September 24, 2010 4:12 AM   Subscribe

What are some great traditions I can start with myself or with my family? Growing up, outside of your standard holidays, my family never had traditions like taking a yearly vacation, making cookies on Sundays, or going to all Notre Dame home games. Now that I am older, I want my own traditions. What traditions did you, your family, or friends have that I should be envious about?
posted by jasondigitized to Human Relations (92 answers total) 219 users marked this as a favorite
I know a lot of people who would do a big breakfast on one of the Weekend mornings. Different families did different days and different things to eat, but that seemed to be the one time of the week for a big sit down morning meal. Usually parents had a specialty that they'd only pull out for weekends or special occasions. With my Southern Grandma it was biscuits and gravy, a friend's dad did banana pancakes.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:28 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Birthdays -- we always got a small cake or cupcake and woke up the birthday person with a bang at the stroke of midnight, whether or not it was a weekday.
posted by tavegyl at 4:30 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Boardgame night.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:47 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Boardgames every afternoon right after school, before homework.
posted by jbickers at 4:49 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sunday night is milk shake night.
Our kids also get one day per school year where they can skip and do whatever they want.
Saturday afternoons from 4-5 is family nap time.
We listen to the full version of Alice's Restaurant Thanksgiving Day at noon. (Used to listen on WNEW but now I just pop in a CD.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [17 favorites]

We started this tradition quite late, but every year we would all go to a large plant nursery that sold ornaments around Christmastime and pick out a new one. It was fun to see the new ornaments up on the tree alongside the older ones from our parents and grandparents generations. (Though that's assuming you celebrate Christmas!)
posted by girlalex at 4:51 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every city we travel to as a couple, we buy either a Christmas tree ornament or a fridge magnet (some places don't have ornaments out all year around). The more stereotypical and cheesy the better (Santa riding a crocodile in a Hawaiian shirt). Then every year when we decorate the tree together we can talk about all of the trips we've taken together.
posted by librarianamy at 4:53 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

We have torn down Christmas and rebuilt it how we like it. We don't like turkey, or gifts, or one person spending all morning cooking while everyone else has fun. We do like steak and beer. So we go to the pub at lunchtime for a pint and then come home and have steak and roasted vegetables.

Going for a walk on New Year's day.

Having Sunday dinner on Sunday.

Having kids make the dessert whenever there's a special occasion.
posted by emilyw at 4:56 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Something we do with friends is an "orphans Thanksgiving" - we do it on Friday so that everyone who did have family obligations can join in as well - but a potluck gathering of our closest friends as an annual reminder that we are both thankful for our friendships, but also aware that friends are the family you make.

Also with friends, a few years ago we decided we were too old and it was getting too expensive to buy presents for all of our clique for the holidays. So now we each buy a $5 random present that would be appropriate for anyone in the group, and on New Years Eve we do a random draw (some years we do different draws for boys/girls). I think we've all agreed that those sometimes silly $5 gifts have been the ones we've put the most thought into or enjoyed the most each year. (My husband got $5 worth of used 70s horrible SciFi paperbacks last year and that rocked.)

As your relationship with your partner evolves you'll find your traditions with them will shift based on your responsibilities. Something we used to do was take the Sunday crossword and pass it back and forth over a pot of coffee/tea and some cinnamon rolls on a lazy afternoon, until we finished it. We haven't had a lazy Sunday in years but I've been thinking lately that's a tradition we need to bring back.
posted by librarianamy at 5:00 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

We had one night each year (the anniversary of our adoptions) where my brother and I each got to choose the whole menu for dinner and dessert, and could have anything we liked.

On Christmas afternoon we always went for a drive somewhere we had never been before.

Every time we pulled into the driveway coming home from a holiday or trip, my Dad would sing a dorky song he made up about how happy he was to be home with his family. As a kid (and especially a teenager) I cringed, but now the memory makes me smile and feel all nostalgic. That's just to say that even traditions that the kids don't appreciate at the time work for bonding and shared memories and might be stuff they appreciate later.

(We also had other family traditions, like "yell at your kids if they interrupt your TV watching schedule" and "bitch over Christmas dinner about how much the rest of the family sucks". Don't be those people.)
posted by lollusc at 5:01 AM on September 24, 2010

Half birthdays! We make half a cake and sing half of Happy Birthday.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:04 AM on September 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

Oh, and my husband and I have started developing weekly traditions: the first is that on Saturday morning we walk to a nearby bakery and buy pastries, then eat them with fresh brewed coffee while sprawled on the lounge-room floor reading the news. The second is that Sunday night is New Restaurant Night! where we go out to a restaurant we've never been to before (our city is big, and this tradition isn't very old yet), and then come home and write up reviews on restaurant websites.
posted by lollusc at 5:04 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

I grew up in New Mexico. Every year, at the last Sunday of the Balloon Fiesta, Mom would host a sunrise brunch with all the friends and family. We'd sit outside and watch the balloons ascend. Around noon, folks would head home. I miss that event.

On Christmas Eve, we would put out luminarias. It was a lot of work, but looked so beautiful. We would attend midnight mass and then have posole before going to bed. To this day, Mom only cooks posole on Christmas Eve while I cook it many times during the year.

For Birthdays, the birthday person got to choose the dinner for that night. If he wanted to go to a particular restaurant, we went. If she wanted Mom to cook a special or favorite meal, Mom cooked it. It was the one time of year that you could ask for lasagna or enchiladas and you KNEW it would happen. Heck, you could ask for homemade cinnamon rolls and get them for dinner if you wanted.

Every summer we had multiple picnics. Now, I'll sometimes, make sure to have a picnic dinner for my family in the park in the last month of school on a weeknight just to mix things up a bit.

When a load of towels comes out of the dryer, it has to be dumped on the nearest child while it is still toasty hot. We LOVED it when a load of hot towels would suddenly be dumped in our lap, especially if we were watching tv on a winter day. It was so comforting. We didn't mind that the person with the towel in their lap had to then fold them once they were cooled.

Every summer each of us kids was sent to spend at least a week at Grandma's house without the siblings. The one bad part of the week for me was that Grandma always made me polish her collection of 100+ silver spoons. I would have to repeat this task before Christmas so they would sparkle for the holidays. This is something we continued just without the curse of the spoon display.
posted by onhazier at 5:05 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, I forgot to mention that my husband and I have started doing an annual pig roast. We make sure to get a big enough pig to send our guests home with a gallon of pulled, smoked pork.
posted by onhazier at 5:08 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mom would keep us home one day in December to make all the Christmas cookies, and then not tell our father. The combination of playing hooky, baking, AND lying to my Dad was DELECTABLE.

Christmas Eve was spent at the science museum with my dad. It turns out we did this so my mom could wrap gifts.

Special occasions are celebrated with a record of Scottish bagpipe music, turned up really loud, as we all run around the house.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:15 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

my Dad would sing a dorky song he made up about how happy he was to be home with his family. As a kid (and especially a teenager) I cringed, but now the memory makes me smile and feel all nostalgic.

Yeah, my dad would always sing "Happy Trails" to us at night when it was time to start getting ready for bed. As a teenager it would mortify me that he'd do it in front of my friends (I have a younger sibling he'd be singing to) but I have had more than one friend tell me as an adult that now if they hear Happy Trails they think of my dad. Who I now realize is completely and totally awesome.
posted by librarianamy at 5:16 AM on September 24, 2010 [13 favorites]

Every Thanksgiving, my whole family would go to a shelter for the day to volunteer and work. My mom usually found one through her church group connections. My mom usually cooked and worked in the kitchen. My dad did all sorts of maintenance work. My brother and I usually worked as servers, busing trays of food from the kitchen to the tables. We were told to pretend we were "real waiters" treating our customers with respect and to look around making sure everyone had everything they needed.

