, the neighborhood ferals are on vermin patrol in my garden, to the point where I found the remains of a crime scene this morning. (not in any pictures ew) Since there are now vole and gopher holes all over the garden... I am suddenly much more appreciative of the neighborhood kitties taken care of business. Wish I wasn't allergic, I'd try to give them pets. And then lose my hand because these are ferals. Maybe its for the best I'm allergic.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:31 PM on February 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

Twenty years ago when my [at the time] husband and I were with his family in Fermoy, Ireland the whole lot of the ‘kids’ - in our 20s and 30s - went down the road to a snug pub for New Year’s Eve sing-a-longs n booze. My ex has a terrific memory for old ballads that the old timers love in Ireland and regaled everyone with one great unifying tune after another, rounds of applause and much mirth. At 11.40pm with several drinks down, we started feeling bad about the parents/in-laws staying in at home for NYE on their own. We raced and slid down the icy roads as fast as we could to get home in time for midnight. When we all fell in the door, my FiL was so happy he got a bit tearful and tried to find whatever he could to feed us and make merry. He found a bunch of chipolatas in the back of the fridge and fried them up, poured champagne and we all cheered in the new year with sausages balanced on forks in one hand, glass in the other.

Every year since we have done this, had sausages and champagne at midnight. Now we toast the departed FiL and remember a great night. I’m divorced now, and vegetarian, yet I break my meat fast each year to keep up the tradition. Everyone in that family, and now their children and partners new and old, does the same thing each year.

Less beautiful or sentimental though, is my natal family tradition of waking everyone up on Christmas morning with a loud blaring and sing-a-long of ‘Mr Hanky the Christmas poo’ and then we go for a jump in the ocean before we open our pressies. We are such a classy family.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2019 [15 favorites]

The one I talk about a lot here is Family Feast! When Micro McGee was four or so, we couldn't make it to grandma's for Thanksgiving because we'd all been sick, so at 9 o'clock Thanksgiving morning I raced over to Kroger and got all the fixings and produced a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by 5 p.m., and Micro McGee sighed sadly, "I didn't know you could cook like grandma! I wish we could have a feast every week."

So we don't have one EVERY week but we try to do one or two a month, with a tablecloth and place settings and cloth napkins and everything. I'll try to do menus that are related to things they're interested in (books or places or things they're learning in school).

Today we did Mr. McGee's birthday dinner and the theme this year was French Bistro. We had steak au poivre with cream sauce (SO GOOD) and steak fries, with a mesclun salad with toasted goat cheese rounds which I will DEFINITELY do again. My tarte tatin was a failure, but that's okay, we had spare birthday cake from yesterday and ate the salvageable bits of the tarte tatin with lots of ice cream! PICTURES! I got flameless candles at Crate & Barrel for the bistro feel, and I LOVE them, I feel like my kids are having a lot of flameless candlelight dinners in their future! (Also please note my toddler, who sits at the head of the table, has her own place setting that matches the rest of my flatware but is toddler-sized IT IS MY FAVORITE THING IN THE UNIVERSE!!!!!!)

Also people ask a lot, do you let your kids eat on your fine china? YES, and I have for years, since they were old enough for plates instead of high chair trays. If you have bone china, it's INCREDIBLY sturdy, sturdier than stoneware and just about as sturdy as Corelle. So far we haven't had anything break and we start giving it to toddlers at around 12 months (my oldest is almost 10).

(Also I learned from doing family feast that my husband does not actually know how to set a table, but thinks he does, and I don't really know how to tell him he's doing it wrong!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:44 PM on February 23, 2019 [17 favorites]

Haha... I'm gonna lower the tone dramatically. Many years ago when I was married to my ex-husband, we got together with his older brother, Mike, on his birthday. Mike was grumpy because apparently his wife had not done anything special for his special day. "I didn't even get a blow job today," he grumped. My then-husband grinned and said "I did!" which did nothing to improve Mike's mood.

For years afterwards, the husband always got a BJ on his brother's birthday, accompanied by the song "Happy Birthday to Mike."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2019 [40 favorites]

We haven’t really started any traditions with our little boys. I feel like we’re still focused on keeping everyone’s pants on week by week. The one we sort of started last summer is every so often picking a warm evening, getting fast food for dinner and then eating it in the back of my truck along Alameda beach while watching the sun set through the San Francisco skyline.

I have been sick as a dog in bed for the last five days. Today I feel dizzy as hell but my fever is down to 101 and I actually feel like eating. I need miso.
posted by not_the_water at 6:09 PM on February 23, 2019 [11 favorites]

In my family we give lewd and off-color cards to one another. For my birthday last year, my brother's card had several bulls watching some lady cows at a strip club, admiring their udders, and one bull said to his friend, "Yeah but are they real?" That's the general level of sophistication.

The first holiday I spent with my husband's family, I watched as they opened Christmas cards they'd chosen for one another. These were the sappiest, drippiest, most sentimental cards, with flowers, scrolls and little angels. Each one would read the treacly verse, then tear up and then thank the person who gave it. I thought they were putting me on at first but it's a sincere way that they express their love for one another. Was, anyway. My MIL died 3 years ago and my FIL died 2 days ago after a very long illness so I guess that tradition is fading out now.

This coming week is going to be very tiring. I have a business trip on Monday and then will travel to very rural Illinois for my FIL's funeral. There's no easy way to get there. My parents will watch our special-needs son and it'll be tough for him to have his routine upended. Tomorrow I'll be running around getting everything ready for all this. But tonight the house is peaceful, my kid is playing quietly with his various devices and laughing to himself and I'm happy to be hanging out with my Mefi friends.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

Family tradition is that serious cards are basically not allowed, but you have to send a card or something. So I'm definitely remiss for a recent birthday, and I've probably been doing it wrong with a few recent serious cards.
posted by limeonaire at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

In November 2002, my grandmother was dying in the hospital. She was 85, had a few bad years, all of her friends and most of her siblings were gone. She was ready. My mother was pleading with her to hang on, because Thanksgiving was coming, and wouldn't she want to see Thanksgiving?

My tiny Italian granny scowled from the hospital bed that dwarfed her and said, "Fuck Thanksgiving."

