Metatalktail Hour: Tradition! December 2, 2021 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Happy weekend, MetaFilter! This week, I'd like to know about a tradition you love. It could be a family tradition, a cultural tradition, or a personal one -- holiday-related or not. And I like to know why you love it, what is great about it!

This sounds like a chatty question and it IS, but also? I have a master's degree in liturgy and I literally took classes about how humans make meaning through tradition, so HIT ME UP WITH YOUR IMPORTANT TRADITIONS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 7:43 PM (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Binge watching Rome on the Ides of March. Love Ian McNeice doing the
"Gaius👋👋Juilus👋👋 Caeser👋👋" thing.
posted by clavdivs at 8:59 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, Year 46 of Placing N O E L Christmas figurines on the mantle and then an hour later reversing them.
posted by clavdivs at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

My wife makes enchiladas with leftover holiday turkey.
posted by NotLost at 9:48 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

When we buy a new car, we eat ice cream in it.

My father not a nice person; tangentially-related, he wouldn't let us eat in his car even though he did, and even though he was a slob, and even though his car was a mess. As a result, the first time my sister got a new car, and then when I got one, and then the first time since her teen years that my mom got a brand-new car, we developed a tradition to go from the dealership to an ice cream parlor and then go eat in the car. New car? Yay. Ice cream? Yay. Overthrowing The Man? Priceless. (And now our friends, some of whom don't even know the derivation of the tradition, do it too.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:58 PM on December 2, 2021 [17 favorites]

clavdivs: "Oh, Year 46 of Placing N O E L Christmas figurines on the mantle and then an hour later reversing them."

Do you mysteriously disappear them?
posted by chavenet at 12:45 AM on December 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

I've apparently told the story of my family's best-beloved tradition several times - about how and why we each get a Christmas gift from an imaginary person named Sam Yakaboochie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:20 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I miss this tradition- Christmas Eve, when I was a teenager, and living in South America. We're a family of procrastinators so we'd sit on my parent's bed wrapping presents (sending out someone as needed) and we'd be up late, and then we'd call family in Australia and be passed around different family members, while they were at Christmas lunch.

It's not quite the same being in Australia on Christmas Eve.
posted by freethefeet at 3:40 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I really appreciate being by myself in the kitchen and listening to the Rifftrax of the Star Wars Holiday Special while making the cookies I give to people, which is also a tradition I cherish. This year the Rifftrax guys put it on Youtube for all to enjoy, so I did that while making the pie for Thanksgiving instead.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:32 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I host an annual Pre-Thanksgiving Day potluck the Tuesday before T'giving for friends and neighbors. Tends to range in size from 25-65 people, and until this year this took place in a 900 square foot house with one bathroom and no dishwasher. It is THE BEST. It's been going on for 20 years. Last year (2020) was the only year it hasn't happened in any form. It was smaller this year, but I got choked up at least six times because it was happening at all and we were all still alive for it.

Our family Christmas Eve is a trip. My sister's high school best friend has been coming for brunch for the last twenty-three years. He and my sister now bring their husbands. We drink bloody marys and mimosa's, eat mom's homemade biscuits and gravy and they wait for the yearly arrival of Santa, who rides on a firetruck through Mom's suburban neighborhood calling out "Happy Hanukkah!" When they (sister etc--all in early 40s) hear the sirens, they run out, scream and flip around in the driveway.

After that, we have a day-long drop by with people coming by for cocktails and visits, culminating in Christmas Dinner that night (roast beast, Yorkshire pudding , Xmas crackers etc.) Usually my sister and I drink too much and sing "Mele Kalikimaka" in the style of the Andrews Sisters. My 98 year old step-grandmother makes cherries jubliee. Because she is recently blind, actual flame duties have been recently handed off to my stepfather. Christmas Day always ends with homemade oyster stew or Indian takeout (we alternate years).

There is always at least one regift. If it is a gift that already belongs to you that you have loaned to someone else, that is an "Ultimate Regift."
posted by thivaia at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

How about an "anti-tradition"? My dad's second wife (he remarried when my sisters and I were adults) was obsessive and punctilious, while Dad was very easy-going. On the first Sunday of Advent, Second Wife would take figurines of the three Magi and place them together at a starting point, east of where a Nativity set was placed. The distance between the start and the Nativity was measured and divided by the number of days until Christmas Eve. Each day the Magi were moved a precisely measured distance west so that they would arrive at the Nativity "on time."