At night, we would all go home and have our own Thanksgiving dinner, usually in silence because we were all so tired.
posted by vacapinta at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

Birthdays - whichever kid's birthday it was got to pick a restaurant for dinner. Which is a big deal when you're one of four children. Even if the choice is basically Chi-chi's Mexican vs. Denny's vs. Olive Garden.

Now that my siblings and I are grown, we've started the tradition of champagne at breakfast on Christmas morning, which is fun.

I think we had a "Friday night is pizza night" thing going for a while, too.

Also, my dad is a huge history buff, so just about every summer we'd all pile into the car to take the way, way scenic route to a beach or camping spot that inevitably featured at least one stop at a Civil War battlefield or colonial fort or something like that. Which inspired an obscure inside joke about not wanting to go to Chickamauga.
posted by Sara C. at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2010

Sunday dinner.

The Beatles "Birthday Song" wakes you up blasting in your ear every year.

Annual school skip day aka "mental health day."

Monthly nobody gets out of their pajamas on Saturday, we eat brownies and watch movies.

Christmas tree and Easter Bunny bread (like a giant cinnamon bun).

Annual AIDS Walk as a family (18 years plus).

Xmas eve my kids reenact "The Mouse and the Elephant" play.
posted by dzaz at 5:26 AM on September 24, 2010

We also do the tourist-christmas-tree-ornament deal. It's a lot of fun to dust them off every year and remember past trips. When the right branch(es) of the family are together, we do Cuban Christmas Eve dinner: roast pork, small white potatoes, black beans and rice, fried yucca, bread and salad.

With the nativity set: Mary and Joseph go in at the beginning of Advent, the babe isn't placed until Christmas morning, and the Magi proceed through the house until they arrive on epiphany. I move them around every night to some new place (mantel, bookshelf, kitchen counter, etc) and the kids try to find them.

We have an Advent wreath and light the candles every night at dinner, adding one for each week in the buildup to the Christmas season.

Also, we have this little "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" banner that we bought maybe 12 years ago and kept. It comes out for every birthday and stays up all day in this one spot over the kitchen windows.
posted by jquinby at 5:28 AM on September 24, 2010

We make a ginger bread house every Christmas week (usually Christmas eve) and smash it with a rolling pin on Boxing Day. We looked forward to that almost as much as Christmas. And we decorated the Christmas tree together, with decorations picked out on travels or hand-made.

Not really a tradition as such but was a Really Big Deal that my parents and siblings all ate dinner together every night, because otherwise, we'd rarely see each other. The kids would set the table, and Mum would cook while Dad watched the news (or vice versa)... That was always my favourite time of the day as a kid, with everyone together as a family.

We also made pancakes every Sunday morning.

When we were a bit older and misbehaved, Dad bought us all pig nose masks, which we had to wear if we were rude at the dinner table. So of course, we all wanted to wear the masks, and would deliberately misbehave. Then Dad cottoned on, and changed the rule - we started out wearing masks and had them taken off if we were naughty.
posted by indienial at 5:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Whenever one of us kids was celebrating a birthday, the siblings got a small present each as well, mostly a book. It was called "cat's birthday", I don't know why.
posted by Triton at 5:40 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, and when we'd all grown up a little bit and were more mobile/in control of our own social lives, we had a mandatory family dinner. Every night. Period. You were home in time to sit down for dinner with the family. One meal was cooked, and everyone sat together at the table with no outside stimulus and even spoke to each other and everything. I don't know if this is a tradition or a rule, but it has had a HUGE impact on the way I think about food as an adult.
posted by Sara C. at 5:44 AM on September 24, 2010

When my husband and I lived in Portland, OR, we used to get bubble tea every Friday. On Thursday nights before bed, one of us would usually say, "You know what day it is tomorrow? Bubble Tea Friday." Even co-workers we didn't know all that well would remind us that it was Bubble Tea Friday.
posted by smirkyfodder at 5:47 AM on September 24, 2010

Saturday night was pizza night in my house. My dad made homemade pizza, it was the one night of the week that we were allowed to drink pop, and we watched cartoons after dinner.

For birthdays, my mom would make our cakes, and we got to pick the type of cake.

Advent calendar in December.

Gingerbread house for Christmas - my youngest sibling and I still do this every December (I am now 29 and she is 19) - we buy the pre-made kit, and she always turns one of the gingerfigures into a gingermonster.

My husband and I buy one or two new Christmas tree ornaments every year.
posted by purlgurly at 5:57 AM on September 24, 2010

Birthday boy or girl gets showered with lollies to wake them up on the big day (then dinner out at a nice restaurant in the evening which is the part of the tradition that has stuck around). My grandmother started the lolly-throwing tradition when my dad and aunt were kids.

When we were kids, on saturday nights my mum would make french toast (using the Challah from Friday night) which we would eat whilst watching Young Talent Time. (Friday night dinner has endured even if none of us are particularly religious.)

Sick family members got chicken soup (and still do). Another "traditional" "remedy" is hot raspberry cordial with brandy (yum).
posted by prettypretty at 5:58 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Traditions grow out of real, shared interests. Look into yourself and your family to find what activities might bind you together and evolve into traditions.

We, ourselves, have Friday night pizza. It began as our weekly family night-out and continued that way for many years. Then, as our economic situation became a bit more unsteady, we began making our own pizza at home on Friday night. Now that our kids are out of the home, my wife and I continue this tradition.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2010

Friendsgiving. The weekend before Thanksgiving, but with your friends rather than with your family.

Also, my good buddies from college have recently started a tradition called "Dude Weekend," where, once a year, we find a weekend that lots of us have free, and travel somewhere to make sure we all have time aside to hang out.

We also have had Labor Day set aside for our group of friends, plus significant others and family, and have rented houses in various locations for the long weekend to cook, relax, and hang out. It's fallen by the wayside the last couple of years due to a ridiculous span of weddings, but we're looking to bring it back next year.
posted by kryptonik at 6:26 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Childhood traditions:
When I was a kid, my dad would make a big breakfast (eggs, pancakes, or french toast plus bacon, sausage, rolls, fruit...) for dinner once a month.

Whenever he made chili, he would play show tunes and whistle/sing along with the music. Thanks to him I know all the lyrics to The King and I, The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof.

When we went on a family vacation, my parents would set a morning or afternoon aside for one-on-one time with each of us for individual excursions.

Any vacation that took place at the ocean (which was approximately 80% of our family trips) required the making of huge lobster dinner at some point during the trip. Those in the anti-lobster contingent got a good cut of steak instead.

New Traditions:
Tea and fresh bakery goods on Saturday morning.
Jambalaya made with sausage, shredded chicken, shrimp and oysters on Fat Tuesday.
And we are working on the family nap idea suggested upthread.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

We went out to dinner every Sunday night, either for Chinese food or Italian, depending on whose turn it was to pick.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:36 AM on September 24, 2010

Every Sunday after church instead of going straight home, we'd go "exploring" which meant driving around (our semi-rural area) pretty much aimlessly for an hour or two, taking roads that looked interesting and looking at other people's houses.