She passed away less than a week before Thanksgiving, and in the 16 years since, "Fuck Thanksgiving" has become my family's official Thanksgiving toast. She'd have liked that.
posted by kimberussell at 7:38 PM on February 23, 2019 [50 favorites]

Like 30 minutes ago, we just got back from our annual winter break trip. This was our sixth year in a row that we spent president’s week at this dinky ski resort in eastern British Columbia which has a few condos, epic mountains, and several meters of powdery snow and like nothing else for many miles around. We always go with the same group of families who have kids the same age as mine. This was the first year it really felt like “our special family thing.” The kids talk about it all year, which difficult runs they are finally going to conquer and they count the days leading up to the trip. This was the first year that the little ones could keep up with the adults and older kids. My oldest kid and his friend set out a goal to ski every double black run on the mountain and by god they fucking did it, including some runs I won’t do. The evenings are all communal meals and board games and hot tubbing. We pick movies we think will be fun for adults and kids and one night we watched “School of Rock” which I thought was pretty cute when it came out, but watching it with a bunch of 8-10 year olds was fucking amazing and the next day this pack of kids went screaming down the mountain imitating Jack Black: “Step off! Step off! Step off!!!!” Really, if you haven’t rewatched this with your favorite 10 year old, you should go do it now.

It’s really the one week I look forward to the most all year and I think the rest of my family would say the same.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:40 PM on February 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

My family always has cheese fondue for dinner on the day of the first snow in the fall. In New Hampshire where I grew up, this was usually in October or November. When I moved to North Carolina, it was sometimes in January or February or sometimes not at all. Now I live in South Florida and there is no cheese fondue in my future. I don't ever have to shovel snow, but I'm not sure that's a fair trade.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:44 PM on February 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

We're not particularly religious in our house, but we had to teach our son (originally) and our daughter to say Grace for their grandparent's. We did so with a little extra at the end.

everybody holds hands
'Dear lord, thank you for the food which we are about to receive. Please watch over our family and friends and help keep them happy, healthy and strong. Amen.'

*fist bump each direct neighbor*
*double-arm pump*
and then cheers with your beverage.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:03 PM on February 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

My parents did a lot of these around Christmas. Aside from (clear) electric lights, everything on the Christmas tree was handmade. We'd make some new kind of ornament every year and add it to the stock. because we didn't do Santa Claus, we all filled each other's Christmas stockings. Mom made hors d'oeuvres and a cocktails cart on Christmas Eve for people who dropped in, but very few people ever did, so there were always lots of leftovers. When my sister and I got up early on Christmas morning, our breakfast was leftover things on crackers, cocktail weenies, and unholy mocktails made from all the mixers. If you got underpants as a gift (and everybody always got underpants), you put them on your head while you unwrapped everything else.

Non-Christmas: if anyone asked you to pass them bread or pancakes at the table, you got to slap them in the face with them as if they were dueling gloves.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:05 PM on February 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

Having just been through the holidays, I'm reminded of my family tradition surrounding the holidays, and how I've grown to detest them.

When I was born, the family tradition was that my entire extended family on my mom's side (her father, plus all his brothers and sisters and all the encompassing families) got together 4x a year to celebrate something or another. This involved approximately 100 people (at the time) all gathering at one family member's house (they were big houses, but still people were jammed in) to celebrate. We did a certain family member's birthday, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. My grandfather and grandmother hosted Thanksgiving. I always hated this most of all because my birthday is on or around Thanksgiving every year, and there was either a big deal made about it around everyone, or there was absolutely no deal made about it. I accidentally knocked my 3 year old sister into the pool at a 4th of July one year. Christmas has just become a cry-fest after a family member went missing a few years ago (she's dead, we all know she's dead, you run with people that would fit into a real-life cast of Sons of Anarchy, and you get dead). The family member who's birthday it was died many years ago. Now, it's only 40 people, and I only care for about 5 of them.

We're down now to just Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is still too much. My parents and I had a very frank discussion while I was home for Christmas this year that we're only beholden to the tradition as long as her mom is still alive. The rest of the family can rot as far as we're concerned, as they're a bunch of MAGA-hat wearing, racist, bigoted, backwoods hillbillies. Yes, that's where I grew up, but that's not who I ever was.

From above, Fuck Thanksgiving.


So if you're hanging out in Chat (come hang out in Chat!), you already know my news, but I'm telling work on Monday that this starts my wind-down, and that I'm taking another job. It's not rough like cooker girl has been having it, but with the changes at my place of employment and the fact that my human interaction has waned to none as well as that I have been pigeon holed into a fraction of what I used to do, I'm just not going to be happy. A friend from college reached out saying "I need someone with your skillset in the city you're in, we're expanding there". That conversation ended in a raise on my current salary, a car allowance, the opportunity to do some travelling, and using my skillset to do something I've never done. I'm thoroughly elated.
posted by deezil at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2019 [36 favorites]

We have a kind of a weird tradition that comes from back in the days when my partner and I were first dating (20+ years ago now) and we were too poor to go out to eat. On Valentine's Day I make some variation of Spanish rice which when served must be shaped into a heart. While we eat it we listen to this song. We've never missed a year.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:25 PM on February 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

On payday Fridays depending we would eat Costco crab from the cutting board, or all the raspberries the girls wanted to eat from a flat of them, or some other earthly treat. Oh and motel camping candy, one big bag per day for road trips to southern Utah, or The Great Basin over in Nevada.
posted by Oyéah at 8:30 PM on February 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I grew up celebrating Hanukkah, but just by lighting the candles and my mom giving me presents. Without any kids in the family anymore, you'd think it would wind down -- but my cat LOVES it. She always sits by the menorah until the candles burn out. Also, if I'm slow to start the present opening, she will go over to the presents and meowing and batting at them until I get to it. She loves holidays in general, but Hanukkah is by far her favorite.

Oh, and that reminds me -- when I was a kid, my family had two cats. My parents and I would sit on the front steps every night after dinner, and the cats would join us. Then we moved to a house with a side porch and that's where my parents would sit after dinner instead. Well, our one surviving cat still wanted to be on the front stoop after dinner, so he kept the tradition alive on his own. And then my parents adopted a stray, and she joined our other cat on the front stoop every night, too. The two cats really didn't get along, but they sat on the front steps together every night until the first cat eventually passed away, and then the adopted stray kept sitting out there alone every night for the next six or seven years until she passed away, too.
posted by rue72 at 8:34 PM on February 23, 2019 [31 favorites]

I'm finally in Maryland! I got in last night after having driven more than 3300 miles in six days. It was a pretty grueling experience, but it's over now and I can finally rest. Just in time, too, since I managed to get the flu on my last day and had to drive with a fever.

When I'm feeling better, I'll post an IRL thing. It would be fun to meet people around here.