And on random days my dad would take one or more of the figurines and disturb them: turn one or two the wrong way and have them head east instead of west ("it was cloudy that night and they couldn't see the star"), hide one behind a sofa cushion ("he got lost"), move them too far forward ("they took advantage of good weather"), or whatever else he could think of to disturb the orderly progression.

I'm a grandmother now to two boys less than a year old. I think I'll start a tradition in a year or so in my dad's memory (one grandson is named in his honour), called "Find the Magi," with treats for the grandsons who locate the missing Magus/Magi and come up with a good reason why they strayed from the path to Bethlehem.
posted by angiep at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2021 [22 favorites]

Turkey gumbo with Thanksgiving leftovers! Fiddly, completely scratch-made lasagna for Christmas dinner!

Every stocking hung in our house gets a new Christmas ornament hung on it. That one started when my son was little - I'd buy three "matching-but-not-quite" ornaments, one for each stocking, with the promise that when he was ready for them he could have his 1/3 of them for his own tree (which he is putting up this year).
posted by ersatzkat at 10:17 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I still try to observe the Christmas Eve/Day Jewish tradition of a movie and Chinese food when I am not invited to spend the holiday with Christmas-observing friends. I've done this with my family of origin (we would try to pick the worst movie available, which resulted in viewings of Ishtar - I was way too young, Spies Like Us, The Three Amigos and more!), alone (Good Will Hunting!), and with friends here in Toronto. I hate movie theatres, but it doesn't really matter on Christmas.
posted by wellred at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a personal tradition of drinking a beer in the bathtub after a particularly satisfying, grueling, or otherwise notable run. I’ve substituted other drinks in a pinch. One time when I finished an especially rough 10K (think: injury; hailstorm), all we had on hand was some cheap bubbly; Mr. Armeowda opened it and brought me a glass at what must have been 11:00 in the morning.

An old friend from the improv days told me she had a ritual of touching the fuselage of an airplane as she stepped through the door. Since she died unexpectedly a few years ago, I’ve done it every flight. I will always think of her when I do it.
posted by armeowda at 4:03 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do you mysteriously disappear them
Thanks for that link Chav. no, in December '74, my mother came home from work and had one of those looks that makes a son worry. I had reversed them earlier after school and when she walked into the room and saw them she started laughing and then she started crying and she gave me a big hug and kiss me on the head and said I love you. sometimes a bit of a irreverence can be worth it. if there was a winter tradition in our family it was tobogganing every boxing Day we all go out for a few hours and either ski or go tobogganing.
posted by clavdivs at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Our family tradition is everyone getting a new Christmas ornament for the tree every year.

When I was young, my mom would take me and my brother to a tree nursery/garden center every December. They would have an animated elf display that you would walk through, and peek at moving elves making toys and such. Then we'd pick out our ornament for that year, and then find our Christmas tree.

I've continued this tradition with my kids (though usually I will buy them their ornaments and put them in their stockings), though we've been using the same artificial tree since 2006. Some day, when they move out they'll have a lifetime of memories to hang on their trees.

Another family tradition is boiling coins and adding a few in a homemade birthday cake before putting on the icing. The quarter used to be the "prize", now it's a dollar coin. Everyone is warned about there being money in the cake when they get their slice.

This is a fun thread, thank you!
posted by annieb at 5:43 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, I missed that this didn't have to be a holiday tradition!

Well, then I have another one - we have a go-to house drink for when someone's had a nasty work-related shock. It started back in 2014, when I was still working in finance - it was my first day back from my first-ever trip to Italy, where I'd spent a week splitting my time between Rome and Florence. I got to work, got to my desk, and settled into my seat - and ten minutes later got a call from the HR department that they wanted to see me. When I got there, my boss was waiting there with them - they told me that during my absence, there'd been a round of layoffs, and I was one of the 20 people who was being laid off, effective immediately. While the head of HR and I went over the separation agreement, my boss was going to go back to my desk, pack up all my stuff, and bring it back up, and then I was to leave the building immediately.

I got home about an hour later, made a few "what the fuck" calls, and then was sitting there in a state of shell-shock; and then my then-roommate came home unexpectedly as well, looking equally shell-shocked. "What are you doing here?" he said.

