Friday, December 11, 2009


We are a family of traditions. Nothing big and fancy, mind you...we're not big, fancy people. (Well, depending on how you look at one sense, I am definitely pretty big.) Anyway, traditions. We've got 'em for all times of the year, but the Christmas holiday definitely has more than its fair share. From advent "calendars" (though honestly there's nothing really calendar-y about the ones my mom fills for the kids) to hot chocolate in special Santa mugs to reading Christmas books together throughout the season. And tons more.

Every year, my parents and my brother come and spend a few days with us over Christmas. And with that there are lots more traditions. From our big Christmas Eve dinner to pasta (lasagna, cavatini, etc.) on Christmas evening. From playing poker to Christmas music playing continuously. Of course, there's stockings on Christmas morning. But there's also mittens on Christmas Eve. Mittens, as in large crocheted mittens filled with goodies like a stocking. (And thanks to Chris, I know realize they can double as oven mitts. :D) Also on Christmas eve, everyone gets two other gifts--some kind of munchy and something to "do" (like a puzzle book or something). And the kids always get new pajamas. (I used to make them, but I think this is the third year in a row that they're getting store bought ones...I know, what a slacker.)

But I think the favorite Christmas eve tradition of all is the "bags"! Bags, that's what they're known as. Everyone gets one...I make them for my parents and my brother and my mom makes them for us. And what are they? Bags full of wrapped crap. Seriously. Everything in them must be obtained without cost. So they are full of free samples, junk that comes in the mail, freebies you get when order something else, etc. All of us are on the lookout constantly throughout the year for goodies for the "bags"'s a true family effort, the collecting. One of the things my dad is getting this year is a huge pack of "interesting" travel pamphlets that we gathered from rest areas all along the way during our vacation this past summer. Sometimes, as in that case, they're just plain stupid. Sometimes they're actually my mom is getting a green polo shirt this year, because Rich gets one each year for coaching Annie's soccer team (and seriously, how many green polo shirts does one person need, right?). Sometimes, we go out of our way to collect these freebies, like me sending away for a Depends sample (which I needed when I read Jason's comments yesterday!) or my brother sending away for a video explaining the benefits of the DR Chipper. (They hassled him for three years afterward, hoping he was actually going to buy one.) I'm guessing this probably sounds utterly ridiculous to others, but I tell you we all end up with seriously sore stomachs from laughing so hard by the time we finish up the opening. It is a true family favorite around here.

What about you...what are some of your silliest traditions?

(And by the way, if you have any good ideas for freebies, I'm always on the lookout.)


  1. That has got to be the #1 best tradition I've ever heard of!! I want one of those bags! :D I don't think my boys would get it yet, though...Ambrose would probably be in tears, thinking it was a "real" present that he just didn't like. :D

    We have so many good traditions. I need to put up a post like this one, too.

  2. Amanda,
    You know what, aside from Annie, I don't think the kids realize they "aren't" real presents! My mom always has books in the boys bags (I think she gets them from Cheerios), and stickers that come in the mail, and little tablets from political candidates and stuff (and the boys LOVE pads of paper) they usually make out pretty well. :D They don't end up with the shower cap from the hotel room or anything like that. ;)

  3. Great post! We too are a family of traditions that we've formed over the past twenty years of marriage and especially over the past 17 years of our daughter's life. One of many is that I always buy and wrap a new ornament that 'we' open as a family on the night we put up our tree. This year it was a hallmark ornament of Deep Space Nine.

    A more recent (last few years) tradition is going to Quick Trip (gas station/food stop chain) one night during the season and buying hot chocolate (whatever gourmet mix we choose) and then driving around and looking at Christmas lights.

    We always watch Christmas movies on the day after Thanksgiving. We open stockings the night before whatever day we choose to celebrate our own family Christmas. We generally do a puzzle every year during our Christmas break while listening to mix lists put together just for the occasion (for the past several years these have been puzzles featuring the artwork of Kinuko Y. Craft which I received as a Christmas gift).

    We always make a stocking for our dog...and our dog inevitable doesn't want to hang out while paper is being torn and shredded. Its always funny to watch.

    I am so loving that it is finally this time of year again. I personally have needed this so much and it feels so good to be in holiday mode.

  4. Carl,
    Oh, you guys have some wonderful traditions! I love the puzzle with the music mixes...what fun! We always take a night to drive around looking at Christmas lights, too...I love the idea of having hot chocolate while you do it, but I fear two little boys would be burning themselves as they spilled it in their laps...but I'm definitely keeping that in mind for when they're a little older and a litte less rambunctious! ;) Our dog and the cats always get presents, too...the cats couldn't care less (as is the way with cats)...but Baker goes ballistic! In fact, we all have to keep an eye on him, because he's been known to sneakily grab someone else's present and open it!
    I'm so glad you're having a wonderful Christmas season, Carl! It puts the warmest smile on my heart thinking about you all there sharing in such fun family times!
    Ooooh, and by the way, FINALLY(!!!!) your Cthulhu will be making his way to you...Rich is mailing boxes today!

  5. So do your freebies have to be freebies that YOU have colleccted personally? Because you would not believe the stuff I put into garage sale boxes becuase I get it for free and then just can't bear to throw it away (like the forehead thermometers we just got in bags when we got our flu shots!). If I thought for one minute I could find a good home like yours for these things I would happily fill a box and mail them off next year!

    Reading your post made me realize we don't have that many Christmas traditions around here. Granted we watch the movies and read the books and fix the meals and go look at lights, but nothing that is specifically "us"...I am going to have to get working on that! I almost got matching jammies for the whole extended family but didn't think the guys would go for that! Of course my dad is going to make a turducken this year, so I do feel a possible tradition coming on!