As for family traditions, one that leaps to mind is one from my childhood. We would always go to my grandmother's apartment for Christmas (this was long after she'd converted to Judaism to marry and later divorce my grandfather, but whatever). She had this wine stopper from France, probably dating back at least to the turn of the century. It was a little painted bust of a man in a cap, and you could put these tiny incense cigarettes in his mouth, which he'd puff on and blow smoke rings. So every Christmas after dinner, we'd bring him out, light his cigarette, and everyone would cheer him on (mostly by going "eyy!") while he blew perfumed smoke rings at all of us.

It's probably been at least 15 years since we celebrated there, and my grandmother is no longer with us. But now I'm curious to know where he ended up.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:58 PM on February 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

So if you're hanging out in Chat (come hang out in Chat!), you already know my news, but I'm telling work on Monday that this starts my wind-down, and that I'm taking another job

Aww, hell yes. My employer, with whom I've had a tempestuous relationship as of late (see many previous comments) decided to try and ruin my vacation last week by calling me into a meeting to tell me I needed to return from my vacation with a decision about "whether I really wanted to work with" said company. Finding a new job is sort of low on my list of priorities but I got my resume updated and there's lots of people hiring, but moving into a new job isn't something I want to do right now, I just want all of the new senior leadership to leave so we can go back to the way things were when I was happy and well liked and effective. Well, in my week off I didn't magically come up with a decision but I did realize that I am just never going to get over my contempt for the incompetence of the new stuffed shirt bureaucrats trying to tell me how to practice medicine and that's something at least. I don't know that I'm going to get a massively better deal while I'm in the middle of a master's degree program in management, but it feels like a big professional step to decide "No, I'm not wrong, you all are the ones that are wrong" and I make my next decisions with that as a starting point.

Never trust administrators who have never been anything but an administrator. Show me the dirt under your fingernails and we'll talk.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:16 PM on February 23, 2019 [17 favorites]

My parents' divorce left us "kids" feeling very ambivalent about family traditions - as most of the ones we really cherished went down the gurgler with my parents' marriage. There were attempts to replace them, but they were generally not well received, and in fact some family members go out of their way to not have any "traditions" around Christmas with their own kids now, because of the trauma they associate with losing all traditions in one fell swoop.

I have kept one, which is to make a prawn, mango and avocado salad with Christmas lunch.

My own, young, family, is still establishing what you might call traditions. My youngest only started school this year, so routines have been in flux. We have the prosaic "take-away" (take out) on a Friday night, and we've had what appear to be firming into annual beach and mountain holidays, but we're pretty easy going so far - and whilst I lack the vehemence of the family above, it's kinda nice to not feel bound to doing a particular thing at a particular time.
posted by smoke at 9:19 PM on February 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

At family holiday get-togethers my dad would always bring his famous apple pie. After he died I wanted to continue his tradition and share his pie at any Thanksgiving or Christmas get together I went to.

I called my mom to get the recipe and she recited it off the top of her head, but she said: "you must get the Pillsbury pie crusts from the refrigerator section."

OK, fine. I went to the grocery store to pick up all the ingredients. When I got to the refrigerator section I found the box of pie crusts and added them to my cart.

While I was standing in line waiting to pay I compared the Pillsbury apple pie recipe from the crust box with "daddy's famous apple pie" recipe and they were identical.
posted by bendy at 9:21 PM on February 23, 2019 [23 favorites]

Oh wow, my mom has a little smoking man pretty similar to that, shapes! The "cigarettes" he smokes aren't incense, though, they're these tiny paper things that burn to a string of ash just like real cigarettes. I guess there's no way to find more of them -- who knows where this little guy came from in the first place -- so my mom has always been very tight with his "cigarettes" and I have only ever seen the man smoke a few times. Actually, my mom collected smoking figurines for a while, and the weirdest one is this delighted-looking lounging baby/man sculpture that smokes real cigarettes and is enormous, like the size of a garden gnome.

My parents also used to have these tabletop cigarette holders to display cigarettes for guests -- like a coffeetable candy dish, but for smokers? Did anyone else have these things? This was in like 1998 at the earliest, not a hundred years ago like it sounds, so eventually I guess my mom felt weird about having "guest cigarettes" on display and got rid of them. But around ten years ago I gave her a mannequin hand for her birthday (I saw it in some store and just knew she'd like it *shrug*) and it's now in her living room with the hand holding a cigarette between its fingers like it's having a smoke, and there's a matchbook in its palm. So if you're ever in my parents' house and in dire need of nicotine, don't worry, my mom still has you covered!

I don't smoke and in retrospect I really don't know how that happened.
posted by rue72 at 10:05 PM on February 23, 2019 [15 favorites]

We did a certain family member's birthday, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

That reminds me of a tradition I really miss. My mother is a twin, and their birthday is at the end of August. The whole family used to use that as an excuse to get together at Grandma's cottage on the lake before the Labor Day travel rush.

I don't know why it never seemed crowded; the house was tiny and their chunk of beach wasn't huge. I guess weekends spent most of our time in the water. There were two huge rocks under the water about 15 feet out. We called them Rocky and Rocky II, and we always had to look for them first thing.

One of the best parts was sleeping on the beach with Aunt MomsTwin. The sound of the waves was the best lullaby. She's gone now, as are so many others. Linear time is a harsh mistress.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:18 PM on February 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

My family loves reading and we express love through convincing others to try books we like. My mom is currently working her way through one of my favorite books from the last few years, Carry On. (My spouse and child have already read it, because I love them and needed to share it.)

We also talk about what we are currently reading and my daughter frequently will perk up at some of the descriptions and steal the book. (I have to be cautious if I'm in the middle.) Right now we're reading Naomi Novak's books about Temeraire the dragon and it is so fun to be reading it for the first time together. We have a lot of thoughts and questions and we're basically our own tiny impromptu book group. (She's started the fifth book and I'll start it tomorrow when she's not reading it.)

I'm in the ER right now, with my mom. They think she'll be fine and they'll send us home soon, so I'm just trying to stay awake to drive. My stepdad just got out of the hospital yesterday, after a two day stay. This is a very nice hospital, with the calmest, quietest ER I've ever visited. But I still hope we leave soon and don't come back for awhile.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:25 PM on February 23, 2019 [11 favorites]

Until I was maybe 13, we spent each New Years Eve at my Scottish grandma’s house for Hogmanay, but ‘the children’ were always sent to bed way before midnight! So I rang in the new year sitting at the top of the stairs which whichever of my two younger sisters managed to stay awake.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:23 AM on February 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

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, or a smear of mayonnaise will start showing up and it's probably about time you're declared too old for this tradition.

