December brings various holidays and family traditions. If ever there was a year to yearn for nostalgia or break away, 2020 would be it.
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
From Biriyani to Paella by Saifun Hassam
Twins Nadia and Nilufar were toddlers when their parents emigrated in the 1980s from Kenya to the US, first to Pennsylvania and eventually to California. They were Muslims, their ethnic background Indian, with family roots in India.
Family tradition called for the sumptuous rice dish of biriyani and samosa pastries to celebrate everything from birthdays to Eid. As teenagers, Nadia and Nilufar included hamburgers, tacos, and ice cream sundaes.
Now they had families of their own. Nadia’s husband Juan introduced them to delectable seafood paella. Family members came from Canada to celebrate: Nadia and Nilufar’s restaurant: “Adventures in Food.”
Family Tradition by Kerry E.B. Black
Bob reached deep through the prickly branches to hang the shaped green glass ornament near the fragrant trunk of the pine tree propped in his living room. “Gotta make ‘em look for it, y’know.”
Pam smiled, charmed by the hospitality her new beau and his family had extended. Holidays could be lonely for a recently divorced ex-pat. “So, whoever finds the pickle first on Christmas morning wins an extra present?”
“Yep.” Bob tilted his head to test the ornament’s placement. “Dylan usually gets it. Like she has an affinity.”
“Maybe it’s because her nickname’s ‘Dill Pickles.’”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
Christmas Conga Line by Donna Matthews
T’was the night before Christmas when all through my house, the kids are scattered, quiet as a mouse. Into that room and the next, their faces glued to phone screens…even my spouse. Not one cared about St. Nick.
That is until the ancient record player comes alive and starts blaring, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and I begin to dance! Bouncing from one room to the next, grabbing hands and hips, forming a conga line throughout the house. As the song winds down, we sigh and laugh, and before they scatter again, I declare, “Now, a hot chocolate before bed!”
Family Traditions by Eliza Mimski
I come from a wacky family. Every Christmas the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings are assigned a name to buy a silly present for. From near and far, we come together for a Christmas dinner of turkey and dressing, casseroles, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and apple pie. After dinner, the presents are heaped together near the Christmas tree. We search for our own and either keep it or exchange it with somebody else’s. There are pet rocks, wooden back scratchers with acrylic nails, a T-shirt that says I Strip for Chocolate Macaroons.
Best presents ever.
Virtual Turkey Trot by Ruchira Khanna
“Are you ready for tomorrow? What time should I wake you up?” inquired A.
“Do we have to?” asked P with a lone sigh.
“Of course! We ought to keep the tradition alive. So what if we can’t run the Turkey Trot with people. Let’s do it by ourselves.”
“And just like all the times, I’ll keep the pie, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and lasagna ready.” I chipped in with a broad smile to encourage my son.
“Yum! So everything’s the same as old times.” He beamed with joy over it, “How does 7 am sound for our 10K?”
Out with the Old, In with the New by Norah Colvin
Lizzie pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“Come on,” said Mum. “Just a little bit.”
“Try it. You’ll like it.”
“You can’t have dessert, until you eat your veg.”
“Dessert first. Then veg.”
“We don’t do it that way, Lizzie. Veg first, then dessert.”
“No! Dessert first!”
“If you have dessert first, you won’t eat your veg.”
Lizzie ate her dessert. Then she ate her veg. A promise is a promise.
Now, when Lizzie’s children’s friends ask why they always eat dessert first, they shrug. “Dunno. Always have,” they say.
Topsy’s Turvy Christmas Eve by Sascha Darlington
“Your family’s three families,” Mrs. Crawford always told Topsy.
Topsy didn’t understand. Not until she turned nine and her older brothers spent Christmas elsewhere did she comprehend.
“Why aren’t they here for carols?” Topsy asked.
Mother who bit her lip—or her tongue—constantly these days said, “They’re starting their own families and traditions.”
“But carols are sacred,” Topsy whispered.
And even Joseph, her big brother-protector, remained in his room, unwilling to sing carols, which left Topsy, Mom, Dad, and Sandy.
As they sang Silent Night, a tear slid down Topsy’s cheek. This night was far too silent.