I told him what happened. "And what are you doing here?"

"....I think I just ragequit my job."

We stared at each other a minute. Then I looked over towards a bottle I'd brought back from Italy. "Okay - this is some limoncello I got from the food market in Florence," I told him, holding it up. "And I was going to save it for another occasion - but, you know what, I think we both need to split this right now."

It was a tiny bottle, so I could get it through TSA checkpoints, so we did polish it off. But I know how to make limoncello, so I made more - and ever since, limoncello has been the official Oh Fuck, Some Shit Went Down At Work shot around here, to the point that when my roommate was a Covid layoff last year, he broke the news by texting me "We need to do limoncello shots when you get home."

(Happily, when he was rehired back a couple weeks ago, he broke the news by texting me "What's the opposite of limoncello?" We haven't come up with a house drink for that yet.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:46 PM on December 3, 2021 [12 favorites]

I don't have this tradition and don't really have meals where it would be relevant at this point in my life, but I know a family who has the tradition of intentionally spilling wine at the seder on Passover at the beginning so that no one feels bad when they spill by accident later on.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:23 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have an outdoor fire on the Solstice. I make wishes for the new year.
posted by Oyéah at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

Our holiday tradition is listening to Martin Newell's Christmas in Suburbia while driving to my brother's McMansion. That is, during the years where we're actually talking to each other. On a more positive note, my friends from college host a leftovers party on Black Friday that's always been a highlight of the year, and we generally get together on New Year's Eve as well.
posted by mollweide at 6:35 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was just thinking today about the Christmas albums we had around the house when I was a kid, and it didn’t quite feel like Christmas until we’d played them. It sent me on a YouTube search, and so far I’ve found playlists for A Music Box Christmas, Jim Nabors’ Christmas Album, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, and Ferrante & Teicher: We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:06 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I married into an Italian family that does a Seven Fishes dinner on Christmas Eve.

Well, not really. It's not the Seven Fishes dinner you might read about on Wikipedia, with specific foods. We just sort of lob seafood at each other.

The number of actual seafoods depends on who cooked and their level of ambition. My mother in law conks out at four fishes, for example.

My husband and I will do full seven, but we cheat and get goofy about it.

I once cracked open a random can of anchovies, clonked it onto a china plate, and yelled "SEVEN!"
posted by champers at 8:39 AM on December 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Christmas 1975, we were bone-poor students with a new born child. We weren't living in a stable (that's a much older story) but a "garden flat" by the sea-side south of the big city. According to a penny-counting account book whc surfaced a few years ago, we lived on "mince", carrots, onions, potatoes, milk and tinned beans. There was no way we could afford both a Christmas tree and a bottle of old red biddy to wet the baby's head. So we agreed to buy one bottle of Ruffino chianti whc was on special. On Christmas Eve after dark, however, I snuck out into the garden; cut a branch off a scraggy shrub; and suspended it from the picture rail so it looked like it was growing through a corner of the living room wall. We decorated it whatever was small and available including the disembodied leg of a plastic sailor and a colourful pair of new-born baby socks. We never bought a Christmas Tree again and the sailor's leg will still get a twig to hang off this year.
what is great about it!: not buying a single-use tree for 45 years has saved us £1,000 in today's money - enough for a lot of mince-pies
posted by BobTheScientist at 9:05 AM on December 4, 2021 [12 favorites]

my family makes "pork pies" (though often with meat other than pork -- think my family favors beef and lamb), a.k.a. tourtière, around the new year. it was explained to me, as a youngster, that the tradition arose among subsistence farmers of quebec as a method of using up meat from harvest-time slaughter after that point when it might not be palatable on its own but remain edible and even tasty with the proper spices. (i do not find that explanation elsewhere, but haven't looked too hard). my parents used to make up to dozens and give them away as gifts, often with the effect of of thinning out the ranks of recipients for the next year. i have not learned the art, but probably should before ... losing continuity with the tradition. (pretty sure sibling and cousins also observe the tradition).