(If this comment gives you a sense of déjà lu, then you are absolutely correct. But it fits here so well.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:44 AM on February 24, 2019 [20 favorites]

Trying to think of some family traditions, but as I have a raging hangover, thoughts are not occurring quickly this Sunday morning. The reason for this pounding? Alternating between champagne, gin and tonic, and splendid red wine, at a wedding reception/party yesterday afternoon/evening/night/the early hours. I could do with some more bed time (for sleep) as well.

The ceremony, and reception and party, were largely held outdoors in what appeared to be the windiest field in the East Midlands. A small gazebo was repeatedly blown over by the lightest gust; and two staff diligently got it back up, only for it to blow over again shortly afterwards. Repeat for several hours.

I was one of those scheduled to speak some words. Despite doing wedding speeches many times before, still the nerves and the queasy feeling in the stomach. It never goes. I'd followed instruction in the construction of my speech, though I remained puzzled at several people knowingly telling me to "make it funny; the vicar likes a good laugh" without further explanation. Huh.

{head hurtie; chugs down a pint of water and aspirin}

It was an excellent wedding. Being a good friend of both bride and groom (it was my exasperated "Oh, will you two hurry up and get a room!" comment at another wedding reception back in 2015 that caused them to actually stop drawn-out dilly-dallying and do the actual dating thing, leading to yesterday's nuptuals) meant I knew people on both sides, and there weren't really sides at this wedding anyway, so it was the best kind.

The bride's father has a bit of a "get orf my land!" reputation, and is known in these parts as "The Badger", for both his appearance and general character. He's surprisingly similar to the farmer in this clip from a film I'll come back to. At the reception he spoke ... bellowed ... first with "I'm bloody paying for this, so you'll have to bloody listen to me for a while whether you loikes it or not". Small children hid under tables. I quietly planned my cake acquisition strategy.

He paused and looked out of the open marquee side, to watch the staff put the limp gazebo back up yet again.

"I hopes my new son-in-law has more bloody stamina than that!"

Cue the entire audience falling about laughing. At which point the vicar also laughed and ... (this will be lost on people who are not British of a certain age) ... I stared at him open-mouthed as he had exactly the same laugh as Sid James. Oh! Which just added to the hilarity as several others, unfamiliar with the vicar, also jaw-dropped and doubled up further.

After laughing subsided, and tears were wiped, The Badger continued, with regular interruptions from his wife and daughter who gave as good as they got (and more). A few other speeches were given (the groom started his with an off-the-cuff "What the bloody hell have I gotten myself into?"), and then I gave mine.

It went very well, and I did give a shoutout to MetaFilter as I included several suggestions provided by MeFites through an AskMeFi question. I'm no Dave Allen anyway but I avoided anything religious (the audience contained a few devout people and a bishop) or anything to do with the chain store the bride worked in. Though we noticed that one of the other speeches slipped in several subtle references to bunnies; naughty Darren! People laughed in the places where I hoped they would laugh (and this included all the suggestions from MeFites). No-one fainted, required smelling salts or flounced out, but I wasn't fearing that as no-one that dull or prudish would have been invited by either side.

But the really weird thing about doing the speech was repeatedly hearing the vicar's laugh, which was really, seriously, distracting, while trying to speak. Carry On films were an integral part of my upbringing, and that of rather a lot of British people of middle-age and older. They were never going to win any Oscars, and you watch them for an hour or two of relentless innuendo and entendre. For example, Carry On Camping (of that earlier farmer clip) was the highest attended film in British cinemas in 1969 . And the best man last night made a reference to the groom having no siblings by quoting a scene from I think it's Carry On Abroad:

"No thank you; tried it once but didn't like it."

"No thank you; tried it once but didn't like it."

"Hmm, strange"
"Not at all; my daughter is just the same."
"Your only child, I assume..."

Anyway, the evening was good, my head still hurts, but I thankfully had just about cognitive functionality left by the end of the event to stuff some cake into tupperware. Which, once the tiny elf with the hammer has stopped inside my brain, I'm going to start consuming. I hope your breakfast/brunch is also splendid, you are full of energy and vigour this Sunday morning, and you keep it up all day. Toodle pip.
posted by Wordshore at 4:20 AM on February 24, 2019 [16 favorites]

As my family has aged, the traditions have fallen away more and more, but I'm ok with that. One that's stayed is that for holidays that my parents host, my mom makes crab dip, which is imitation crab and cream cheese, with chili sauce layered on top. It's always served in the same oblong bowl, with the same spreader. This is the only time those two dishes are used.

My house is on the route of my city's Fourth of July parade, which steps off at 9 am (so early!) , and goes for almost 3 hours. Since the first year I've lived here, I host a brunch party -- mimosas, bloody Marys, breakfast beers, lots and lots of food (including a yogurt bar - plain/vanilla yogurt with all kinds of toppings), etc. After the parade, we move all the coolers to the backyard and hang out there until the sun moves to the point where there is no shade left on the patio, then everyone leaves, normally by 1 or so. That's been going on for 5-6 years and people would be upset if it didn't happen, so I'll call that a tradition.

This weekend has been fun so far! Friday night, I went to 'The Origin of Love' tour, which is John Cameron Mitchell performing songs from and talking about the making of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was phenomenal. I'm a huge Hedwig fan, and seeing/hearing JCM perform was incredibly moving. At one point, he talked about how "The Long Grift" was written about his boyfriend at the time being an addict, and that was the first time I've cried at a theater performance. And, one of my friends dropped out at the last minute and I was able to give her ticket to another Hedwig megafan, whose excitement and joy made me really happy.

Then, yesterday I met bookmammal (who I hope doesn't mind being called out!) for lunch, and we had a very delightful conversation, and she is a wonderful person that I'm glad I got to meet IRL. So far so good! Today is church and chores.

Next weekend I get to go to Orlando for a trade show, which will be fun. I'm going a day early to enjoy sun and the pool bar, so there's that.
posted by Fig at 5:52 AM on February 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

During Passover seders, there's a part of the service where you dip a vegetable in salt water - generally parsley, but I've seen other vegetables used (in my family it always included potatoes). For my husband's family, they use bananas. Because two generations ago when his rabbi great-grandfather moved to America and first discovered bananas, he wanted to make sure the community knew that because they grow from a plant and not a true tree, they get the blessing for vegetables rather than that for fruits. And the seder is the universal occasion for making that blessing. So: bananas in salt water every year.

