Our family has two fun holiday traditions worth spreading. On Thanksgiving evening, our extended family, many of whom have eaten dinner elsewhere, meet at Grandma & Grandpa’s to play bingo. There are probably 200 wrapped prizes for the 30 or so players. Each family has brought several dozen prizes; my mom’s brought more. The fun part, at least for the adults, is seeing what super deals everyone else found: a bunch of Mom’s prizes are Chapsticks she found on sale for $0.25, Grandma found dish towels on closeout, someone bought tons of crayons during back-to-school, Spencer got a deal on a lot of What About Bob?s, everyone’s brought gobs of candy, and of course there are white elephants (a candle in the shaped of a bowling pin and ball has been “won” for years). Throw in some sudoku books, toothbrushes, dollar store stuff, still more candy, and a $2 bill or two from Grandma, and we’re ready to go. Grandpa calls the numbers. Without fail, at some point he’ll call “Beeee-quiet.” Everyone laughs, not because it’s funny the 22nd time we’ve heard it but because we see it coming. (Grandpa’s timing and delivery are perfect, too. He’s emceed more ward parties than anyone I know.) According to Grandma Thanksgiving bingo has been a family tradition since about 1960. None of us, as far as I know, actually enjoys bingo, but it’s a fun catalyst for our whole family to laugh together.
This year we’re playing bingo twice, the second time will be at Salt Lake County’s overflow homeless shelter. It’s in Midvale and apparently receives much less attention than the primary shelter downtown. We were told to plan on 200 people being there, about 125 on the men’s side and 75 in the unit for women and children. We’ve been loading up on necessities and treats ever since. In October I got 74 ringer-Ts at Old Navy for $0.99 each, Mom bought the whole inventory of imperfect Hanes sweatshirts from a couple dollar stores, plus we have dozens of inexpensive gloves and hats. Our idea is to ensure each person gets one “nice” prize, like a shirt, and then three to four smaller prizes like toothbrushes, nail clippers or candy.
Another tradition that’s worth sharing is one that’s been in our family for a total of four days now. Mom mentioned it to me on Monday as we were going through her collection of Christmas books and gift books. She said my cousin Holly wraps their family’s Christmas books and, starting on December 1, let the kids take turns opening the one to read that night. I liked the idea and knew my kids would too. When I got home that day I promptly wrapped our Christmas books and brought the stack of presents for the kids to admire. I told them our new tradition and it’s worked — they’re much more excited about our Christmas books now that they’re wrapped up. For the past four nights now, after the kids have changed into their pajamas, one of them unwraps the book we’ll read.
What are your favorite traditions, especially those that the rest of us could pattern?