The Christmas Visitor by Anne Goodwin
She hung her stocking for Santa above the fireplace. She helped Gran lay the Jesus figurine in the cardboard-box crib. She joined us singing “Good King Wenceslas” at the piano. She gobbled up Dad’s stewed sprouts. So why did she refuse to play Cluedo, preferring to sit with a book? She wasn’t averse to whodunnits. She’d plucked Evelyn Hardcastle from the guest-room shelf.
But she taught me the meaning of Christmas. Whether Christian or secular, it’s not about believing in myths. It’s a time to renounce our own ego. When we merge with the group, reunite with our tribe.
(47) Damned Family (Jesse No Solid Bases, Yet) by JulesPaige
traditions hold limited
value when lacking
Jesse thought about some of her family traditions. Like the one she had totally blown off this year. The mini-family reunion down by the shore. Which this year was cut short by finding the dead body of a man who she thought was her ex-husband in her rental unit. Usually she wasn’t big on any holiday traditions. With her family, someone was always out of town or working. She had hoped to start something new with Norman, but the divorce had ended that. Would this year be any different for her?
Christmas Family Tradition by Doug Jacquier
Dad would start drinking with the invited neighbours from around 11 a.m. Around 1pm we’d do the presents. His would never be satisfactory and his petty envy of the presents of others would not be disguised. When time for lunch came, as a matter of what little pride he had left, he would ceremoniously carve the roast. My brother and I would write our bets on when the explosion would happen on slips of paper we passed to each surreptitiously. And every year, like clockwork, some imagined slight would set off a stream of invective that would kill Christmas.
Festive Traditions by Geoff Le Pard
‘What did you do for Christmas, Logan?’
‘You must have some family traditions?’
‘What? Like waking up with Santa dribbling into the hall carpet because he fell asleep there when he came back from the pub, having to be quiet all morning, watching the Queen and wondering what she was talking about, waiting for my gran’s bowels to move so we could eat lunch at 4pm and then having to eat sprouts – Devil’s turds btw – and mum’s stuffing that I’m sure was shredded underlay… that sort of thing?’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Hell, I loved it.’
‘Explains a lot…’
Childhood Christmas by Willow Willers
Nothing ever happened until Christmas Eve. Mum took us all shopping, on the bus. We’d buy all the food and tree, all six of us had a bag to carry. When we got home decorations were made and hung.
Then Mum started the baking and the boys would pinch it.
In the evening the Turkey and veg were prepared. At eleven pm they all went to Midnight Mass with Dad.
I was too young so mum and I stayed home and decorated the tree. I loved staying up late and when everyone got home the tree was magically ready.
A Tradition Begins – and Ends by Gordon Le Pard
The old singer watched as the happy crowd left the cathedral. The Bishop came over to him and shook his hand.
“I didn’t think it would be like this, it was just an old tradition.”
“Yes, but a wonderful one, you would go round the town singing carols and using them to tell the Christmas story. I just brought it inside.”
“But it was wonderful, will you do it next year?”
“And the next, and others will do it as well, soon there will be carol services everywhere. It was once your family tradition, now it will be everybody’s.”
Family Traditions by Colleen Chesebro
“Grandma, hurry up or we’ll miss the first song.” Kallie impatiently tugged at Grandma’s sleeve.
“I’m coming. Don’t rush me!” Grandma chided.
The church was packed. Typical for the Christmas Eve service.
“Kallie, I saved you seats,” whispered a voice. A few titters of laughter rumbled through the back row of pews.
“Thank you, James,” Grandma murmured as she heaved her body into the seat. Kallie blushed crimson.
James grinned. He only had eyes for Kallie. “Of course. Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without you both.”
The trio joined the congregation as they sang, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
New Family Traditions by Sue Spitulnik
The Monday after Thanksgiving Michael and Tessa received a beautiful Christmas arrangement from Tessa’s mother. They each raised their eyebrows, skeptical of Jenny’s intentions.
Inside the thank you card she had written, “I had no idea cooking for two days for other people could be gratifying. I hated eating leftovers on Thanksgiving, but gathering our family together with Michael’s on Saturday was the best celebration of thanks I have ever attended. Let this be our new tradition. Love, Mom.”
A tear ran down Tessa’s cheek. “She’s coming around isn’t she?”
