When my parents separated 12 years ago, my family got the rare chance to redesign the holidays our way. What has resulted is the most un-stuffy set of traditions I could hope for, and it’s why I always look forward to spending Christmas at home with my family. While some people get dressed up to make appearances with extended family, we are a four-to-six person party of awesome at Christmastime, and I wouldn’t trade my unconventional situation for anything. 


Sometimes I feel like Liz Lemon (lead photo) around the holidays. My family is always eager to set aside time in our nutso schedules to carry out our strange traditions for Christmas. Our ceremonial gatherings go like this: Christmas Eve is the time to watch Nightmare Before Christmas and the old ’70s Grinch, per my mother’s adamant insistence. I don’t argue, I love them. Then, my stepdad mixes death-defyingly strong White Russians for my mom, my sister and I and sits back to watch the show. The show is all of us actually getting along and being completely ridiculous. Once my sister referred to my late uncle Ted as “Dead, Dead Ted” with a wistful stare. These are rare moments and go down in history every year.


Christmas Day is a beautiful ceremony that isn’t allowed to start until it’s light outside. My stepdad makes coffee, we build a fire in the fireplace (if it’s cold enough at that point in Florida), and the gift opening commences. We burn the paper, my mom keeps the bows for next year and my mom and stepdad surprise each other with the same gifts, usually a lemon tree or a compost bin. Adorable.

The day after Christmas is my stepdad’s birthday. I always get him a bottle of Patron Silver for Christmas, which is finally an excuse to open the bottle I got him the year before (he’s very modest about using up nice things). Last year this happened at his birthday party, wherein a group of guests gathered and made toasts and took tiny shots of tequila until the whole bottle was gone. My boyfriend, who was spending the holidays with me for the first time, and whose family doesn’t keep a lick of booze in the house, was pretty impressed at our ability to let loose. No persons or furniture were harmed. Twenty-five people splitting a bottle of Patron doesn’t actually amount to much, but it was an event I hope to repeat.


I can’t finish talking about holidays with my folks without talking about the food. Sure, everyone has food for the holidays, but there’s something about having scallops, fresh oysters on ice (my request on any homecoming trip), stone crab claws, a standing rib roast, mashed potatoes (or my sister will be out for blood) and every hors d’oeuvre my brilliant cook of a mother has been toying with all year there for the taking. Not to mention cheap wine, cheap beer (ah, grown-ups) and pecan pie.


But you know, the holidays mean something different to everyone. I’m sure my situation isn’t as unique as I think it is. Does your family do something awesome and unexpected for the holidays? A client of mine says he goes with his wife and in-laws to Disney World for Christmas every year. I told him he was insane before I realized the words were leaving my mouth. But our gorge-fest Florida Family Fun can’t be so uncommon. 

What does your tradition entail?