myself, i have made a playlist under the title "xmas sux" each of the last 15 years (except 2014 when my raid died), in an effort to participate in the holiday. usually it is built around one or two songs that i absolutely must share with a mix of horrible and sublime xmas songs, some more secular and/or antixmas songs, and, ideally, something very odd to represent the moment of invasion by the transcendental. family -- spanning ranges of xtian from zealously born-again to mainline churchs, with a smattering of quiet agnostics and atheists -- does not love, or, generally, even acknowledge it. friends and associates on the distribution, though, routinely express appreciation, if not for the music, then for the evidence that i'm still me and still thinking of them. lately have been doing a poor job of not including songs used on previous editions. this year, i haven't been feeling it at all (or been uniquely inspired by any particular music, except maybe some don pullen -- was that this year? -- see, e.g., suite (sweet) malcolm; also inspiring, a project by justin hicks and steffani johnson as mikrokosmos; see), but live thread over on the blue has prodded, if not actually inspired, me to start getting serious.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm sitting here reading all these interesting traditions, and realizing for maybe the first time that I don't have any (other than the 5pm post-workday beer, which I'm not really sure you could call a "tradition").

I'm not good at keeping up habits at the best of times, and I stopped celebrating holidays when my son became an adult and moved out on his own - I quickly realized it wasn't as fun without a youngster around to enjoy it. I usually participate in a "Friendsgiving" potluck, but it's really just an excuse to chat and eat yummy food (during the pandemic we've been meeting in a parking lot to exchange food parcels, then having a socially-distanced meeting later via Zoom to watch each other eat). A few years ago my sister sent me a few of "my" ornaments from the large family stash, but I haven't had a Christmas tree in over a decade so I've never taken them out of the box...I'm not even sure where the box is at the moment.

I'm not complaining, or sad, or all "bah humbug". Honestly I'm not sure what I think about my lack of traditions.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:20 AM on December 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

For the past five years we've done Thanksgiving with local friends. We each bring a side or app, and mine is pierogi. It's a twist on my family's tradition of making pierogi from leftover mashed potatoes after Thanksgiving. I usually make the pierogi the day before, and my husband will start playing the Christmas music as I get going. So now pierogi making is how I kick-off the holidays.

A few years ago we started hosting a Repeal (prohibition) day party: my husband gets to have fun making cocktails (classics and his own), I make the food, and everyone else just has to show up when they want with whoever they want. It's mostly an excuse to see friends during the holiday season before people head off to their hometowns. The pandemic obviously nixed it last year. We were considering a smaller one this year, but between the general uncertainty and an impending move, we're skipping it again. Hopefully next year we can pick it up again.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:21 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am a person who loves locking as much of my life up into habits and routines as possible. You'd think this would be terrible but it's usually not. Around holidaytime this year we have a few traditions I like besides the usual ones....

- Buy Nothing Day the day after American Thanksgiving is always a nice time for reflection and not spending money. Jim and I usually go take a walk somewhere, weather permitting, and this year me and him and my sister went to visit a pal of my mom's who I've really enjoyed staying in touch with since my mom died. A lot of my moms' friends and I went our separate ways because they held a view of her that was irreconcilable with my own and also would not shut up about it, but Orian is different and I enjoy having her in my life.
- JIMSMAS. I met two men named James David who were born on December 6th 1969 at a MeFi meetup in 2008. One is my partner not_on_display and the other is my good friend bondcliff. We get together every year (except 2020) to celebrate their birthdays together, usually with maryr and another non-MeFite who also have 12/6 birthdays in a different year. It's just hangout, eat food and enjoy friendship.
- I volunteer at a community laundromat and I am the decorations lady. I do not celebrate Christmas and personally don't care for a lot of the associated traditions, but I like doing some holiday-themed decorations and I did that again this past year and it cheered me. Vermont did a big thing last year encouraging people to go all out with lights and displays so people who were stuck at home could drive around safely and enjoy them. We're not quite as "all in this together" this year but I still like the lights.
- No Solstice Bonfire last year but maybe this year, a great neighborly tradition.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

1. I teach middle school orchestra at the same middle school I attended some….large number of years ago. My mom and dad still live in that neighborhood and have, for 20 years now, attended pretty much every concert I have directed there (like: before my long-time principal moved up to the high school he gave a touching speech about connections/family/my mom’s stalwart support at the last orchestra concert of the year and presented her with a hanging basket of flowers). My dad takes meticulous lawyerly notes in indecipherable handwriting on the program during every concert and shares them with me as we have nachos and milkshakes at the restaurant next door after every one. We haven’t done this since February of 2020 but I get to have a (masked/distanced/in a large and sadly acoustically impossible space) concert next week and I really hope he can make it so I can see that program after the concert and hear what he has to say (we’re not doing indoor restaurants, so we’ll make do at his house).