A drive in the country without a purpose is pretty much my idea of bliss.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have always wanted to celebrate an Unbirthday, where it isn't anyone's birthday and there's a tea set. In my family, this would probably be in February, due to the distribution of birthdays during the year. I'm thinking Secret Santa-esque homemade cards and funny hats and skipping school.

I have also always wanted an annual Roman feast, where everyone wears togas and eats grapes while lounging. We would recite lines from Shakespeare's political dramas and say goofy things in Latin and carve busts out of polystyrene.
posted by SMPA at 6:37 AM on September 24, 2010

every year for easter we went to the grandparents with all my cousins, ate fried chicken and colored easter eggs. WE hunted them when we were younger - threw them at each other as we got older. TO this day the smell of vinegar reminds me of easter.

Christmas morning brunch with family friends. Christmas eve with neighbors who are no longer actual neighbors. My grandfather reading the christmas story from Luke before we were allowed to open presents.

asking every mariachi band we run across to play "el rancho grande".
posted by domino at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2010

My friends and I do the "Thanksgiving but just for your friends" thing, too. We call it Second Thanksgiving and usually do it the following weekend.
posted by Sara C. at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

domino: "asking every mariachi band we run across to play "el rancho grande"."

We always ask them to play something they really love, but is never requested. They seem to thoroughly love it.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the 1st of December every year my father would start reading A Christmas Carol to us every evening, ending on Christmas Eve.

(I love this thread too.)
posted by ceri richard at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2010

We always take our wedding anniversary off of work if it's a weekday and then just go and do silly things around our city, like the aviary or the zoo. We get up early, have a huge breakfast out somewhere and stroll around and just pretend we're tourists. It's off season so things aren't crowded and we really just relish spending that time together. If it's a weekend we've tried to go away overnight, even if it's just to a little local hotel.
posted by librarianamy at 6:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

My family traditions as a child: Singing. Car trips. Car trips while singing. Car trips with mishaps -- large tent collapsing on us at night, racoons menacing my bratty brother who claimed the hammock and didn't help put up the tent (hee), same brother barfing out van window and causing the cars behind us to put on their windshield wipers. (Good times.) Saturday morning pancakes. Dad playing silly songs on his guitar while we dressed for school or got ready for bed. Sunday afternoon aimless drives in the country. Saturday library trips. Endless board game playing, especially after big holiday dinners -- my husband pretends to be sleeping to avoid the ruthless throwing of dice and poor-winner behavior of my family.

Traditions with my own kids now: Saturday morning pancakes or biscuits or other carby made-from-scratch goodies. Silly crafty stuff every day from some kiddie craft books. Telling stories at bedtime, along with asking a few questions like "what made you happy, (or sad or surprised) today?" Christmas card family photos. Letting each child help me in the kitchen when I make anything. Silly songs about each child that we sing to them every day. (My kids are little, so we are still figuring out traditions and they tend to be small-scale.) Friday evening homemade pizza night. Oh, and for my husband and me -- making sure we get up a good hour at least before the 3 little ones do, so we can spend time drinking coffee and talking. And getting away once a year at least for a weekend alone.

One thing I did this year was decide to cook every night and eat as a family at home. The occasional takeout meal slipped in, but eating as a family around the table has been incredible. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
posted by mdiskin at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2010

Oh - a big Irish dinner on St. Patrick's Day, and then we watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

My dad sings the Air Force Song at the start of any car trip. Apparently my siblings and I all sing it when we're traveling too.

My brothers and I text each other any time we hear "Sweet Caroline." The one who hears it texts "SWEET CAROLINE" and the other must respond with "BAH BAH BAH."

Once we put up the Christmas tree, everyone with bad vision (hey! All of us, now.) takes off their glasses or contacts and lays with their head beneath the Christmas tree.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2010 [12 favorites]

Making up stupid silly songs and then having them become part of a canon is a big one in our home. We have songs for the cats, songs for not wanting to get up in the morning, songs about Friday afternoon when you can finally take your work pants off, very Homer Simpsons "shavin' my shoooulders" type stuff. We built new lines once in a while too, expanding.

It's boring and typical but yes, brunch once a week on Saturday or Sunday, either a nice big lazy home-cooked breakfast or out (Memphis loves brunch, we've been to like different 15 spots without a repeat visit yet, all well known for brunch especially, and still haven't been to every one we want to try). I look forward to it because I get to try new dishes I wouldn't normally know about (ricotta pancakes FTW) since I grew up in a very unbreakfast-y household. We also realized a while ago our favorite kind of restaurants, being of the cherished hole in the wall variety, tend to be lunch spots more than dinner, so when it isn't brunch it's early lunch at that new spot we've been meaning to try, etc. We don't do fancy dinner or late night bar dinner anymore like we used to, that's maybe a once or twice a year thing and always for some formal reason. Lunch spots rule.

My husband and I are newly married (our first anniversary is this weekend, woo hoo!), but he already established he wants to be like libraryamy and her husband; before he switched jobs he took off for our anniversary at his old job and made it clear he thinks that's the way to go. I really like it, a holiday just for the two of us.

In the summer we make a point to go on picnics at the park a block or so away, complete with the cheesy blanket and basket and everything, because that's where we were when he decided he was going to propose to me (and it's where he did the deed even, later).

It was inadvertent but Chicago became our default "weekend/half week road trip city" after three consecutive years when we were first dating where stuff came up and we went there and had a blast. I wouldn't mind changing it if we move or whatever, but the idea of having a big exciting but not crazy expensive place you can reasonably go that isn't some mega vacation planning deal but definitely feels more special than a day trip is nice.

When we go grocery shopping my husband and I sometimes make a little game of it to pick a tiny treat out to share or for the other person without them noticing it before we get home. Or we stop by spots that just happen to be adjacent to the store for treats like hot homemade tortillas or tamales, or our city's best bakery's cupcakes.

Not really an ironclad ritual, but Sunday unless we have to be somewhere we make a point to lie in bed all morning talking and cuddling. Similarly, Saturday afternoon is movie/favorite-TV-on-DVD time, and Sunday night we usually read aloud in bed together. Board game night is lots of fun; we go to a friend's house for that though.

Holiday rituals can be unique to your family, not just the more usual stuff--I had a blast last year making homemade pretzels around Christmastime and drinking them with local homemade winter beers. That time of year we do a very goofy liquor swap with friends instead of normal gift exchange. And I have a salsa (cranberry jalapeno, from Mefi no less!) that my husband and any subsequent children are probably going to eventually groan about because I don't see myself ever going another holiday season without it, for the rest of my life. Ditto a specific rosemary cashew recipe. Weird random stuff like that.

It is driving me mad because I am super positive there's an older thread very similar to this, and I want to find it so you can get more good ideas in case you didn't see it. But I'm pretty sure I didn't post in it, so finding it is going to be hard. G'ah.
posted by ifjuly at 7:20 AM on September 24, 2010

About 10 years ago I heard a radio show detailing how scientists set out to discover the elements of music that annoy people the most, including but not limited to:

- songs about holidays
- children's choruses
- cowboys
- operatic singing
- bagpipes
- rapped lyrics
- Wal-Mart
- tubas going oompah

... and then they set about creating a song that incorporated all the most annoying elements. Listen to it here.

I have a tradition every year that on Labor Day, no matter what either of us is doing, even if we're on vacation or someone is in deep mourning, I call my oldest and dearest friend and sing a particularly screamy verse of this wretched song (the original is a children's chorus):

Schools are closed and pools are OPEN!
Shop at Wal-Mart!