It's an acquired taste.
posted by Mchelly at 6:06 AM on February 24, 2019 [14 favorites]

This last winter solstice, my mother in law invented an entirely new tradition. This replaced the family's previous solstice tradition, which was cobbled together from a surprising number of different mythologies and included many silly, made-up rituals that were designed to appeal to a young kid. (The three of us are game to do silly things. . . but, nobody was really excited by any of it any more.) It was a five-day event based on the story of Horus and Set. Each day had a theme drawn from one part of the story, appropriately thematic foods and drinks, and discussion prompts based on that theme. Though I sometimes find her enthusiasm for spiritual belief hard to really understand, I've got to admit she put together the most interesting holiday festival I've ever participated in. Beats the hell out of anything my family ever did for Christmas.

My childhood family's rituals are pretty unexciting. The ones I remember were mostly about fast food and the closest restaurant to regular events. Pizza and a rental movie every Friday night (half with pineapple, for me, half not, for mom). Yoshinoya after the dentist. Taco Bell in the car immediately before music lessons. A very particular McDonalds that had a huge indoor play area 2/3 of the way along a 300 mile trip home from visiting grandparents. I'm not sure why we never visited on the outbound trip, but we didn't.

A colleague of mine invented a really nice academic one: every time someone in their research group get a paper accepted, the whole group goes out for a nice meal to celebrate, which the PI pays for personally. I've stolen the idea.
posted by eotvos at 6:27 AM on February 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

All four of us in my family have birthdays within a five-week period, so it’s kind of a madhouse for a while (plus the beginning of school and Halloween in there too) but the rest of the year is quieter. Anyway, I started serving my husband snails on his birthday, since those are hard to come by in this country, even though they are trivially easy to make once you’ve got the teeny forks and the shells and the dimply plates and the pinchy-grabbers. I like snails okay, but it’s a lot of butter and garlic all at once.

But once my son and then my daughter became old enough to ask for specific birthday foods, they both wanted snails as well, which means snails three times in four weeks. So by the time the last birthday has birthday-ed, I am so heartily sick of snails.
posted by Liesl at 6:27 AM on February 24, 2019 [12 favorites]

In my family we joke that if we do something once then it becomes a tradition...
One thing we’ve done for years is giving each other scratch off lottery tickets every holiday. And I mean EVERY holiday. It started off with Christmas and birthdays but has advanced over the years to Labor Day, Memorial Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, 4th of July... and then we sit together and scratch them off.

In other news—I had the most awesome dream last night. I dreamed I was watching a movie—and I dreamed the whole movie within my dream! Bonus dream! Can’t remember much of the movie plot now but there was a white cat that kept recurring and then went missing. In the dream after the movie dream was over, there was a big discussion about the symbolism of the white cat and what really happened to it. So cool!!!

Also—yes, had a long wonderful lunch with Fig yesterday with much conversation about pets, books, yoga, and many other things and it was so much fun to meet her IRL!
posted by bookmammal at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

Whenever my brother and I got our report cards (which were always good), my father would take us out to the BIG independent bookstore downtown and give us generous but age-appropriate budgets for picking out whatever books we wanted. Buying books at a good bookstore still feels very much like a reward to me.


My new job is still going well, though I unexpectedly got a new manager on Wednesday, which I found out at the same time as the rest of the company because she just showed up at our department meeting (she had been out on leave and there was no real indication that she'd be back anytime soon). The person who had been managing me is out on vacation, so it's a little disorienting. Also I have one direct report who was hired before I was, but she hasn't been able to start due to bureaucraticness and there was no indication that she'd be able to start anytime soon, either, but Tuesday night I got an email saying she'd be starting Tuesday. So I have a new boss and a new employee in the same week, without any real warning. We'll see how it goes.

I had a friend over for dinner last night and we had homemade beef and broccoli stirfry with some amazing wine and now the house is all clean and cozy. I put almonds out for the scrub jays this morning, and I put them on the stoop next to the windowed front door so that the cats can watch them and chitter, and the jays can taunt the cats, and it's a good time all 'round. There are many fat robins hopping about. I'm meeting up with friends for coffee this morning, then church, then who knows what the afternoon will bring, but it will most likely be chore-related.
posted by lazuli at 8:18 AM on February 24, 2019 [11 favorites]

The neighbors' horses just started running around full-speed and bucking and playing around (ha, horsing around!) just, seemingly, for the sheer joy of it, and looking out my window and seeing horses running always makes me happy.
posted by lazuli at 8:46 AM on February 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

A really goofy one I just brought back this year: eating Pizza Hut on New Year's Day. When I was a kid, I was REALLY into family traditions, to the point where, whenever my family did literally anything, I would declare it a "tradition" and make them do it over and over again on a rigid calendar. One year, we were at my dad's for New Year's, and he (shockingly) didn't have any food for lunch (he was not big on things like, you know, providing a nice environment for his kids, but whatevs). So we ordered pizza instead. Before the pie was even on the table, I had proclaimed that henceforth, we would eat Pizza Hut pizza on each New Year's Day as we watched the Citrus and Outback Bowls. The next year, as we were waiting for the Outback Bowl to kick off, I reminded everyone that we were going to Pizza Hut for lunch. Everyone, predictably, scoffed. We didn't go to Pizza Hut, and the "tradition" died.

Until this year. There's a Pizza Hut a few doors down (or rather, a Pizza Hut Italian Bistro, which is absolutely HILARIOUS when I suggest to my wife that we should go to "that little bistro down the street"). I actually lived here on 1/1/18, but it didn't come to mind. But this year, I seized the opportunity to revive a latent tradition! I got my pan pizza and breadsticks and was back in time to watch Ohio State win the Rose Bowl, which is another New Year's tradition that I wish would happen more often.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:18 AM on February 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

I’m getting a crash course in the joys of homeownership this weekend, starting with the boiler depressurising itself/leaking so I got home on Friday to no hot water and no heating. Some swearing and a visit from the plumber has got that back up and running but my plumber isn’t a heating engineer (yet) so we need to get someone else in to do a full service/replacing some seals.

At least we have an electric shower, I said. Forgetting that I was apparently wearing the homeowner equivalent of copper trousers and standing in a field yelling that all gods are bastards, there of course because guess whose electric shower tripped the isolation switch while I was in it this morning. ElectricIan coming out on Thursday, suspect that because it is tripping the RCD, it is an earthing issue and will probably require a new shower unit. Hahahahahahahahaha.

