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Your Family Is Weird

Your Family Is Weird

When did you first realize your family was weird?

Last week, I was sitting at Starbucks with an 8th grade girl from my small group, and she said, “So, does your family really not do the jingle bell thing?” I quickly racked my brain to try to imagine what kind of “jingle bell thing” she might be referring to. We sing jingle bells. We read the Polar Express. My kids make crafts with jingle bells on them. Uncertain, I asked her, “What jingle bell thing”?

“You know,” she said, “the thing where your parents go outside your window at midnight on Christmas Eve and ring jingle bells so you can hear the reindeer in the sky.”

“No.” I had to confess, my family does not, in fact, “do the jingle bell thing.” She was still recovering from the shock of discovering that none of her friend’s families did this thing that was so central to her experience of Christmas. It was just her weird family.

I love this because I think every family is weird. At least I hope so.

Growing up my family used to make this sound that went along with every hug. It was a kind of three syllable M that went something like, “m.m.m.” Every hug. Every time. You can imagine how I first discovered this isn’t a universal hugging trait.

But I love the weirdness. It’s what makes us family. There are only three people in the world who give me an “m.m.m” hug, and when it happens I know I’m with weird people just like me.

That’s what’s so great about a tradition. It connects you to a tribe of people with whom you have something in common. Maybe you have very little in common other than your traditions.

This holiday season you will be surrounded by clean-faced, well-dressed, happy people smiling at you from the front of well-designed holiday cards. Everything you see will suggest that inside the walls of the houses you pass on the street are dining room tables that look like the cover of a Pottery Barn catalogue. By the end of the week, there will be hundreds of thousands of Instagram posts of fried turkey and perfectly baked pumpkin pies.

But don’t let the pictures fool you. Inside those houses and behind those Instagram photos are weird families doing things that are unique only to them. Don’t buy into the myth that your Thanksgiving needs to conform to an artificial norm, or that your Christmas traditions need to look like everyone else’s.

If you want to give your kids a tribe, make sure you have some crazy traditions that are all your own. So keep the weirdness alive. Remember your family traditions. If you don’t have any, start one. And honestly, the weirder the tradition, the better.

So, what’s your weird tradition?

If you want to follow more on the conversation on Tribes, and the 6 Things that Matter in the life of a kid, start here and PLAY FOR KEEPS!

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Kristen Ivy

Kristen Ivy is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange and co-author of "Playing For Keeps", "Creating a Lead Small Culture", and "It’s Just a Phase - So Don't Miss It". She combines her degree in secondary education with a Master of Divinity and lives out the full Orange spectrum as the wife of XP3 Students Orange Specialist, Matt Ivy, and the mother of three children, Sawyer, Hensley, and Raleigh. Read more from Kristen on her blog,

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    We have started a tradition of doing Random Acts of Kindness through the month of December. We make cards to send to soldiers, bring cookies to police officers, make dinner for our firemen, hand out blessing bags to homeless, basically show our appreciation to those that serve us, need us, and support us.


    My family has this “weird” tradition of making stuffing with a mix of three kinds of meat. I thought it was very strange the first time I had stuffing at someone’s house that had no meat. My three boys are not partial to stuffing of any kind, but they always know what I’m making when I pull out the specific ingredients. Let the weirdness continue.

    • Tania- I LOVE weird food traditions!!! Nothing seems to bring people together like food. Growing up my mom made some Christmas “sugar” cookies that really don’t have a lot of sugar. . . I’m pretty sure no one appreciates those like my sister and me. Three meat stuffing sounds GREAT 🙂


    Its awesome to see that other people also find their families to be weird and wonderful. I have seen a few good stories on parenting websites about the incredible things that children do on a daily basis. Thank you so much for sharing!


    Oh, how I love this blog post. My family is extremely weird and I love everything about it! It’s only been since I’ve gotten married that I’ve truly realized all of the weird habits and mannerisms that I grew up with. Here are just a few:
    –Adding a y to any word to create an adjective. For example, “It looks very snake-y over there, so we should stay here.” Or “We should take another road, because it looks too trafficky that way.”
    –Being so encouraging and affirming to each other no matter the situation. For example, “Honey, quitting school to become a mime sounds so exciting! You’ll be great at that–and the makeup will look fabulous with your hair color!”
    –Spending hours and hours riding around in the car looking at and commenting on Christmas lights. Hours.

    I love thinking about this! Thanks for the reminder about how every family is unique and special in their own way. I look forward to passing these weird mannerisms on to my kids and creating new ones!


    Every year, we keep certain meaningful traditions, like going to the Festival of Lessons and Carols at Sewanee (Univ. of the South) and asking someone different to go with us. We also kept some “just because” traditions when I was a kid, like popping popcorn in the fireplace. Yum.


    I love this post! Weird traditions… Hmmmmm thats kind of tricky! I am not sure they are weird. The holidays in our home are shared between three sets of parents/grandparents/multiple aunts and uncles! We make time for Family during the holidays.. Thanksgiving Day rotates each year.. One year with my family ,one year with his dad and step mom and one year with his mom and step dad. Each home has there own traditions.Thanksgiving is all about the FOOD I always make a cornbread casserole to share, and I like to buy a new shirt or something that looks like fall for my 2 daughters and myself. Christmas traditions at my parents house takes place on Christmas eve! We always have soup and sandwiches and open 1 mystery gift that always happens to be NEW PJS! All the men are the same and all the woman are the same its FUN! At my In laws they have a scavenger hunt for $ they hide it inside toys, gift wrapping ,stockings..every year its different and crazy fun to try to find! And in another home we have the tradition of reading the Christmas story before gits and dinner together! I hope that these traditions leave a legacy in my girls that FAMILY MATTERS! We invest in relationships…. We do enjoy Christmas morning in our home just our family of 4 ..We decorate with all red and white to follow the legend of the candy cane.. LOL and we open 1 gift on the morning of. We never want to be in excess! This years gift is a family trip to Disney and to build memories to last a lifetime!



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