And I can never decide which is better: That she doesn't answer and so I can imagine her listening to it on her voice mail later as she's, say, picking out a pomegranate at Whole Foods, or she does answer and I can hear her snorting and crying as I'm scream-singing this abomination in her ear.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2010 [27 favorites]

On New Year's Eve we melt tin horseshoes and predict the future.

It's something I did as a girl in Finland, stopped for decades, and now I've started back up with my own kids. My thought is that I don't give my kids traditions they're going to get them from TV -- plus, most importantly, it's fun.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, my dad would make tortillas or biscuits on Sunday morning, and we would watch WWF wrestling (back when Hulk Hogan was my favorite). When I was a teenager this morphed to watching really bad Rutger Huaer/Steven Sega/kung-fu movies on afternoons.
posted by shinyshiny at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2010

Last food + favorite thing.

Last food started as a preventative measure against midnight snacks, and thereby, cavities. Apparently, when my siblings and I were young kiddies, we would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen and nom on things. This meant leaving our teeth unbrushed when we went back to bed. But then, per dentist suggestion, my parents started calling for "last food" immediately before tooth-brushing, and we'd all have some small, easy, and delicious snack of our choosing. (The most common choice was ice cream. Second most common, nachos.) It was awesome. It provided us with not only better dental hygiene, but also choice, routine, additional family time, and most importantly, ice cream (my family didn't really do dessert after dinner). Our drastically reduced midnight snacking also meant we didn't wake our parents up as often.

After all us kids were in bed, my dad would ask each of us for "favorite thing". It's just how it sounds: our favorite thing that happened that day. It might be a food we ate, a TV show we watched, a book we read, some funny conversation or event, whatever. Then my dad would write them all down in one of those dated weekly planner things, like (not our real initials):

D- Dancing to Full Moon Fever
N- Swimming at the Y
E- Swimming at the Y
K- Chicken for lunch at school

I think it's a really awesome thing to do with little kids because it encourages them to reflect on their day in a positive, fun way, and it makes them feel like they're loved and important. My dad still asks us for them whenever we're home and when I think about it, it's kind of funny because he's not otherwise a sentimental guy. We now have a huge collection of planners filled with favorite things, and a couple of times, we've looked through a few. It's cool to have a reference to what we were doing back then, and what brought us joy. If I ever have kids, I plan to do "favorite thing" with them, except I'll probably store it on some digital cloud for easier and more accessible storage.
posted by randomname25 at 7:27 AM on September 24, 2010 [57 favorites]

I asked this same question several years ago, and got some good responses.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mom always set a gorgeous formal table for holidays and special events (birthdays, dinner parties, you name it), with the china and the silver and the fancy tablecloths and candles and centerpieces. As soon as we were old enough to kneel up at the table or sit in a booster (instead of using a high chair), we were using the china and silver at holidays (and nothing ever got broken by the kids). It was so pretty, and we were almost the only people I knew who actually used the china. I am super-fixated on dinnerware (I have three sets! Everyday, wedding china, and Christmas) and this is why. When I moved out on my own, it was really important to me to set a gorgeous table for special events ... it's even part of why I learned to cook!

My family also had an open-door holiday policy (and four children), so many of our Thanksgivings and Christmases had stranded cousins, random exchange students, people who lived too far from home to get home, etc., with us, and the rule was, they were included in everything, so I recall, like, a sibling's random Buddhist college friend from Thailand getting Christmas gifts from everyone in the family so they wouldn't feel left out. It was always crucial to find out in early December, "who EXTRA is coming?" so you could get gifts in time.

We give my baby "triple kisses" every night before bed (we sandwich kiss him, three times, one on each side). He's only 16 months and he already thinks this is funny and knows it means bedtime. I don't even remember how we started but we've been doing it almost since he was born!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one other tradition we have recently started is a "to do" list for each season. For example, at the beginning of summer we sat down with both kids and brainstormed things we would want to do during the summer. No reasonable activity is refused. Our list had big things (go to a minor league baseball game, rent a rowboat and row around a lake) and small things (get treats from the ice cream truck, go swimming, take the dog for a walk).

We put the list on the fridge and each time we did something, the kids got to check off the item. By the end of the summer, we had completed everything and were on to the list for fall. We have found that this has focused the family on doing fun things that we might not otherwise have thought of or made time for. And it's a great little souvenir - and a fun review session - at the end of the season.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'm one of four siblings. Every year for Christmas my mom gave us each a new ornament. Sometimes they all matched, sometimes they were individualized. She wrote our names and the year on them, and then maintained a list. As we each moved into our own places she gave us our box of ornaments. It was great to have a head start on my holiday decorations, and it was always a lot of fun every year to remember which weird fuzzy cat on a sled belonged to whom. I still look forward every holiday to the new ornament that comes in the mail with the presents.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

May Ditch Day. On the first nice day in Spring (generally in May), my daughter would get to stay home from school, and most of the rest of the family would call in sick to work (even her uncle and grandparents), and we'd all pile in the car and go get ice cream cones. Then we'd eat them while driving around with the car windows open and silly music playing really loudly. We were especially fond of The Monkees theme song, and anything by the Ramones or Abba.

When my daughter was about 26, she was going through a really rough patch in life and I had to fly up to her city to be with her for a weekend. She was pretty much breaking into tears everywhere we went, until finally I suggested we have May Ditch Day. We went and got ice cream and did the driving around with the Ramones playing thing. It didn't fix all her problems that weekend, but it did cheer her up for a few hours.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:59 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

A tradition I've started has been to host a Mother's Day Brunch. My mom lives far away, but there are lots of Mom figures here in town: mother-in-law, husband's grandmother, husband's aunt, my sister, best friend, etc. Last year I added a craft to keep the kids entertained, and I think that's gonna stick every year.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:03 AM on September 24, 2010

My mom, sister, and I go to Grandma's house to bake christmas cookies at every year, even though my sister and I are in our late twenties now. We do enormous batches of these rolled out, cookie-cutter-cut cookies that then need to be decorated with frosting. The frosting portion of the day usually starts out normally enough, with green christmas trees bearing red frosting garlands and yellow-frosted stars sprinkled with sugar. As we get bored, we start frosting more strangely, usually making gingerbread people in bikinis or dressed in our current men-friends' favorite outfits. Last year an amorphous-looking santa claus cookie was frosted as a flying spaghetti monster, and I think we actually frosted something to look like a pregnancy test stick. Two blue lines, or whatever. Frosting cookies gets really boring if you're not careful.

When we would leave on road trips, we would always listen and sing along to ABBA's song Move On. It still makes me feel giddily excited, like we're going on an adventure.

My mom would also always sing Brahm's lullaby for us each night before bed. Sometimes my dad would do it instead, but he always used a funny voice -- Bob Dylan and bubbly (finger waggled across lips) were the two favorites.

We also eat the same thing for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and it's not a traditional holiday food. It's just some really elaborate recipe my parents found in the paper back in the 80s, so it's delicious but only worth making once a year.

On birthdays, we all call the birthday person and sing Happy Birthday to them in its entirety. We are not good singers, either. Sometimes I leave my phone off on my birthday, just so I can have them all recorded on voice mail.
posted by vytae at 8:03 AM on September 24, 2010

I've gone out to dinner with my daughter every Wednesday night for the last 12 years.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:06 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was raised in a very Catholic, very religious household and one of our traditions was celebrating our Patron Saint's Feastday. I remember being partially annoyed because my mom would make us go to church and light a candle, but we also got to pick the menu for the day and got a present (usually something overtly religious like a book about how the martyr Saints died, which is still one of my favorite books to this day) and a delicious cake, which always made it nice, especially since my birthday is super close to Christmas and I always felt partially ripped off when it came to JUST ME celebrations.
posted by banannafish at 8:07 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The day after Thanksgiving, our extended family would have Leftovers Day. Everyone would bring their leftover stuff from Thanksgiving Supper and we'd talk, dance, and eat.