On the plus side, the cats we’re adopting arrive on Tuesday. Bweeeeee! Cat tax will appear soon as the shelter photos aren’t great and I shall take many more when they are in my house. CATS! Bweeeeeee! They are a tuxedo mother and daughter pair, aged 6 and 5. I have been setting up litter boxes, scratching posts and etc. in anticipation.
posted by halcyonday at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

Will there be a forthcoming AskMe, or are they already named?
posted by bookmammal at 9:29 AM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another fun one that I was happy to adapt: In my family, it has been a tradition as far back as I can trace that the first-born son's middle name is his father's first name. So my middle name is my dad's first name, my dad's older brother's middle name is my grandpa's first name, my grandpa's middle name is my great-grandpa's first name, and so on. I'm 100% committed to carrying this tradition on, but my first-born child is a girl. As it happens, her first name sounds absolutely mellifluous with my wife's first name as a middle name. And, coincidentally, my sister-in-law gave her oldest daughter her first name as a middle name. So we've declared a new tradition: first-born girls will have their mother's first name as their middle name, just like the boys!
posted by kevinbelt at 9:30 AM on February 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

I send one sibling occasion-inappropriate cards for his birthday, as of the last couple years. (First: a heavily-glittered card congratulating him on the baptism of his daughter;* this year: an Easter card with a hard plastic T-Rex in bunny ears, carrying an Easter basket.) January.

My husband and I have hosted Elviramas for a couple years now. Main features are the viewing of an Elvira movie (last year: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. This year: Elvira's Haunted Hills, which was much, much stupider, and therefore better.) and the consumption of a black cake (well, the first year it was more of a dark gray, but we worked out the food coloring this year and it was legitimately black). This year there was also an artificial Christmas tree, spray-painted black, with red Christmas lights, handmade ornaments (Elvira photos, printed out and glued to foam board), and a witch's hat on top. Christmas music and gift-giving are prohibited. We're hoping to find some cheap Elvira wigs this year, so we can get a picture of everybody together in a wig,** but we couldn't find any in the needed quantities last year so that may never happen. The weirdest part of Elviramas is that it has turned the husband and I into the sort of people who have seasonal holiday decorations to store during the year, something neither of us ever expected to become. Early to mid-December.

We've been growing a bunch of Cannas in the yard since an acquaintance gave me some in 2011, and because they're not cold-hardy here, every fall they have to be dug up, cleaned off, and brought into the house to overwinter, then replanted in the spring. Cannas self-propagate, so every year we had more to plant and dig up than we did the previous year.*** In 2018, things had progressed to the point where we declared the annual Canna-digging a holiday ("The Canna Festival"), invited my whole immediate family to come up to the house to cut down stalks and dig up rhizomes for 3 or 4 hours, followed by showers for those who wanted them, a semi-potluck dinner, and the ceremonial crowning of the Canna Queen (my sister; it had been promised to her in advance). I estimate we needed to invite about twice as many people as we did in order to get it all done before the first hard freeze, but having everybody here did help considerably, which is good because we had a literal half-ton of rhizomes in the yard (estimated 953 lb. actually brought in, plus there were some left in the yard to die because you can only dig them up just so fast and we ran out of time.). Mid-October.

* (he does not have a daughter, and would not have her baptized if he did)
** (Ideally <$10 ea., because there are five people to bewig and that's already a lot of money to spend for a single dumb photo.)
*** (Roughly 1.75 times the number we planted the year before. The plants produce a lot more than that, but then some of them die during the winter.)
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

Bookmammal, they are already named and we currently think they suit them. This may change once they live with us but currently they are Jess and Pepper.
posted by halcyonday at 9:52 AM on February 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

We have a Pepper as well! He sends his heartfelt blep.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

If anyone has been following my PNW snow saga, we finally cleared the driveway yesterday. The snow wasn't melting and was still a foot thick in places and turning into glaciers. I snapped and had enough and realized there was only one way it was going to happen, and it was the hard way and I didn't care if it took me all month.

It took about four days. Yesterday my housemates joined me for an impromptu work party, we cleared and finished enough of it to run an AWD car over it with chains and we can now finally drive up our driveway and not haul all of our water and food on foot.

BTW a plain old garden rake is just the ticket for scraping and clearing slush and ice. The tines cut and break ice rinds then you can just sweep up the slush.

I estimate that I moved at least a couple of tons of snow with a plain old spade shovel. I'm a wee bit sore.

Meanwhile I'm getting my transition goals back on track, we're switching to a much higher dose of injectable E, and I'm digging out of some rough seasonal depression. I also notice and need to acknowledge that my mom seems to go AWOL or radio silent every time I mention this is who I am and what I'm doing.

I see other trans people with actively supportive parents and I am actutely aware I don't and won't ever have that in my life. Oh well, I'm used to going it mostly alone and I'm thankful I have that.

Hugs! Fuck snow!
posted by loquacious at 12:20 PM on February 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

It isn't a rigid tradition but in my family we tend to bake our own birthday cake.

We tend to give one another books as gifts and so the recipient of a wrapped gift always jokes by picking up the package and inspecting it, shaking it, smelling it, etc and then guessing that the gift contained is a telescoping elephant. Even when it is quite clearly a book.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

I went to Urgent Care Wednesday and had a positive flu test. I was also diagnosed with an ear infection. I was given a five day course of Prednisone because I have asthma and my lungs sounded wheezy, as well as Augmentin 2x a day for ten days. I finally felt a little better yesterday, but today I feel worse and my chest is tight. Tomorrow, I either have to go to work or have to go to the hospital. I don't really want to do either.

We have lots of weird family traditions, but I'm too exhausted by the efforts of complaining to really remember them right now.
posted by Ruki at 12:50 PM on February 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

Money in the birthday cake. Seriously!

It started with my great grandmother (maternal side); though I don't know if she came up with the idea or was also passing it along. We boil coins for several minutes. Once they are cool, we push them at intervals in the cake we just made, and then frost the cake. It used to be mostly pennies and whoever found the quarter was the lucky one. Nowadays it's a few dimes, lesser number of quarters, and one dollar coin. It's still a fun tradition; I've been doing this for my sons since they were old enough not to choke on the coins. (We tell guests about the tradition in advance, so they aren't surprised).

Also: every Christmas, each child gets a new ornament for the tree. The idea is that when they leave home and have their own places, they will have a lifetime of ornaments for their own trees.
posted by annieb at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Slarty Bartfast: Show me the dirt under your fingernails and we'll talk.