We get along much better than we did when I was a kid or younger adult, and he is really, stupidly, blindly, proud of me and what I do with my students in a way that he isn’t about much else I do. It’s such a nice ritual and I have missed this one thing so. so. much.

2. After not making connections at said school for an embarrassingly long time (I’m an introvert, I’m not full-time at that school which makes it a lot harder, I’m just kinda bad at grownups a lot of the time), I found a tight core group of 3 teacher friends there as of about 5 years ago. One set up a great porch propane fire pit situation in June of 2020 and we have hung out there about once a month since then.

Pre-vaccination we wouldn’t go inside and stayed distanced, but now we occasionally do hang out inside. She calls it her “Speakeasy” and has a new special cocktail each time and it’s just…a good thing for all of us in what has been a really impossible couple years. The peak was in January 2021 where I left at 1 AM and it was -8 as I drove away and we hadn’t really noticed. We did it again last night- it’s December in Alaska and in the low single digits. Even though we could have been inside for most of it (we are all boosted and doing the best we can) we still spent most of the night in the Speakeasy under blankets watching the fire. It’s this that has gotten us through the collective loss of one spouse and two parents and a helped with whole lot of pandemic-strained marriage situations. Community is good and rituals really help.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:16 AM on December 5, 2021 [10 favorites]

Not holiday related: my son is one year into having braces, and we go every month or so to have them adjusted.
On the way back home, we stop by a market to buy all the fixings, and when we get home we make chocolate Oreo milkshakes to die for, with crumbled cookies and a lot of whipped cream.
posted by signal at 3:22 AM on December 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

Cars and motorbikes, I'm fascinated by anthropomorphising them. I do it. My bike is a kick-start only and I always ask it to be nice before I start it.

I have a theory that everyone, even the most rigorous of Dawkinite atheists, believes in a few supernatural things they can't otherwise rationalise, and one of mine is that autoelectrics is partly an occult, magical discipline, and I've talked to an autoelectrician who agrees. 'Warming up' annoys your neighbours and it's completely unnecessary on any engine built in the last forty years; riders and drivers do it for pure superstition and a habit they can't quite explain. Naming one's car or motorbike is a cliché. It's a commonplace to say one's car 'likes', or 'prefers', e.g. styles of driving or types of fuel. Keyrings are super-common luck fetishes, mine is a decorative knot.

It's dying out, but there are a few trucking companies in my city, particularly Greek- and Lebanese-owned ones, who still paint luck symbols on their fleet, especially horseshoes and eyes, and an eye-with-an-arrow-through-it. The song 'Plastic Jesus' (on the dashboard) is a great satire on a real human need. I've never travelled in south or SE Asia but have read about the decorated trucks and taxis—which are simply beautiful.
spilling wine at the seder on Passover at the beginning so that no one feels bad when they spill by accident later on
I once read of a professional dirtbike rider who had a tradition, that when his sponsor gave him a brand new motorbike to use in racing, he'd deliberately drop it onto its side, at the dealership, in front of the reps, and break something on it. Because it's a work bike, that's what it was meant to do, and he was showing them that he was going to use it, and nobody should feel bad when he absolutely flogged it.

Last word to T.E. Lawrence (i.e. 'of Arabia'), on the ambiguous personhood of machines:
A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness. Because Boa loves me, he gives me five more miles of speed than a stranger would get from him...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

My spouse and I met on a meetup nature walk. On the anniversary of the day we me, the two of us usually redo that walk.
posted by NotLost at 4:39 AM on December 6, 2021 [6 favorites]

Some friends and I get together in December each year to watch A Christmas Story. We bring the foods that appear in the movie and eat them while watching the movie and reciting almost every line in the movie. It's joyous.
posted by hydra77 at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Fiasco da Gama: "I have a theory that everyone, even the most rigorous of Dawkinite atheists, believes in a few supernatural things they can't otherwise rationalise,"

I'm just an atheist—not a 'Dawkinite'—but it's an empirical fact that computers and printers that were previously not working start working when I walk into the room.
Numerous friends and family members have pointed this out independently, half miffed and half relieved for my presence.
posted by signal at 6:19 AM on December 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

When I saw this thread I wasn't going to post in it because I really don't have any traditions. We had none as kids, and as an adult "getting together with my wife's sister's family" doesn't really seem like a tradition as much as just something you do.

