Funny Stories About Family: It’s Our Holiday Tradition

It wouldn’t be Christmas without laughing about the fruitcakes.

Most families have holiday traditions. One of ours is to tell funny stories about our family members, both living (but not present) and dead. We tell ourselves that it’s keeping their memories alive — invoking their presence by talking about them, but mostly it’s just an opportunity to enjoy a good laugh together.

My mother is a notoriously bad gift giver, although every now and then she comes through with something really lovely and thoughtful. However, the times she didn’t are a lot more fun to talk about. This year she sent me a sweater so big that it could have fit two of me in it. When I showed it to the other family who were gathered, holding it up to demonstrate how I could probably use it to go camping, they started chiming in with more stories.

“At least it’s not a tie with a tuba on it,” my brother-in-law giggled, “or office supplies!” This sparked a debate about her worst-ever gift and we all had to agree that the time she gave my husband some half-used car care supplies that he had left at her house 15 years earlier probably deserved the prize. I love my mother; I just don’t typically love her gifts. My husband, James, really doesn’t love her gifts because he typically ends of with some of the worst ones. But they are good for a laugh!

Over our traditional dinner of tamales, we naturally had to retell (for the hundredth time) about when James’ dad once ordered a dozen in a restaurant and then proceeded to eat them all. A few hours later he was violently ill. “There musta been something wrong with them tamales,” he pronounced in a distinctive drawl which the story teller is obligated to recreate. My father-in-law was entirely oblivious to the fact that he’d consumed a portion meant for an entire family so now any time we eat tamales, this story must be told and the signature lines must be spoken. “Ah think I’ll have a dozen tamales………” Since the incident in question happened about 20 years ago, we’ve told that story a lot! Still, it never gets old and we never fail to laugh about it.

My mother-in-law is another wonderful repository of unintentional humor. She really was making a good run at Madame Malaprop for a while there and my personal favorite story about one such time was when she confused Steve Irwin (who had recently tragically died) with Keith Urban (who had married Nicole Kidman around the same time).

“I saw something on TV about how Nicole Kidman recently married Steve Irwin,” said my MIL with a straight face one day.

“Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter,” asked James incredulously. “Didn’t he just die?”

“No,” she scoffed indignantly, “Steve Irwin, the one from Australia……….”

They went back and forth like this for a while until I finally translated for James, “She means Keith Urban,” I said. “He’s also from Australia,” I pointed out to my mother-in-law. “He’s the one who just married Nicole Kidman.”

“Whatever,” she scoffed, and stalked away as we struggled to hide our laughter. It wasn’t so much that we were mocking her cluelessness, but the entire thing had such a “Who’s on first” quality that it was impossible to not find it hilarious. That’s another story that typically gets told at least once a year — usually around the same time that Ophra Wintry and Regis Fillman come up in conversation.

When our son was small, he used to really love Little Bear and had a large collection of videos. He also really loves snow, and so the winter solstice episode was one of his favorites. My mother-in-law not only doesn’t know what a solstice is, she has no desire to know. When the characters on the video would wish each other “Happy Winter Solstice,” she would invariably chime in, “Happy winter fun!” On December 21st this year James wished me “happy winter fun” and then when I looked confused reminded me of this story. Of course, we had a good laugh and it will now undoubtedly be an on-going part of our solstice traditions in the future.

We definitely have some fruitcakes in our family, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. We just like to laugh when we all get together and to build some of our family traditions around the lore of ridiculous stories. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of them and they are a delicious accompaniment to any holiday meal.

What funny holiday traditions do you have at your house?



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