Michael’s eyes watered. “Wait till I show my parents.”
Note: “cooking for two days for other people” refers to last week’s flash that mentioned the band members families preparing the dinner served at the No Thanks.
Our Ramadan by Douryeh (Hajar)
It may be four thirty and we all rise
I had made soup yesterday and warm it slowly
Husband and then children, get food on the table
Fruit, bread, yoghurt are usually part of our breakfast
Always someone cracks a joke or has yesterday’s story
Breakfast must end punctually, even when there’s no adhan
Prayers, sleep a while, then daily routine is done
The season decides at what time we’ll have dinner
Whatever is served, there’s always some milk and dates
Henry’s Traditional Christmas by Anne Goodwin
Some years he’d treat Christmas as an ordinary day, turn off the television and eat beans on toast for lunch. Some years he’d put up a tree, wrap presents and roast a chicken, set an extra place at the table for Tilly, and another for his dad. Yet however he began the day, tradition claimed the final hour: leaving him seated by the fire, with enough whisky to engender a headache but not enough to assuage his grief. Or his shame in spending the day in frenzied anticipation of the greatest gift imaginable: his sister’s knock upon the door.
Apple Strudel by Frank Hubeny
I gave my brother peeled apple slices. He placed them one-by-one on the strudel dough that we older ones helped stretch across a cloth on our dinner table. He put some in his mouth. Then came the raisins to scatter on the dough. When it was finished I held him so he could watch our mother lift the cloth underneath the strudel, roll it into a long, thick pastry that fit on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven.
We made many strudels for Christmas and everyone helped.
I’ve never had a dessert that tasted so good.
Hunting Spot by D. Avery
Nothing, not women, jobs, not even a move, had ever interfered with their tradition. No matter what, he and his brother took the first week of deer season and spent it at camp, just the two of them. He was determined to see the whole week through this year too.
Now he paused instinctively. The large buck he’d been tracking stepped into view. He raised his rifle, took aim. Then he lowered the rifle, leaned it against a tree.
“It wasn’t really about the hunting was it?” he said aloud. The buck bounded away. He scattered his brother’s ashes.
Christmas Angel by Myrna Migala
The children were excited; tomorrow was Christmas!
The tradition, to catch their Christmas angel.
Imagine now the little ones jumping up and down, rolling all around, trying to catch their angel.
The tiniest of all jumped so high while clasping his hand and shouted, “I caught mine!”
Holding his hands together with a big smile, being careful not to let the angel escape.
Minutes passed by, and as he watched the other children leaping with joy, his big brown eyes widened; looking at his hand, still holding tight, he turned to his grandmother, “please, do you have a cage?”
Raksha Bandhan by Ritu Bhathal
Nalini scowled at Rakesh.
Her nine-year-old heart hadn’t quite come to terms with this mewling infant thrust upon her, when her mother’s expanding belly suddenly deflated.
He was taking up everyone’s time and attention.
Usually, the whole family doted upon her, but recently, it was all “The baby this, the baby that.”
“Come on Nalini, time to tie a rakhi on Rakesh. Lucky girl. You finally have a brother to bless.”
Sacred thread tied, she went to turn away, when her mother called her back. “Don’t forget your gift.”
A gift? He wasn’t so bad, after all.
Family Traditions by Anita Dawes
Each of us grows
Changing throughout the year
that would seem to be a lie
if my family don’t get Jaye’s mince pies.
When I say I am cancelling Christmas?
They turn into peasants and revolt
If you could see the looks, I get
Enough to kill the Bah Humbug in me
Can’t we just have Jaye’s mince pies?
No, I say. Cancelled means cancelled
I managed one year
Then a great granddaughter came along
Children to me mean Christmas
So here we go again, it’s game time
Charades, old tabletop games
Screams of you cheated, mum!
Fertile Northern Lights by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The stewpot was emptied of root vegetables, venison gratefully given, and thick brown gravy sweetened with brunost. Crumbs of spilled flatbread caught the flicker of resting embers, and a half-dozen children snored under heavy woolen blankets. The littlest, wrapped in rabbit’s fur, lay in his mother’s arms.
“Leave him. He’ll sleep well enough under the Northern Lights.”