Then on Saturday we had Birthday Club, or what Jessamyn calls Jimsmas, and I realized that Birthday Club is my only tradition and probably my favorite regular thing I do all year. It sort of started casually but it's become an annual thing. As Jess said, we didn't do it in 2020 but we all got together (outside) over the summer and did a sort of half-Birthday Club. I'm not one who ever did much on my birthday so this has been a great way to celebrate not only my birthday, but others as well. If you can find people who share your birthday I highly recommend getting together with them every year. It makes it so much fun.

Anyway for lunch I ate ziti with sausage, leftover from Birthday Club dinner. It's the tradition that keeps on giving. Or something.
posted by bondcliff at 10:10 AM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

A few years ago, after spending a few days in Singapore by myself and loving it, I started a personal tradition of traveling solo outside of the US (where I live) for the week of American Thanksgiving. The holiday has horrendous origins, and as a vegan, it's definitely not fun to navigate meat-centered holidays, plus I always get two days off from work already that week, so I like going places where the fourth Thursday of November is just Thursday. In 2017: spent the week in Ireland, with Thursday in Belfast visiting the peace murals; in 2018: spent the week in Denmark, with Thursday in neighboring Sweden; in 2019: spent the week in Mexico City, with a visit to Frida Kahlo's house that Thursday. 2020 happened and I didn't travel at all. This year I went to the beach in North Carolina with a friend for the week. Maybe 2022 will be an international travel year.

I also like to travel for my birthday, but if that doesn't work out, I like to gather with friends for a meal. Last year's was super weird -- DC was on intense curfew since it was a few days after George Floyd's murder, everyone was nervous about gathering, and that was the day that our previous president called the national guard on protesters in front of the White House, which is a few miles away. So I mostly stayed home that day and felt extremely freaked out about everything. Thankfully, this year was better; I went to a friend's cabin in West Virginia and spent the day hanging out with kitties at the local cat cafe, Give Purrs a Chance.

Other informal traditions of mine: seeing a new body of water every year (this year I saw the Capacon River in West Virginia) and going to Handel's Messiah at the National Cathedral. I also often gather with a friend on Dec. 25 for what we call pagan Christmas, in which we make food and watch dumb movies and do nothing holiday-specific.
posted by wicked_sassy at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Shout-out to anybody who grew up in a dysfunctional family with traditions like parent getting drunk and leaving Christmas dinner to pass out, or massive family fights caused by emotional over-exertion; if you know, you know. Hugs to anyone who wants one.

We always, always, read The Polar Express on Christmas Eve. I read it to my son by phone when he was in a combat zone. And I always tear up at the line It broke my heart to ... (spoiler omitted).

My family has a favorite holiday album, and it's not Christmas until Jo Stafford is singing Moonlight in Vermont.
posted by theora55 at 3:23 PM on December 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

Some minor things -

* A late-February birthday means that it's usually within a week or two of Mardi Gras, so over the years my birthdays have taken on a New Orleans accent foodwise. And on two occasions I have traveled TO New Orleans for the day - one year when my birthday was the day after, and two years ago when my 50th birthday was the SAME day. Friends, when your 50th Birthday is the same day as Mardi Gras, the party plans itself.

* I try to have black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day each year for luck. My family never did this; we lived in New England, so this was not something we grew up with. I just read that it was a thing and I did it for the hell of it and now it is a thing I do.

...It also lead to a moment I think I've talked about in here before one year - when I was living with a roommate who grew up in Atlanta. I mentioned I was making this for New Year's Day and offered to share, and she eagerly said yes; I went into the kitchen and started making my hoppin' john and greens, following a recipe in one of my cookbooks. My roommate was very surprised, then, to hear me say "It's ready!" after only a half hour.

"....So soon?" she asked, looking at me dubiously.

"Well... yeah. It's what the recipe says."

"Have you made this before?"


"Have you had this before?"