On birthdays, the birthday person would get to choose whatever they wanted for supper.

The weekend of our local church's homecoming service, when a lot of extended family would be in town, we'd have a big pig roast.

Sunday mornings = Greatest. Breakfast. Ever. (cooked by Daddy, because Mama was running around getting ready for church)
posted by magstheaxe at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2010

OK last one, I promise. My family in California (which is huge) does a big Thanksgiving camping trip. It's the real deal, with turkeys and stuffing and all the normal meal stuff. I missed going once I got to college, and now the hubby and I are trying to set up our own tradition of flying out to join them every other year. This year we go, wahoo!
posted by purpletangerine at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2010

My family has a lot of traditions. Most of them died out when everyone grew up and left the house, but that just means an opportunity for new ones!

-Any vacation we were on my dad would insist we had to try a new candy and a new beverage (for every week of the trip). Sometimes we'd be in Kentucky for almost a whole month in summer visiting family, and after many years of this it'd be hard to find something we hadn't tried!

-During those long stays in Kentucky, we stayed in a small house. The first night there we would always go to the grocery store and stock up on food for the trip. We were each allowed three, no-questions-asked food items. It wouldn't matter how bad for you it was, or if it wasn't on sale, or if you were the only one who was going to eat it. I usually got peach ice cream, Dr. Pepper and Corn Pops; all items which we very rarely allowed to eat at home.

-Friday night was pizza and movie night. We'd go out to a local pizza place, then hit up a video rental place. We'd always watch the movie in my parent's bedroom, with kids either on the bed with the parents, or on the floor with pillow.

-When my husband and I first started dating 6 years ago, we started hosting Thanksgiving (day) Eve. At the time, a lot of our friends worked in the restaurant biz and Thanksgiving Eve was one of the rare times that everyone could hang out together. It wasn't so much a second Thanksgiving as more of just a party. Even now that everyone has regular 9-5s, we still get together.

-When everyone still lived in the same city, we'd always gather together as a family for Sunday dinner. Mom would usually cook, but if there was an occasion, we'd eat out. It was a great way to see everyone regularly. You had to have a very good excuse not to attend Sunday dinner.

-Once a month or so, we'd have a Saturday "Daddy Day Out". Dad would take us out to lunch, then maybe to a playground or a dollar movie.
posted by lizjohn at 8:13 AM on September 24, 2010

The Mrs. family takes a vacation at the beach every summer. Every Sunday (well, most) she makes a big Sunday dinner for the family. It's really brought everyone together.
posted by Gilbert at 8:13 AM on September 24, 2010

This one is appropriate fo this time of year. Every fall my father would take me and my best friend out to the country to look at foliage and buy a pumpkin. For two city kids, it was always exciting to go out to the country and we always got spiced cider and other appropriate fall food. Even when we were old enough to drive my friend and I continued the tradition.
posted by bananafish at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2010

Most of these I've started as I've gotten older; I didn't have a very happy childhood.
1. Yellowstone: We go to Yellowstone every Labor Day weekend. It's the last weekend the entire park is open, and the cold drives everyone else away.
2. Annual Pumpkin Shoot: My brothers and I gather up all the uncarved pumpkins we can find after Halloween, and fill them with water, then shoot them with high powered rifles (they explode); it's a blast and as we've been getting married more and more in-laws are showing up.
3. Parents night off: One night a week, my wife gets a night off, and one night a week I get a night off, to go play with friends, work on hobbies, see a movie, whatever. Usually on the weekend we get a babysitter and go out together, but that's not as codified as the weeknight off.
posted by krieghund at 8:25 AM on September 24, 2010

We always had pannetone for Christmas morning breakfast (though we are not Italian)

On the first day of school for the year, we would each receive a new book, with a little inscription inside written by Mum and Dad. I loved this tradition so much I made Mum keep doing right through university!

This seems like a common one - Friday night for a long time was board game (Heroquest was our game of choice) and pizza night (the one time each week that we had take away fast food, and Coke!)

In the weeks leading up to Christmas my Dad would take me into the city for a special father-daughter shopping trip, which always culminated in a "fancy" lunch out.

(this is a great thread!)
posted by unlaced at 8:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I forgot one: every time my sisters and I go out to eat, there are two rules. We take turns telling waiters "enough" (for cheese on salads, more bread, etc.) And we don't use our real names when they put us on the waiting list if we're traveling (my last name is hyphenated and no one can spell or read theirs right.) We're working our way through the presidents right now. I'm looking forward to Nixon and Eisenhower, personally.
posted by SMPA at 8:32 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

We never had any formal "traditions" (mostly a rebellion on my parents' part from growing up in the '50s) but there are some things that I remember very fondly as a child.

Ever summer for a week, my mom would go spend a week at a spa/resort, so my dad and I would fend for ourselves. My day camp lunches were usually pretty pathetic (bagel and cream cheese, and a banana) but we would go out to dinner pretty much every night and do activities that wouldn't interest my mom.

Actually come to think of it, in reverse of that, my mom and I had a lot of fun when Dad was away on business trips. My dad's a neatnick and likes things very quiet, so we would let ourselves be messy and watch tv with the volume up. It felt very scandalous!

My mom was not an early riser so for Christmas the rule was that my dad and I could open our stockings first, and then we'd open the presents when Mom woke up. Usually I got lots of chocolate and I loved eating it for breakfast!

Our one major vacation every year was going to Lake Tahoe for a week or two in August (I'm from San Francisco so it was about a 6 hour drive). We stayed at this great place called Chinquapen - actually for many of the years we rented the same condo so it almost felt like "ours." We did a lot of the same activities each year (river rafting on the Truckee river, getting ribs from this yummy restaurant, going shopping at certain stores, etc). I really hope I get to take my kids there (well I hope I can afford it!) because it was such an important part of my childhood.
posted by radioamy at 8:48 AM on September 24, 2010

My wife came up with "GF" day which is Greek Food and Godfather day. We get together with my son's godfather to eat greek food at an awesome restaurant here in Toronto. 3rd Annual this Sunday.
posted by boomcha76 at 8:56 AM on September 24, 2010

On the first and last days of school, my mom would make our favorite dinner, spaghetti, and bake chocolate chip cookies. It softened the blow of being back in school and was a good way to celebrate being out at the end of the year.
posted by corey flood at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

We celebrated our pets' (dogs in this case) birthdays as a family and presented the birthday pup with an extra special treat and new toy. THe human family had a nice dinner and homemade cake or supcakes and then we'd all curl up on the couch and pet the dogs and watch tv.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Every year until I was 18, my mom created a 'wild goose chase' for my birthday presents. That's what we called it anyway, though it doesn't seem to match the real definition. She'd stay up terribly late and hide notes and gifts around the house while I was asleep, then give me Note #1 in the morning.

They'd be little rhymes or riddles, like, "Hungry for a little snack? Check right here for a 'pack'." So I'd go look in the cabinet where we kept the little snack packs of chips, and hidden among the bags would be Note #2. They'd usually be 20 or 25 clues long, with 2 or 3 mini-gifts along the way, and my big gift at the end.

