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O Me of Little Faith

I’ve been in several discussions lately with friends about the importance of tradition when it comes to families and holidays. Unless your family traditions involve father-son fisticuffs and drunkenness, traditions are usually the kinds of things that bring people together, contribute to a sense of community and belonging, and make a family unique.

The best traditions accomplish all those things while also staying true to the inherent weirdness of most families. And all good families are a little weird. As an example, here are a couple of our family traditions.

1. The Thanksgiving Foot Race. This is a new tradition. This year, my brother and brother-in-law and I decided to compete in a family foot race. We put on our running shoes, shorts, and (in my brother’s case) an old-school headband. We stepped out into the street in front of my house. My dad sounded the horn of his truck, and the three of us launched into a race from my house to my parents’ house. The total distance is about two miles.

We’re all reasonably fit. My brother has been training for a half-marathon. I race in sprint triathlons. My brother-in-law? He’s in good shape, too, but doesn’t run that much. We thought it would be a decent competition. But it turns out the brothe-in-law was a high school track star and, um, neglected to tell us that part of his personal history. We got toasted.

2. Brownie Pong. Every Christmas — in fact, every holiday — we look forward to multiple games of ping-pong with my grandfather, Brownie. He just turned 88 years old, but is spry enough still to beat me every other game (and occasionally more than that), and I’m marginally skilled at the pong. But every week throughout the year, Brownie goes to the local retirement center to play against some “young fellas” from Korea. These “young fellas”? They’re in their early 70s. I’m guessing Brownie probably beats them, too. When I’m in my ninth decade, I sure hope to be humiliating my grandchildren at some competitive activity.

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So what are your weird holiday traditions? Please share.

Note: I’m calling these “holiday” traditions not in an attempt to be 14% offensive or whatever, but just so that you’ll know it applies to all the major year-end holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year’s. So there.

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