Practicing medicine with dirty fingernails seems like a bad idea...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

My family has "Kidnapping Day":
Every year shortly before Christmas, Beloved Partner and I "kidnap" all available nieces and nephews (as many as 7) for a whole day, spent at our house. This was originally a gift to my sisters, but it has evolved into the de facto holiday gathering for my whole family.
The kids arrive in late morning, their parents leave, and we go through the day. 20 years after the first, we do the exact things we did when the kids were 4 to 10 years old:
Gossiping in the kitchen, then the "orange lunch" -- grilled cheese sandwiches, Cheetos and doritos, and clementines.
We do a puzzle, then off to the bookstore where they can each pick out 5 books. Back home, more puzzle, and reading the new books, then the rest of the family arrives in the evening --parents, spouses, partners, etc.
This has a bonus effect of allowing everyone to spend Xmas eve and day with other families.
The young folk are now in their 20s, but won't let us change anything, and still make the effort to attend --taking time off, flying in, etc.
It's the most important holiday of the year.
posted by librosegretti at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2019 [34 favorites]

Money in the birthday cake. Seriously!
The family of my mentor did this every year in Greek Easter bread. Usually there was only one coin. Applying it to other baked goods is a fun idea I'd never considered. Neat!

Whoever gets the scone with the Sacagawea dollar mixed with the ham is assured of good fortune. After they've had their teeth repaired.
posted by eotvos at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ruki, I hope you feel better soon!
posted by lazuli at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2019

And to bring my mood back up from my last comment, here's some weird family traditions:

I have a friend visiting my homeland in SoCal, so I've been thinking about things and actually a little homesick.

A favorite one was dawn patrol with my dad and brother - getting up super early either before work or school to go surfing. This was a pretty epic way to start the day.

He also had a beach breakfast routine of what he called "surfer's breakfast" which was old school Dorito's or similar flavored chips dipped into pineapple cottage cheese. Sometimes with salsa. Often accompanied by peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat where the honey does that crystallizing thing on bread. And apples or avocados, or GORP.

The whole thing also works best after surfing through dawn having sea salt all over you.

It's not the same with modern Dorito's. The old school pre-Pepsi/FritoLay ones in the early 80s were more like real tortilla chips and almost vaguely healthy compared to the modern over-engineered stuff.

While I eat way less and/or no dairy today, I've eaten some variation of this chips and pineapple cottage cheese at least once in the last few years, and used to still be a comfort staple as recently as a few years ago. My go to was like salt and vinegar kettle chips or sun chips, or just plain old tortilla chips.

But yeah, I'm one of the people who buys/bought pineapple cottage cheese and why it's still a weird thing in many places.
posted by loquacious at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

At Christmas, we always get a tube of sweetened condensed milk, a puzzle book, and (since they released them) Magical Elves chocolates in our Christmas stockings. I moved overseas last year, so missed out, although it turned out my Mum had posted them, but got the address wrong so they were returned to sender.

Related - our family was very upset when they changed the elf descriptions on the Magical Elves and got rid of the farty elf.
posted by Kris10_b at 4:44 PM on February 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

Tradition? I don't know if this counts, but I am an incipient geezer, and phone calls used to be cheap after 11 pm, and I *still* call my siblings after 11. I'm in Maine so the time difference makes it work okay and we are not morning people.

I have started reorganization projects, but the arthritis in my hips is bad, so there's even more stuff everywhere.

Day length today 10:56:44 We are more than 1/2 way to the equinox. Clocks change March 9. It makes a big difference in Maine and anyplace not so close to the equator. I got the last of the wood from woodpile 1 this afternoon, so I've probably hauled and burned a bit more than 1 cord. I have an oil furnace that keeps the house at a minimum temp, the wood stove keeps the living room toasty and is pleasant. I'm across the street from a small lake. Today had snow, then rain and wind. As it got warmer, there was fog on the lake that you could see moving in the wind. Pretty.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on February 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

In keeping with the holiday-themed memories of many of the above . . . somewhere along the line when I was very young, my family began a tradition that Christmas presents needed to have clues, which the recipient was supposed to figure out before unwrapping. At some point during my teens, this ballooned from a fun thing my parents did with each other with some gifts, to a thing that became well-nigh mandatory for all of us, and the expectations became that the clues would be in rhyming verse, sometimes in multiple stanzas, ideally incorporating multiple puns, or obscure allusions to various cultural trivialities of the day.

This created some difficulties; my mother, despite being an inveterate punster and light-versifier (she'd regularly read Ogden Nash to me at bedtime when I was small) would sometimes founder when trying to compose a clue for yet another installment of practical school clothes she'd bought for one of us, for example. And the amount of time it took to read, re-read, ponder, guess at, and finally solve each clue meant that present-opening could run well into the mid-afternoon. And over time, certain family members (*glaring at my older brother*) began buying hideous gifts solely because they could inspire really great, hilarious clues. (My favorite being a four-foot-tall garishly-painted tin figurine of Elvis Presley, with a large thermometer affixed to his torso.)

This was decades ago, my parents are both long dead, my brothers and I are scattered, none of us have any longer the wits for any such creative demands. Damn, I wish I'd saved some of those scribbled clue notes, but they're all long gone.
posted by Kat Allison at 5:41 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also! In the past week I have made the decision that by May 1st I will quit my job, sell my house, and move 100 miles down the road to Portland. I've been pretty miserable for the last year and a half, but since that decision, I've been going around with a huge goofy smile on my face, full of the reckless joy that I always feel when I upend my life, throw out the old baggage, and leap headlong into some new existence. It's a great thing to do in one's 60s, just as it was a great thing to do twelve years ago in my 50s. Avaunt and excelsior!
posted by Kat Allison at 5:48 PM on February 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

The big Family Tradition is Practice Thanksgiving. Tagline: let's share the thanks and the calories.

Think "thanksgiving-style meal for 80+ of our closest friends" with the rule that attendees bring whatever they think of as their thanksgiving dish, and we (my parents, brothers and Dr Bored for Science) do the core Thanksgiving items: turkeys, potatoes, stuffing, etc.

2019 will be the 42nd year my parents do it. I've missed one since 1986 (and that's because I was being a groomsman for a college friend 250 miles away). Dr Bored for Science and I used to fly from CA -> MA for it, rather than Real Thanksgiving.

We spent the day prepping for (and then celebrating) my grandmother's 90th birthday, which was back on the 13th. This involved, for our immediate part, making three dozen small (3") quiches, and another three dozen lemon curd tarts. They were well-received.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 5:53 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

sciencegeek: the recipient of a wrapped gift always jokes by picking up the package and inspecting it, shaking it, smelling it, etc and then guessing that the gift contained is a telescoping elephant. Even when it is quite clearly a book.

We always say that it must be a deep fryer. But yours is more fun.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:54 AM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not sure if this totally fits but growing up my parents would rent a little red cottage in Wild Rose, WI for a week as our summer vacation each year. My brother and I got to sleep in a screened-in porch and the family rules were largely ignored for that week (set your own bedtime! eat cookies at 10am if you want!).