Sometimes I wouldn't be able to figure out a clue and it would happen to be the case that my mom didn't remember either. She'd have to run around peeking into hiding spots to find the next numbered clue... sometimes she'd forget entirely, and that is why I found a pair of earrings and a note in the microwave some days after a birthday chase one year.
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

On the morning of our birthdays, my mom would always decorate the kitchen table with confetti, balloons, etc. No matter how early you'd wake up on your birthday, certain that this year would be the year they forgot-- the table would be decorated.

New Year's eve we always have caviar. Usually 2 kinds, which we always have to then guess which one was the expensive one and which was the cheapie-kind. Even when I was a kid and would only put ONE fish egg on a cracker and then cover it in capers and chopped egg to hide the taste, we'd still eat it.

For each of the 8 nights of Hannukah, the kids would have to either perform or read something they'd written, or give a piece of art they'd created. Only then would you get your present for the night. Also, the first night's present would be the smallest, crappiest present you can imagine-- my mom giftwrapped a toothpick once. A piece of Bazooka Joe's gum another year. The second night would be slightly less crappy-- say, a magnet. (Though one year my brother got Soap on a Rope, which has gone down in the Hall of Fame of crappy gifts.) By the sixth/seventh/eight nights, you'd get something you actually wanted.
posted by np312 at 9:24 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

PS the "perform for eight nights of Hannukah" rule went on until I was 27 and my brother was 29. Now that we have jobs it's a lot harder to muster up that kind of creativity.
posted by np312 at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2010

Going to the pumpkin patch with my parents, my cousins & their parents, riding the hayrack, drinking apple cider and picking out pumpkins to take home and carve.

Baking bread for holidays with extended families. My mom always let (still lets, if we're being honest) me pick one "fun" loaf to bake in addition to the standard croissants/rolls.

First day of school photos every year on the front porch.

My mom waking us up by yelling "Up up, cried Paul Revere! The British are coming, the British are coming!" Apparently this is one my grandmother passed down.

Getting on the floor with my mom and my sister when we were little kids and rolling around on the freshly vacuumed carpet to get rid of the vacuum lines. Not sure how effective it was, but it was ludicrously fun.


Building and launching model rockets with my Dad.

Being allowed to stay up late to drink Santa's milk and eat Santa's cookies the first year I realized Santa didn't exist, then feeling superior to my sister and brother until they figured it out. (They eventually got to stay up late for milk & cookies, too, once they caught on.)

Homemade pizza (the recipes for the crust and sauce were handed down from one of my mom's college roommates). There weren't any standard/set times when we ate this, but my siblings & I and my dad often chose it for our birthday meals. When I moved abroad after college, it was my last American meal before I got on the plane, and I missed it the whole time I was gone.
posted by rebekah at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2010

Oh my. Where to stop...
Some usual and less-usual holiday traditions:

A bird's nest, found over the course of the previous year, is always placed in the Christmas tree for luck. The decorating of the tree requires at least one and usually more like four playings of Ramirez' Misa Criolla (the old version with Zamba Quipildor) and much later on in the night, Rachmaninoff's Vespers. Everyone gets a new ornament each year, usually relating to something they've done during that time.

When we were little, my sister and I would spend a few hours using a motley collection of little wooden buildings and figurines, along with pulled-apart cotton balls and construction paper backdrops and black thread to hang the flying reindeer in midair, to make a Christmas town scene in an extra-high bookcase shelf that was emptied out for the occasion. The back of the piano was used for nativity scenes, all of which were terrifyingly dwarfed by the two-foot-tall papier-mâché Magi made by my great-grandmother. Carved wooden Nutcracker kings and soldiers (bought to commemorate various times my sister and I performed in the ballet) stood guard around them.

Childhood artwork (including that of my parents) was stored beside the Christmas decoration boxes, and these were brought out together so that the house could be further adorned with knobby clay sculptures and earnest acrylic paintings.

Advent wreath and accompanying Advent Candle song every night at dinner were compulsory. Every one in the family had their own Advent calendar as well... this may or may not have started when manufacturers began producing the versions with little chocolates behind every door. Like Eyebrows McGee, holiday dinners involve the holiday or wedding china and a collection of guests. Before the meal, we toast each other with mulled cider in a special set of little glasses decorated with wild birds, assigned to the drinker according to personality (if you're being fighty, you will probably be dealt Ruffed Grouse).

For a few decades, my parents have put together a two or three-page Christmas (news)letter, including an official Christmas picture and other snapshots, and paragraphs contributed by each of us about what we'd done that year. The official picture is usually taken on a shared family vacation, most often a coordinated planned effort involving a specific, hotly protested, dress code.

Family pictures in general are very important, and there's often competition to take the best picture at gatherings, with good results- my dad's book jacket portrait is a candid my sister shot at the beach. My other also made a point of having formal photographs of my sister and I taken several times a year, alone and separately, either in a studio or at some location such as the botanical gardens or in an art gallery by one of a few friends of the family who were professional photographers. Several times, she had our portraits done in pastels.

The Thanksgiving turkey each year is officially granted the name of an Ottoman sultan.

A tiny sapling, spray-painted white and decorated with ribbons and miniature ornaments and placed on the dining room table, served as our Easter tree and centerpiece for the neighborhood after-egg-hunt party. On Easter, after family dinner, everyone lingers around the table to make pysanka- each makes one to keep and at least one to give away to distant family members. Honors are bestowed for the most intricate, and occasionally for the most humorous.

Non-holiday traditions:
My parents go on a diner breakfast date together every Saturday morning.

On birthdays, one of them would sneak quietly into our rooms to place a birthday note they had both written onto our pillows for us to find as soon as we woke up. Every year, they give me a hardbound sketchbook/journal.

Mom tended to work long weekday hours when we were in grade school, but arranged them so that on Wednesdays she could pick my sister and I up from school and take us out for frozen yogurt and valuable mother-daughter time.

A few nights a year, my family would get together for an evening with family friends. By the end of the evening, the adults would be "treated" by the kids (starting when we were 6 or 7) to a production of Hamlet (or a command performance of another play when Hamlet palled) done either straight, or styled in some horrible fashion (rap Hamlet, Victorian melodrama Hamlet, Hamlet on Ice).

Cinnamon-Sugar Cat holds a special place in my family's heart. At some point, a cinnamon-sugar blend was sold in a yellow plastic bottle shaped like a prim little cat. My parents bought one, and when it was empty, they refilled it with their own blend. Throughout my childhood, its appearance meant cinnamon milk toast. Its disappearance meant my parents were continuing their now decades-long game of hiding it about the house for each other to find. It's waiting now, peeking out of a corner to watch for the next time my mother looks in the wine rack.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:41 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

On the anniversary of when my mother put her horrible second husband's things on the doorstep and changed the locks, she and I get together to celebrate her independence and go out to eat at the restaurant they had their first date at and remember how lucky we are to not have him in our lives anymore.

I celebrate Condo-versary, the anniversary of my closing date. I consider it a cleaning and DIY day to improve my investment, and buy myself something nice for the house.

A friend of mine has a 4-year old who she bakes cookies with once a month. She uses a vegan cookie dough, and they make two batches: one to bake and give away to friends and family and school, and one to eat, raw. (No raw eggs makes it safe.) Lucky kid.

