Saturday, December 11, 2010 - Posted by Amanda Bast
Now that we're gearing up for Christmas, I thought I'd share some of our family's traditions. I don't know if you can even call it tradition, in the ah, traditional sense of the term - I'd say it's more "weird crap we do every year at Christmas". But since we do it every year, it's tradition.

The Tree:
At the beginning of December, Mom starts asking Dad to put up the tree. She starts early because it takes awhile to actually get the job done. The day he finally decides to bring it out of the basement, there is lots of complaining and gnashing of teeth. After it is set up, he usually exclaims, "That's fifteen minutes I'll never get back!" and then he naps. Mom and I decorate the tree alone. Except this year I napped too.

Throughout the year, when my father is in a good mood, he sings. Loudly. He also walks heavily (we call him Stompy). He is a human hymn book and likes to stomp around while singing hymn #465. At Christmastime, he switches to Winter Wonderland. Only Winter Wonderland. You'll hear him puttering in the basement, just belting it out. Except he doesn't know all the lyrics so it sounds like this: "In the meadow we can hmmammgmmahhhhuuuuum haaaa, and pretend that haaamhaahhhuummmha haaaaaa!" We also change the word "conspire" to "perspire" in our family because really, it's logical.

The Sniper:
We have this bizarre-o looking snowman that we got as a gift. He is wearing a toque and has long hair. If this snowman were real, you would find him in the sketchy part of town. We like to hide him in places to scare members of the family. Last winter, he started appearing in places along with lolcat-style notes (I iz in ur dresser, stealin' yer joolz). He has been in my car wearing mittens. He has been placed to fall out of cupboards when the door opens. He has been in hanging plants. He has been in the fridge and the freezer. He is currently in the china cabinet (after I wrote this, I found him in my pajamas). One of the rules of the Sniper snowman: Do not talk about Sniper snowman. Just re-hide and move on.

Napkin Rings:
One Christmas, my mother bought 18 matching snowman napkin rings. She wants them to keep mysteriously multiplying as more members of the family are added. If  my brothers and sisters-in-law only have two children each, that leaves me with 7 napkin rings to fill with a husband and children. SEVEN. That is a lot of napkin rings. I feel pressure whenever I see all those tiny snowman with holes in their stomachs. Their little beady eyes are intimidating.

Christmas Crackers:
You know those things? That have the little popper in them? There is a tiny toy, a joke and a paper hat inside? We always have those and it's a family rule to wear the paper hats at dinner. We also wear birthday hats every time we have a birthday dinner.

We do real stockings on Christmas day, but then there are the things my grandparents refer to as stockings. They used to be in grocery bags, but now they've downsized to empty instant oatmeal boxes. There used to be juice boxes, chips and Avon chapstick in our stockings (it was like they just forgot to unpack their groceries and brought them to family Christmas instead). Now in the oatmeal boxes, there is a card and enormous amounts of one type of candy. Two Christmases ago I got Lifesavers. I think I just ate my last one a couple of weeks ago. My brothers get gum. My dad and uncle get peanuts. My mom and aunt get napkins. It's the same every year and it's something I look forward to, just because it makes me giggle.

Even though they're tacky and falling apart, we still insist on putting out some decorations that we made in preschool. One is a homemade snow globe. The "snow" is pistachio shells. I think that's what they're supposed to be. Either that or in Santa world pistachios are so giant, they are running out of giant pistachio shell storage, so they just put them wherever. Tiny pistachio world Santa is turning yellow. Another craft is made from a plastic pint that strawberries come in. Last but not least, there are the ornaments with our pictures on them. They are made from tin lids from concentrated orange juice cans. My only explanation for these ornaments is that we are Mennonite*. Mennos are thrifty.

The real, non grocery bag kind. This is my favourite part about Christmas because I would prefer to get many tiny things as opposed to one big thing. This isn't a weird tradition, but I have to tell the stocking story regardless. When I was younger with the help of a friend, I made each member of my family a stocking. It took all year long and no one in my family knew. At the time I had an awesome miniature Schnauzer named Zoe. Naturally, Zoe was on my stocking and I loved it. Now that Zoe is no longer, I still have a miniature Schnauzer on my stocking. Except now it looks like Sassie. The evil dog from the depths. On my happiest Christmas memory. She ruins everything.

What kind of weird crap does your family do over the holidays?

Editor's Note: I was in the basement minding my own beeswax when I heard my parents busting a gut upstairs. This wasn't regular laughter, this was high pitched, can't breathe, Dad would be stomping his foot if Bean wasn't over and napping laughter. They were reading this entry. They verify that it's all true. I feel rather proud of myself because the only time I can remember making them laugh this hard was the other week when I was pouring water into a glass in sporadic intervals and said, "Hey guys, it sounds like I have a prostate problem!"

*No, we do not wear bonnets. Anymore.