When my son Nick was four, he thought it would be really cool for all of us to pick out one of our favorite junk food and have that for Christmas Eve dinner. At the time, our oldest son was 11, our daughter was 10 and our youngest son was less than a year old. We were busy parents so the idea of tossing a bag of chips, some chicken fingers and a bowl of peanuts on the table and calling it DINNER was pretty appealing to us. And so it began.
When we sat down in front of the tv with the kids that first year — our plates filled with chocolate macaroons, bbq potato chips and egg rolls — the movie that caught our eye was “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It wasn’t the first time we’d seen a Chevy Chase, and it wouldn’t be the last. And even though the movie was completely inappropriate for any of my children at the time, we were so hopped up on root beer and candy canes, we said “Sure, why not. Let’s watch it!
This year will mark our 17th anniversary of the holiday tradition that Nick aptly named “Junky Dinner”–and the 17th time we’ll sit down as a family to hear Uncle Eddie share that his “shitter’s full.”
The one thing I’ve learned about our simple holiday tradition, is that it truly matters to my family. I even offered to take them all on vacation one year and they refused to go because they would miss Junky Dinner. It has to be here. At our house. With our movie. And our junk food.
Unlike some traditions, that fizzle out after a few years, this family tradition seems to get stronger and stronger every year. The boys start reciting scenes from the movie as early as November, posting quotes from the movie on their Facebook wall–
– and even updating their Facebook profile to Uncle Eddie (clearly my son Tim’s favorite character).
This crazy holiday tradition of eating a bunch of snack foods and watching Christmas Vacation (did I mention we’ve watched it 16 times!?) has become the highlight of our Christmas celebration. And every year it gets more and more crazy! My husband, who has a striking resemblance to Chevy Chase and is asked often if he knows that .. in Home Depot, WalMart, at parties — even has a Griswold t-shirt that he has to wear for the occasion.
As the kids got older, girlfriends and boyfriends have been subjected to our tradition. Most of them being asked to sign a waiver prior to entering our home — and warned that it may get a little ridiculous. Who would think that three grown boys would still find things like “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukkah,” still funny after all these years.
Tonight we’ll have nine of us celebrating Junky Dinner. Our sons and our daughter. Our daughter-in-law and our sons’ girlfriends. And when the movie opens and the Griswold family is stuck underneath a transport truck, while on their way to get the Griswold Family Christmas tree, my family will laugh. They’ll laugh as though they’ve never seen the movie before… and I’ll know that it’s not about the movie, at all. It’s about having something to look forward to that remains the same. Year after year. It’s home. It’s family.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!