We played significant amounts of canasta around a sadistic dining room table - its legs jutted out just slightly to avoid being perpendicular to the floor and it was a badge of honor to be the first person to stub your toe on the damned thing.

My mom would make congo squares and we'd go out for broasted chicken and spend the majority of our week on the beach. There was one black and white TV that got no reception and this was pre-GameBoy so it was very much an entertain yourself type setup. We'd arrive with armloads of library books. My parents would take the rowboat out to fish (throwing back whatever they caught) while our beagle barked at them from the beach.

Eventually, the owners retired and tore down that little red cottage and built their retirement home on the same spot. It really did have the best view of the lake.
posted by Twicketface at 6:33 AM on February 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Apparently my dad passed on an Irish (?) tradition of claiming good luck from a white horse sighting by way of thumb-licking and palm-stamping (Yahoo Answers, wherein someone says that their Irish grandmother taught this to them). My dad's addition (I'm guessing) is that it's bad luck if you do this for a white cow, thinking it's a white horse, so he would often point out white cows to my mother. She never fell for it.

Not sure if this totally fits but growing up my parents would rent a little red cottage in Wild Rose, WI for a week as our summer vacation each year. My brother and I got to sleep in a screened-in porch and the family rules were largely ignored for that week (set your own bedtime! eat cookies at 10am if you want!).

We had a similar sort of summer vacation growing up, except we rented the same cabin in Hume Lake, CA (Wikipedia), where we'd play in the creeks, go on little hikes in the area, swim at "the beach" part of the lake, and as my brother and I got older, try to climb on a giant floating log (someone else's family photo from this blog post, though that log looks waay too small - I recall the thing being a giant, which meant that only Big Kids could climb on it :)). We brought those single-serving multi-packs of cereal, and we could eat the sugary cereal that was usually off-limits during the school year, and we went on nightly "pie walks" to the local diner, which had really good pie. Those were great, relaxed summer vacations, but once my brother and I were in junior high and high school, my parents took us on longer trips.

The bigger trips were great, but I still think fondly of those Hume Lake summer trips.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:38 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was hiking years ago on a very foggy day (easy, well-marked trail) and a horse came out of the fog to the fence to say hello, and it sure felt like good luck.
posted by theora55 at 8:21 AM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

Note: we're not Irish, which is part of my confusion about seeing the lucky white horse tradition related to an Irish grandmother.

Making You Bored For Science: The big Family Tradition is Practice Thanksgiving. Tagline: let's share the thanks and the calories.

My dad calls those "food crimes," and he used to suggest we all just lay on the floor after eating our fill (and then some). Our Thanksgiving tradition includes what I, as an adult, learned was a rather boozy cranberry jello:

2 whole oranges, blended/processed
1.5 cups port wine
- boil together for 1 minute, then strain out chunks
2 packages of raspberry jello
2 cups of nuts (optional)
3 cans of whole berry cranberries
- Mix and set

Having this, I never understood the interest in canned cranberry jello, when you could have a sassy, tart (and alcoholic) jello that you have to chew. And if you're uncertain about all that port, you can replace some or all with water, or juice (in theory -- I did half and half port and water last time and it was still tasty, but juice might make it too sweet).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 AM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thanksgiving leftover feast! my extended family is quite scattered, and mostly lives in small urban apartments, so on my mom's side, every year we'd gather the day after thanksgiving with everyone's leftovers in a cabin in the mountains, go skiing if there was snow (even crappy snow) and then feast on leftovers, watch football, and play board games by a fire in the evenings. it was very informal, and utterly delicious, and a really nice way to catch up with family. We still do it, even though there's a ton of spouses and our parents are aging so the logistics are increasingly complicated... no one wants to give it up.
posted by larthegreat at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

This may change once they live with us but currently they are Jess and Pepper.
posted by halcyonday at 9:52 AM on February 24

We have a Pepper as well! He sends his heartfelt blep.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:57 AM on February 24

One of my childhood cats was a Pepper! He was solid gray, and looked like a Russian Blue. We found him as a kitten wandering through the cornfield.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Every year on Christmas Eve, we make a special trip to the Chinese bakery for cha siu bao, and then we eat them for breakfast Christmas morning. Cha siu bao make the perfect Christmas morning breakfast, by the way, and I highly recommend this tradition.

We started doing this when we were dating, before the kiddo came along. But thankfully, he loves cha siu bao (and about two other things), so it seems that we'll be incorporating him into the tradition next year.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 3:50 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

There's a thing that we always do at any restaurant that delivers fortune cookies with the bill (or, in the takeout bag, as the case may be). One person will put all of the cookies in their hands behind their back, and each other person must "pick a hand" until they get down to just one cookie in each hand. At some point in the process we say (in a deeply lowered voice, of course) "You must choose your own fortune, it cannot simply be handed to you." It's goofy but fun.
posted by vignettist at 3:55 PM on February 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

When we go to art museums we split up and look for cats in the paintings and other artwork, and text each other photos of them as we find them. If you're in a museum without any cats -- Isabella Stewart Gardner, we need to talk -- you find the most cat-like animal you can and try to convince the others that that dog is a long-legged cat or the bird is a wingéd cat.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2019 [7 favorites]

My parents are nearly tea totallers, with the exception that every election they laid bets on the result and the loser bought the winner wine, which was consumed election night.
In fact the wine was pre purchased sometime that week and was always Lonesome Charlie. Kids got a glass, too.

The tradition has expanded since we kidd married and have our own kids so now we all lay bets on elections via email, and my dad makes a big spread sheet and you get bragging rights and we all drink wine where we are. (Not Lonesome Charlie, though).

From the time my son was small he would stay up to see the final returns, just like we did. It was a proud day for me when my dad called to ask my son's opinion about BC's electoral reform referendum options after hearing he'd studied it in school. (My mom won the bet on that one).
posted by chapps at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

(Electoral reform referendum was my son's first time voting!!)
posted by chapps at 11:27 PM on February 26, 2019

As promised, my cat tax! It was about 30 minutes after arrival before Jess took up residence in my lap. Pepper likes high places, so after exploring the lounge, she settled on snoozing behind my head on the back of the sofa.

They have an instagram account of their own now at pepandjess. I had to be pried out of the house this morning by t'hb. I am now googling cat shelf diys.
posted by halcyonday at 1:41 AM on February 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

What an absolutely gorgeous beast, halcyonday! I'm such a sucker for a milk-mustachioed tuxie.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:00 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

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