She came into the kitchen and tasted the greens. ".....Oh, honey," she said, frowning and taking the spoon out of my hand. "You're from New England, you wouldn't know. Here," she added, pushing me towards the living room. "you go sit down, I'll fix this."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

A long, long time ago, when my daughter was around age 10, we discovered a cul-de-sac that goes all out with their holiday decorations. After walking through the neighborhood, we went to a local diner for dessert. She had hot chocolate, I had decaf coffee, and we had a slice of pecan pie between us. At some point she went to the ladies’ room, and I noticed our cups looked nearly identical, so I switched them. She returned to the table and took a sip . . . and did a perfect spit-take. I felt like a bad mom for the prank and she complained that coffee was the worst, but we both laughed until we cried. For the next many years, each December we would recreate that night: cul-de-sac, diner, distraction, cup swap, giggles; but gradually things changed. The diner closed, we started going to an independent coffee shop, and she discovered that she actually liked the taste of good coffee. My daughter is now an adult, living in Wisconsin, but will be home for the holidays, so we’ll no doubt revisit the cul-de-sac and our tradition, and at some point she might ask if I remember the first time I swapped our cups – as if I could ever forget.
posted by kbar1 at 11:05 PM on December 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

Over 20 years ago McDonald's Malaysia introduced the Prosperity Burger for Chinese New Year season and we're fully taking the blame for it being introduced in the menu regionally (the burger link takes you to a Mike Chen video reviewing the one in Singapore). Capitalist product or not, people UNIRONICALLY celebrate its seasonal arrival, pretty much because it was the first burger made for local tastes. It's basically a square patty (or double or triple) of beef or chicken (and now expanded to fish too sometimes) doused in black pepper sauce (ie gravy), served with curly fries and carbonated orange juice. I can't explain the magic but i know people who eats McDonald's stuff only at this time of the year. We genuinely would alert our friend groups at the first sign.
posted by cendawanita at 3:12 AM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

It is not much, but in our house, the only proper breakfast on Christmas morning is homemade cookies with a beverage of the eater’s choice. This year he asked for peanut-butter chocolate chip and hot chocolate (as the beverage). I am going to make gingersnaps and spouse will chose something for himself. Tea for me, coffee for the spouse.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:38 PM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

My dad’s really sick, so I’m going to mention the tradition where, if there was a new Star Trek movie at Christmastime, we used to go together. Hasn’t happened in a long time as I’ve never lived near my parents as an adult. But that’s the one I’m thinking about today.
posted by eirias at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Years back, I went through a rough patch in my life, and wound up having to move back home and live in my mom’s basement for a while. I was unemployed and depressed, but sometimes I would have the wherewithal to make a stir fry for dinner, which my mom really enjoyed.

Fast forward a year or so, and I’m back on my feet and visiting Mom on Mother’s Day. I arrive and ask where she wants to go for lunch. She says, “Nowhere, you’re making a stir fry!” and she brings out the veggies and chicken she’d gotten for me to cook.

So that’s what we do for Mother’s Day now. The only major difference is I buy the food and do all the prep work at home, so when I get there I can hit the ground running.
posted by notoriety public at 12:59 PM on December 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Every Christmas my Grandma used to make a gingerbread man or lady for everyone in the extended family (including friends-who-count-as-family, of whom there were a great many) with their name written on it in royal icing. They were baked pretty hard, since some of them had to be mailed across the country, but they were great for dunking in a hot beverage. The last few years it was my aunt who did most of the work, but Grandma still supervised, made the list, and checked it twice.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:04 PM on December 10, 2021

This year, I got to celebrate one of my favorite things about the holidays - the Recieving of the Turkey Carcass.

No other party attendant at US Thanksgiving wants to deal with the hassle of it all, and the hostess is usually sick of turkey after spending a couple of days preparing it. So, while everyone else gets drunk and gets into loud arguments in the living room, I'm happily (and soberly) dissecting the leftover turkey and placing it into freezer bags. Then it sits in the fridge until I'm ready to go home.

It's a win-win for everyone involved - the hostess doesn't have to deal with the disposal of the carcass, and I'm happily noshing away on turkey vegetable bean soups all winter.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

"What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?"
"A violin hasn't had beer spilled on it."

Also, sometime in the early 2000's, McSweeney's Quarterly published a memoir of a family friend that had a number of lovely traditions. One of them was always yelling down the mailbox the final location of a letter, and that's a thing I've kept up every time ever since, even though sometimes I whisper it into the blue box so that people won't be completely sure I'm crazy.
posted by lauranesson at 7:53 PM on December 27, 2021

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