She nodded, tucking him next to the oldest girl, and said a prayer for the children departed.
“The Lights shimmer tonight; propitious for calling another soul to our family,” he hefted their sleeping fur.
She followed her husband into the snowy night.
Family Tradition by Margaret G. Hanna
“A fence! Are you serious?”
“You mean, you don’t put a fence around your Christmas tree? Our tree isn’t complete until the fence goes up.”
“But a fence?”
“This isn’t any old fence, it has history!”
“My uncle made it when I was a toddler. I was told that I could not touch anything that was behind the fence.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Seventy years. The ‘posts’ are askew and the silver garland rope has seen better days, but it’s as essential as the angel on the tree top.”
“I suppose it has history, too.”
Christmasque Treevia by Bill Engleson
One year, it appeared.
An artificial tree.
I can visualize my parents buying it, thinking, hell, the kids are gone, we don’t want to be traipsing out into the tulies to chop down some innocent sapling.
Gone: one of our few traditions.
Over the next fifteen, twenty years, I made it home pretty much every second Christmas.
Sometimes every third.
That fake tree took such a beating. On each visit, it had fewer plastic needles.
Somehow, its escalating emaciation didn’t matter.
For me, it encapsulated a simple withering truth about my family and how time had forever changed us.
Whose Traditions? by Reena Saxena
There is a distinct sense of unease around the oncoming festival. She knows that certain things can’t be done.
“But we aren’t having any visitors”, said her husband, \’just cook and eat and decorate the house as you like. Post some pictures with a wistful write-up on social media.”
“It’s all a joke for you”, she was cross.
“Do you remember how you defied my mother’s traditions?”
“These are mine, hence important.”
“So were hers..”
“Remember whom are you going to spend the rest of your life with.”
It was time for him to shut up and comply.
New Traditions by Charli Mills
That night, the sheepherder made room for two wayward cowboys. The snowstorm blinded their passage back to the Two Bar Ranch and their horses found refuge in the small enclave of Basque who herded sheep in the Sierras every summer. All herds hunkered down in the valley to survive winter. Jess and Roy knew they’d miss beans and card games for Christmas, but the smell of mutton stew raised hopes not all was lost. After tasting saffron bread for the first time, and learning new carols to a tabor pipe, the cowboys adapted their cattle family traditions to sheepherders.
This Christmas by Joanne Fisher
“So what did you do at Christmas?” Stacey asked.
“Mum would make us scrambled eggs with lots of butter and toasted homemade bread. Then we would open presents. One of us would hand them all out, and then we’d open them one at a time going round the room. In the evening we’d have dinner with the rest of the family, and of course, open more presents.” Hannah replied.
“But I’m missing it this year since I’ve been kicked out for being lesbian.” Stacey hugged Hannah.
“We’ll just have to start our own traditions then.” Stacey told her.
Roots Crop (Part I) by D. Avery
“Purty sure we’re gonna have a Yule log this year.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? Thet ain’t our terdition.”
“Gonna be a holiday season like no other Pal.”
“Why’s thet, Kid?”
“Gonna be masked up.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? We’re fictional; exempt from all thet.”
“An’ we gotta snuff yer candles Pal.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? That’s my fav’rite terdition fer this time a year.”
“Thought ‘stead a roast beast we’d have baked beans.”
“Baked beans??? LeGume!”
“Yep, Pepe’s gonna join us.”
“Thet Pepe LeGume’s a rootin’ tootin’ ranch hand.”
“Yep. So we wear masks. No open flames.”
Roots Crop (Part II) by D. Avery
“LeGume hangin’ out with us stinks, Kid. I ain’t likin’ it.”
“Pepe needs a place ta go.”
“Thet was last week’s prompt. Ain’t LeGume got his own folks?”
“Pepe is estranged from his wife.”
“He’s a-strange alright. Answer’s ‘No’.”
“Hate ta burst yer bubble, Pal. I already invited him.”
“An’ I said oui, merci. Pal, Keed, I weel keep my deestance.”
“Mmm… Thet date nut bread yer bakin’?”
“Dere was not so much available, so I am improvising.”
“Never thought I’d say this to ya, but thet smells good.”
“Eet’s all good, Pal. Ees sweet bread from raw carrots.”