It's A Family Tradition . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, December 28, 2009

I’m a firm believer in traditions, especially around this time of year.

For good or ill, I think they serve a useful purpose because they help trigger or condition the brain to respond to the seasonal stimuli. It might be bringing home a Christmas tree, Aunt Betty getting drunk on sherry, you getting drunk on Anchor Steam Christmas Ale alone, watching ‘A Christmas Story,’ sleeping with an ex-girlfriend, carving the turkey or roasting a beef tenderloin, but the constant is that no matter how simple or complex or potentially embarrassing they are, these traditions remind you of the holidays.

My personal favorite started a long time ago. I must have been about ten years old when it began with a note from Santa in our fireplace. My brother and I had already unwrapped all the presents, and we thought we were done until my Dad innocently asked us to look at a white piece of paper sitting on top of a pile of wood. We did. It was a riddle that led us around the house to other notes, and eventually, up to the roof where I had a skateboard waiting and my brother had a scooter (push, not electric).

Since then, things have changed with family additions and wives and girlfriends, but the each year there is always a note from Santa in the fireplace right after we finish opening all the gifts. The puzzles have gotten progressively harder over the years. One time, somewhere around high school, we even had to go off-site to a local Barnes and Noble where my Dad had hidden the next clue inside a copy of a Kurt Vonnegut book that proceeded to send us back to our house. I’m still not certain what would have happened if someone would have purchased that book before we got there.

The riddles typically take on the form of a crossword puzzle where certain letters of each answer are important and spell out the next location. The questions are nearly always culled from books, movies and music that we’ve seen, talked about or asked for that year for Christmas. This past week, they included questions regarding:

• ‘The Wild Bunch’ movie
• Bloom County comic strip
• The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book
• Tom Waits
• The way Hemingway took his whiskey (Neat)
• Flogging Molly band
• Robert Earl Keen
• Brave New World novel

There were many others, but we eventually discovered the clues with help from our respective wives and girlfriends and in the end, we found a plethora of gift cards to use around Austin.

My brother and I are obviously too old to legitimately claim this tradition should continue, but it works. We all like it, and I believe my parents might care about it even more than we do. But it’s not really Christmas until a note from Santa arrives – single-spaced and always one long page – followed by a puzzle that can only mean the holidays are here.



  1. Linda Says:
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.  
  3. Linda Says:
  4. Wow, that's impressive. Congrats to your parents for putting in the time and creativity on that one! Hope you had a Merry Christmas, we sure did!

  5. Linda - Thanks as I think so too since it definitely takes some effort to put it together. Glad to hear your Xmas went well as I enjoyed mine as well. But I am woefully behind on movies. Ha.

  6. JLee Says:
  7. That sounds like fun! What a creative tradition for your family to keep. It's funny, because I almost posted about the tradition my sister and I have gotten into of sitting around doing the New York Times Crossword, high fiving each other on getting the really hard ones. We managed to finish Saturday and Sundays with only a little help from the internet. lol
    Glad you enjoyed yourself.

  8. Boxer Says:
  9. I love the great tradition of torturing children continues! My family hung onto our traditional Christmas Eve dinner until about 10 years ago and then we stopped. Not sure why. This year I went back to it and I believe it contributed to a great Holiday. My hope is if there are ever any little 2-$'s running around that you'll continue with the puzzle at the end of the gift opening. Your Dad sounds pretty cool.

    (great tree, but I already knew that.)

  10. Boxer Says:
  11. btw, I saw: UP IN THE AIR, SHERLOCK and IT'S COMPLICATED over the long weekend.

  12. That's pretty cool. The only traditions we have that are set in stone are that the kids get to open one present from each other on Christmas Eve, and if we're at my parents' house we go out the day after Christmas and shoot glass ornaments at the gun range. Redneck? Sure, but it's fun.

  13. Jlee - Nice one. The NYT puzzle is always tough . . . that sounds like a good tradition and you might as well use the brain around this time of year. At least, I guess so, since mine is lethargic from the all the food and drink. I'm still trying to shake off the rust.

    Boxer - Great choice moving back to the dinner - I just think there are touchstones (sp?) that are nice to have in place even if they are sometimes a lot of work and stress to pull off. At least that's my take . . . I do plan to continue this tradition once smaller ones migrate this direction & until then, my Dad can carry the mantle - he's very good at it. Finally, I am jealous of your movie attendance as I am woefully behind (but I could leave out 1 of those 3 you saw and you can probably guess which one. Ha.).

    Native Minnow - Ha. I love the amateur gun range aspect & it's exactly that kind of stuff that I'm talking about and I'm sure that yr. kids will remember. Anything counts in my book.

  14. A fun tradition. I'm a little unclear how Huxley managed to worm his way into your family's Christmas routine. But it can't be a bad thing. Happy holidays!

  15. That is an awesome tradition! I would love for some sort of scavenger hunt to happen in my life. I Love it.

    My family tradition with my mom and stepdad is to watch this hokey British movie with a very young Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson as the villain. It's full of that dry British humor, and I love everything about it. It's called Bernard and the Genie, and many of our bantering quotes come from it.

    Glad you weren't a victim of that horrible blizzad.

  16. Getoffmylawn - Happy Holidays to you as well. As for Huxley, he's not a fixture, but this year, both my brother and I had asked for leather bound Easton press copies of Brave New World for Xmas (we received them).

    Kymical Reactions - I like that even though I've never heard of the movie nor can I picture Rown as a villian. Ha. But that's what I'm talking about . . . something that occurs year in, year out barring some kind of bizarre occurence. I'm glad you weren't in a pile-up out there as I made it through some wintery mix/snow in Dallas, but it wasn't nearly as bad as what you got.

  17. nobich Says:
  18. That sounds like the neatest thing yet!! I love that idea!!

  19. Wendy Says:
  20. I'm sorry--I just couldn't absorb anything past "sleeping with an ex-girlfriend." Does your wife read your blog?

  21. Nobich - Thanks as I love it each & every year myself. It is always a good time.

    Wendy - Ha. The answer is yes. And really, nothing on that list is a holiday tradition of mine, simply ones that I know occur out there in the world (you could have also substituted boyfriend for girlfriend). That being said, I might - might - get drunk alone with Christmas Anchor Ale once per season. Maybe.

  22. Gypsy Says:
  23. I got a bit stuck on the ex girlfriend too. So if the answer was yes then you mean before you got married. Right? Ha.

    Our tradition is we always watch Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve and surprisingly even though the girls are now teenagers they still insist on it. Not nearly as cool as your tradition which I absoutely love, but still its ours and we love it.

  24. Miss Ash Says:
  25. That's quite the effort and creativity that your parents put forth. Sounds fun in an Amazing Race sort of way! Hope Santa brought everything you wanted and here's to the New Year! Cheers!

  26. Heff Says:
  27. Happy New Years Eve, BDS.

    Match me beer for beer !

  28. Gypsy - Another very nice-sounding tradition - I dig them all. And no, that ex-girlfriend thing is NOT me. Just something that people do . . . Ha.

    Miss Ash - It is kind of like the Amazing Race. I hadn't thought of it that way. But there is less running around. Xmas was great for me, and I hope you had a great time as well.

    Heff - Great to see you and have a hell of a good New Year's yourself. Tried to drop by at yr. blog to see if you were back around to leave a New Years greeting, but . . . Ha. Beer for beer - you would pound me into oblivion. The Viking on the other hand . . .

  29. Boxer Says:
  30. Happy New Year!!


About Me

Contact Us

You can reach us by email at