    And I must admit that although I will miss adding to my TBR pile from yur blog, I LOVE these posts that are all about the Stevenses! :)

  6. I'm with Kara. I shall now send you all my freebies, and I have or get plenty to send. Goodwill can do without them, and you will put them to good use. Traditions here? Try the Christmas Ape. He's a stuffed monkey who sits atop the tree and wears the star as a hat. I'll try to remember to shoot a photo of him once we put the tree up next weekend. And Christmas Day is the one non-sick day of the year on which the kids can stay in pajamas all day should they so desire. I always make homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast--two large batches that are usually gone in two days. And I usually take a book upstairs and soak in a bubble bath while the turkey is cooking.

  7. Although we have some traditions, we are a more "fly-by-thep-seat-of-your-pants" kind of family!! We just kind of take things in stride.

    Now...we do our tree the same every year since Mike and I have been married (though we did finally opt for an artificial tree. My vacuum cleaner has thanked me!) Only blue lights and silver, white and blue ornaments. EXCEPT for the Hallmark ones. Each year, I bought one for the kids. Now they each pick out a new one. It's funny to see how they change as they get older.

    We also always do Christmas Eve with the in-laws. First Mass...the lots of food, cookies, fudge....and a once a year viewing of Christmas Vacation!!

    Other than that, we just kind of go with the flow. My mother-in-law does do "bags", and they are my absolute favorite part of Christmas. But it's not free stuff. It's more like socks, shampoos, soap, body wash...all wrapped up individually. I love my Christmas bag!!

  8. Awesome! I loved the mittens dual role and the freebie-bag idea is terrific. In fact, I can never turn down free stuff and yet, I get home and wonder what I'll do with it all. Guess now I'll be able to mail it to you (does it count if someone gives you the free stuff for the bags? I'm sure most of the fun is the collecting and finding...) and guess what. NOW I have your address. beware. (THANKS so much for the thoughtful card and gift.) MADE MY DAY - so sweet of you. thanks

  9. See, you could have joined in for the Virtual Advent! :(

    And, I am pretty amazed I discovered your new blog because I have been making 'mark all as read' my friend lately!

  10. My family isn't big on traditions, but I LOVE yours, Debi. Also, you mean that on top of everything else you do during the holidays you won't find time to make 3 pyjamas? Yeah, Debi, what a slacker! That's practically child abuse, that is ;)

  11. I think those bags are totally awesome!! I think it would be fun to have that as a tradition because it makes you think about Christmas all year round and try to come up with the most swag!!! Where are my pj's??? Loved this post!!!

  12. OMG I'm totally in love with these "bags" :p That's so much fun! LOL. It sounds like something that my family would have a kick doing too!! I'm actually much more excited with this mitten being a giant knitted mitten :) I'd probably set it on fire if I tried to use it as an oven mitt :p So thanks for deterring me from that, lol. We have some fun Christmas traditions, but I don't know that they vary from the norms...I think the one that does that is the most fun is that our mom hides our stockings and makes us look for them by doing a series of clues that lead to the next, eventually leading to the stocking! And yes, she still does this even though we're 28 and 25 now :p Who says you have to grow up? ;)

  13. Kara,
    You know, I don't think a tradition has to be unique to be special. One of my fondest Christmas tradition memories as a kid is driving around looking at lights. My grandparents always came and spent Christmas with us, so on Christmas eve we all smashed ourselves into the car and went. Certainly not original, but still very much cherished.
    Btw, forehead thermometers would have been a major catch around here! :D

    LOL...the Christmas monkey is truly a one-of-a-kind tradition! I love it! You must post a picture on your blog...pretty please?

    What do you mean...sounds like you guys have lots of wonderful traditions! And face it, it's always good to leave room for spontaneity, right?

    You, my dear, could not possibly be more welcome! :D

    I suppose I could have, but face it, I'm thinking complete strangers probably don't want to read about the goofy ways my family amuses itself. ;)

    Aren't I horrible?!! You won't call CPS on me, will you? ;)

    Yeah, I have to admit that we have more fun all year with this than I should probably admit. Even the kids love getting in on the "collecting" :D

    Oh, I LOVE the hiding of the stockings tradition!!!! That is so something I could see us fact, I totally want to steal that idea. :D

  14. I think I still have the forehead themometers...maybe they can make an appearance for next year! Although it looks like I am not the only one ready to unload freebies on you so just let me know if you want me to keep my thermometers and other free stuff, too!

  15. I got your Christmas card today. You're such a doll. I had a truly rotten week last week, and my day was totally brightened by your card and the snowflake. Thanks! =D I don't care where you blog - you know you won't be losing me anytime soon, muahaha!

    Holiday traditions around here? My dad and I going to get the Christmas tree and bringing home one that's so large my mom yells (then we take her along and she picks out the biggest one ever!). Going to breakfast at my aunt and uncle's on Christmas morning to give presents to my cousin (we used to have breakfast and presents here, but then I went and grew up - boo!). It's a little different now, but we used to go to my grandparents on Christmas eve and ate such a wackadoo, counterintuitive assortment of food that you'd hardly believe it, and when we drove back through one of the towns, they had luminaria (gosh, is that what it's called with the candles in the white paper bags?) on all the sidewalks all the way through town (so cool!). Decorating with my grandfather's hand carved santas - it was always tradition that he was a few years behind in the santa carving. LOL. And our two dachshunds going totally psychotic and opening their presents themselves. I could go on - I'm a total tradition-hound.

    Love the bags thing! I've got so much little stuff like that, stuff that I feel guilty chucking, but that I don't have much use for either. What a cool way to repurpose all that stuff!

  16. That is an awesome tradition! I love it! My husband and I live far from family so it's just us two for Christmas. We are trying to start our own traditions. This year, we've never cooked a turkey, etc before so we are going to do it just for us, without family pressure. :)