I grew up collecting Tzedakah from money I'd find on the ground, and once per year mom and I would research charities (the research got more sophisticated as I grew older, of course) and decide on one to donate to, together. She'd match my findings.
posted by juniperesque at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The last day of the month is backwards day. You get to stop for ice cream on the way home from school. You have to call it dinner, and when you finally get around to eating your meat and two veg, it's dessert. My son and I started this when he was in kindergarten and he's in sixth grade now. It's silly, but it's always something we look forward to and we're both in a great mood when we do it. There's something conspiratorial in nature!
posted by littleflowers at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every year since from my junior year in college until last year (we're talking 15+ years here) my parents would go to Paris for Thanksgiving... and it was all my fault.

Here's the conversation that started it all:

Leezie: Dad, I'm going to [Leezie's Godmother's] for Thanksgiving this year.
Dad: Well, fine, then. Your mother and I will go to Paris!
Leezie: Ooh, have a great time!

After the phone call, I was later told that he yelled to my mother, "we're going to Paris for Thanksgiving!"
posted by Leezie at 11:21 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

My younger brother has this stuffed animal from when he was a kid. Our dad gives it to him every year for Christmas. Often wrapped in a series of increasingly small boxes to fool him. Since we take turns opening presents it's funny when my brother unknowingly wastes a turn on the stuffed animal. I have no idea how my dad remembers to do this every year, or keeps finding the stuffed animal, since we all forget about it a few weeks afterwards.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:22 PM on September 24, 2010

Once a week pizza night where you're allowed to eat whenever you get around to it (vs. as a family at the table), and use the plastic pizza plates and sit in front of the computer nomming if you so desire.

When we'd go on vacations we'd drive because we had such a big family, and leave at the asscrack of dawn...never at the actual time my dad planned it, so if we were pulling out of the driveway at 6:15 when he'd wanted to leave at six ON THE DOT, he would tell us to hold our breaths for 15 minutes to make up for it.

An old plastic salt shaker with an S on top--"S" for cinnamon-sugar to put on toast.

Horrible Christmas Day pictures of all four of us kids in our pjs (often hoodies and sweatpants as the years have gone by) posing in front of the tree.

On my mother's side of the family, each year she and her siblings would buy their mother (my gramma) an ornament "from" each of their children. They would all gather at my gramma's house on Christmas Eve to decorate the tree and exchange gifts and whatnot. When my gramma died, she'd had a list of every single ornament given from which kid on which year, and my mother packed "mine" up in a box and tucked a copy of the list in there. It's floating around here somewhere waiting for me to be grown up enough to have my own tree.

Christmas is just rife with this--for some reason it's always been my job to put the garland on the stair railing, to the point that my stepmom one year put it up for a Christmas party and actually considered taking it down for me to do when I flew in from grad school for the break.
posted by adrianna aria at 1:20 PM on September 24, 2010

Oh, I can't believe I forgot this one. One of my ex-boyfriends had an inadvertent Christmas tradition. Every year, his family would get so busy in the weeks before the holiday, that they wouldn't get around to doing laundry for a while. So every year on Christmas morning, they never had any clean underwear, and they all ended up going "commando" on Christmas day.

I always had a mental image of a family photo album filled with yearly pictures of them all posed in front of the tree wearing their new holiday sweaters, and no pants.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:30 PM on September 24, 2010

I can't believe I forgot what is possibly the most awesomest of all my family traditions:

Girls Lunch.

Pretty much what it says on the tin - every year, all the women on my mom's side of the family who are old enough to participate meaningfully* get together and go out to the fanciest possible lunch. When I was a teenager it was usually Commander's Palace, because it was just my Grandmother, mom, aunts, and I. Now that there are more of us, we've had to scale back a little. But it's still an important event eaten at the nicest possible place.

*Usually around puberty, though the main qualification is being able to go out to a nice restaurant and behave in an adult manner.
posted by Sara C. at 3:21 PM on September 24, 2010

Cooking certain special things only at certain times of the year... not just at holidays, but having cider just during fall, hot cocoa just during winter, etc. And related things like going apple and pumpkin picking in fall, walking around the neighborhood or going on hikes picking wild blackberries and honeysuckle and cherries in summer.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:59 PM on September 24, 2010

For Christmas, my husband and I always get a big lego set and construct it together.
posted by cior at 6:02 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

A lot of Christmas stuff: making the puddings (this weekend, first weekend after spring equinox); gingerbread house; my wife's sisters doing the big German cookie baking thing; one present on a German-style Christmas Eve; leaving a bottle of Chimay Blue, some cheese and crackers for Santa; ham and corn fritters on Boxing Day; Halli Galli; long cold drinks made from Stones Green Ginger Wine, Bundy rum and Coke.

Does me driving home with hot chips with chicken salt and a loaf of soft white bread from the bakery for butties every second Friday count?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:29 PM on September 24, 2010

Oh, and I totally forgot one other thing. Just before we each turned five, my brother and I each were instructed and tested on table manners (including really esoteric stuff for posh dinners only), and when we proved we had mastered it, Dad took us to a really posh restaurant for dinner, just me and Dad, or just my brother and Dad. I think it's the only posh dinner I've ever had in my life (of that level), and I still remember it, especially the special attention from the waiters.

My Dad and I also had a tradition right from when I was three until I was in my teens of going to a ballet together each year (just us) when the national ballet company came to town. That one evening per year ended up being the time when I shared all my closest secrets with him (who was mean/nice to me at school, favourite things, boys I liked, plans for the future). It was awesome.
posted by lollusc at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite tradition my mum and I started in my senior years of high school. We made a pact to take each other to the theatre each year, preferably for a musical. This started because I was studying musicals in my music class at school, and Chicago had come to town that year.

It hit a peak when I shouted mum to the Moulin Rouge on our trip to France for her 70th birthday.

My other favorite traditions are to do with Christmas: opening presents on the parents' bed just after waking up, and eating a big breakfast rather than lunch for our big meal.
posted by chronic sublime at 4:11 AM on September 25, 2010

We'd get to stay up late and go out in the yard with sleeping bags and lawn chairs and a thermos of tea/cocoa and watch the Perseid meteor showers. It's great because they're in August so no worries about missing school.

When we'd go wake up my dad in the morning on weekends he'd talk to us in French. I didn't even know that he was talking to us in French really, but he'd say something and tell us what to say back and some days he'd mix it up a little. I wound up later taking French for a few years high school and found my battery of words I'd learned when I was too young to know I was learning them we're really helpful.

My mother always sends us a chocolate bar or some other sweet treat when me or my sister move into a new place. She said it was some sort of Yiddish tradition.

When my sister and I built her Ikea bed together, there was a piece left over. We drew a little face on it and have taken turns hiding it in each other's houses when we visit and have done this for years and years.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 AM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend and I take turns deciding where we are going to go for special occasion dinners -- Valentine's Day, our birthdays, and our anniversary. But the best part is, we always wind up going to "Taco Bell". That's our code for "really nice restaurant". It's kind of traditionny.
posted by Night_owl at 1:56 PM on September 25, 2010

I recently heard of an awesome one. Each year, this father takes each of his kids aside one by one, and asks them the same question. I can't remember all of them, but one of them is 'who do you look up to' and another is 'what made you the happiest this year?' starting when the kids are 3 or so. He's going to make a video for them when they turn 18. Sounds priceless to me.
posted by namesarehard at 5:57 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reading Jessamyn's response above reminds me of a story a friend told me about a crazy tradition in her family that had gone slightly awry. (I have no independent verification of this so...)

There were three sisters in this family. They all used to take turns hiding a dildo in each other's suitcases when they went away or visited family. One year, one of the girls who had the dildo last forgot to hide it in one of her sister's bags. "Luckily" as they were all leaving to the airport the pile of bags were all in the front hall waiting to be loaded for the trip to the airport. "What an opportunity" she thinks to herself as she slips it into one of the bags.

