One Christmas, when we were small children, my siblings and I received three little plastic stocking hangers, in festive shapes. There was a Santa, a Mouse, and a Little Drummer Boy. We each either were assigned, or chose, one of the stocking hangers. And the rest of that Christmas faded into oblivion.
The next year, when we unpacked the Christmas ornaments, the stocking hangers resurfaced. I tried to give the Mouse to Alana, because she was the bookish, reader child in the family. Of course, the Mouse was hers. It made perfect sense. The Little Drummer Boy was mine.
But my sister disagreed. She was a tomboy before I was (it's unfair, being older, of course she got to do things first), so obviously the boy ornament was meant for her. And so, the Annual Battle for the Little Drummer Boy began.
Every year, we fought over him. And every year, we came to some kind of resolution, although I couldn't tell you what. I know our stockings ended up hanging on something, so somehow we must have managed to stop our fighting and hang them up on one or the other. And every year, we hoped that, next year, our sister would finally admit that she had been lying all along and trying to steal our Little Drummer Boy because she thought her Mouse was ugly.
After college, my sister went to Japan to teach English for two years. The first year she was away, my mom called me up in November to ask me which stocking hanger was Alana's. I almost fell off my chair. How could my mother not remember 20 years of Christmas fights over that stupid stocking hanger? I laughed, and told my mother that the Mouse was Alana's.
Yeah, I know I could have been magnanimous and sent her the Little Drummer Boy. After all, she was spending Christmas in a foreign country without her family around. Maybe the Little Drummer Boy would have helped to make her Christmas more special, and less lonely. But fighting over that stupid ornament had become such a huge part of our annual holiday tradition; I simply couldn't deprive her of that! I think she understood, and she yelled at me lovingly when we talked on the phone that Christmas.
I think that was also the year when my little brother finally admitted that he thought the Little Drummer Boy was actually his. Which, of course, made more sense than either my sister or I, who were notably not boys. He had never wanted that stupid Santa, but his overbearing older sisters were so busy fighting over the Little Drummer Boy, he just quietly took what we had cast aside and made it his own. No one ever tried to steal his Santa.
Ah, the memories. What are some of your favorite unintentional holiday traditions?