It was a very strange phone call she got from her mother that night asking if she knows why Grandma's bag set off the metal detectors and she had to open her bag and pull out a 12" dildo wrapped in tin foil. Grandma was so mortified she almost had a heart attack. Sister is so apologetic to mom and explains the whole joke. Mom is angry but it passes. The next year at Thanksgiving, Grandma pulls granddaughter aside (but in the family room where many are gathered), reaches into her purse, takes out dildo and says really loudly, "I think this is yours."

Granddaughter is fast thinking enough to say, "No its my sisters, but I will give it back to her for you." Funny thing is, apparently the tradition continued but it also included the mom and grandmother from then on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now that I'm around a lot of small children, I'm really impressed by how a lot of the small 'family traditions' really... make life easier!

For example, on birthdays, after the birthday girl or boy has blown out the candles, an adult picks one of the candles off the cake, and relights it, letting everyone in the room who wants to blow out a candle, individually blow it out, youngest to oldest.
Lots less jealousy on the kids front. ;)
Sometimes we've even relit the cake, but the single candle is the tradition.

And if it's a really big extended family gathering for a birthday (ie 21st, a big 60th/70/80 etc), we'll sing happy birthday for everyone who has just had a birthday or will be having one soon, for whom we won't be seeing again soon. I think we had 12 rounds of happy birthday at my 21st? ;)
Adults get a chorus of, "Why was he/she born so beautiful, why was she/he born at all? S/he's no bloody use to anyone, s/he's no bloody use at alllll...." In beautiful, usually 3 part harmony. I'm guessing it's an irish/australasian thing. ;)

We would put a pillowslip at the ends of our beds as kids, and it would get filled by the easter bunny. Yes, the Easter Bunny!
What was in it? Pajamas, new undies & socks, basically the clothing and things we would have gotten on a yearly basis anyway, but somehow sooo much more exciting arriving as a surprise from the 'Easter Bunny'.
That bulked out the pillowslip enough that sneakily, we only got a couple of actual hollow easter eggs in there... and an orange? (!? Definitely a piece of fruit).
Then we'd have an easter egg hunt for teeny mini eggs all around the garden.
Net result, and exciting day with lots of 'presents' without enormous sugar consumption.

Santa filled a pillowslip. And it usually had some food items in there, little chippies and an orange, as...
We weren't allowed to leave our rooms or at least bother the adults til 8-9am or so? No running round at 6am!
We'd have Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins family gathering for opening presents before a potluck lunch, then... All kids were required to have the 'Christmas day Nap' from 2pm-4 or 5? Again, we had to at least stay in our rooms. If we had been up playing with our toys since 6am, and ate a huge lunch, napping was actually highly feasible.
Then we all went to the extended, extended family do for the evening, where we all ran around with extended cousins til late!

Grownups who are impossible to buy for, like my Nana, who keeps a rather spartan-ly clean house, get really, really stupid Christmas presents. She's Catholic, so some gifts have been Jesus bandaids, wind-up Nunzilla's that shoot sparks out of their mouths, and framed pictures of the Virgin Mary with disco lights on them (they also attend Midnight Mass - and in batch of kids some of them have been in the nativity play, and one of our dolls has managed to be Jesus 6 times? It's a cultural kind of catholicism rather than religious though. They actually tithe to the food bank and womens refuge rather than to the church). Other presents include a series of increasingly ugly and noisy soft toys. Including a giant chicken, and 'Singing in the rain' dancing Gorrilla, and finally, the hideous dancing caberet horse. I think that actually stopped that game, as even a singing trout is less scary than a horse with lipstick.

Christmas trees are decorated with an eye towards enthusiasm and home-made decorative masterpieces from small children, rather than design. Funnier when those children are now adults.
Trees in New Zealand are prunings off large pinus radiata trees, not specially killed, so they're often a bit floppy at the top, but sitting at night with fairy lights on and the pine smell, is really delightful and evocative. And pine needles all over the presents if it was bought too early. Ah, memories.
I'm a neopagan, and it's our summer, so I put a big gold star on the top, and choose to believe it's a summer tree, and symbolically represents the upcoming harvest, and shared joy.

Any regular potluck style gathering, will gain traditions with it's own momentum. They're great!
posted by Elysum at 7:13 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

librarianamy: "Something we do with friends is an "orphans Thanksgiving" - we do it on Friday so that everyone who did have family obligations can join in as well - but a potluck gathering of our closest friends as an annual reminder that we are both thankful for our friendships, but also aware that friends are the family you make."

Thanksgiving is always on a Friday in my family, and has been since I was about 10. My parents had been having out-of-town grad students over for Thanksgiving since they were the out-of-town grad students themselves; by the time they were faculty, the student regulars would go to their major professors' for Thursday dinner, and come over to our place for leftovers on Friday. Eventually it was realized how ridiculous it was to prepare dinner for three, with leftovers for five, and the whole shebang moved back a day, and there it has remained, even as the crowd around the table has changed...
posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:07 PM on September 28, 2010

Clean the house on Saturday morning! Great tradition for parents to start with their kids.
posted by louigi at 6:15 AM on September 29, 2010

I'm the oldest of 6 and mom stayed home to home school us all, so on Saturdays dad would pack up the van with us little monsters and we'd head off on a "donut run." Really, it just started with a donut shop where we'd have breakfast. Then we'd run miscellaneous errands - Lumberjack (the big hardware store / lumber depot that preceded Hoe Depot et. al. in Northern California), Sears for a replacement hose for the vacuum, maybe Weinstocks or if you were lucky a Mervyn's for shoes or something else one of the kids needed (before all the department stores were bought up by Macy's).

Once the errands were finished we might head to whatever the closest park was to play around with the remaining spare time in the morning. Lunch would come and we'd argue over where to go and on the times that I won it was usually Taco Bell.

This was back when Taco Bell sold the "10-pack" of tacos - maybe at a bit of a volume discount and definitely in their own tailor-made paper-stock carrying case. Dad would always allow me to order it under the agreement that if I ate all 10 in 10 minutes, he paid, but if I didn't finish, I would have to paid. Dad never didn't pay.

We'd return to a slightly more sane mom and spend the afternoon doing chores around the place - feeding the animals, cleaning out a shed, mending a fence, mowing a lawn.

I miss donut runs.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:14 AM on October 1, 2010

I had two uncles growing up, one on either side of the family. Somehow, both of them independently a) had a set of Lionel trains, about 1950s vintage, and b) had nowhere to set them up. So they were stored in our basement, technically "on loan".

Just about every year, the day after Thanksgiving, my brother and I would set up the trains. They would stay set up until just after Christmas, and then they would go back in the boxes. Some years were more complex than others, and we usually convinced my father to let us buy one extra piece for the set every year (usually extra track or some switches to make more complicated setups).

At some point during my childhood, we also acquired a Lego train set. The Lego train gets set up around the Christmas tree every year.

Now that my brother and I are both out of the house, he has taken the Lego trains and my parents have "loaned" me the Lionel trains. I don't really have any space to set them up, either, but I will allow my neatnik ways to be spoiled for a couple of months and have train parts all over the apartment.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:48 AM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! Metafilter is the awesomest thing on the planet awesome evar!
posted by jasondigitized at 3:34 PM on December 16, 2010

« Older I forgot to invoice a couple of years ago, how do...   |   Where should I wander off to in Beijing? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.