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Listeners Share Their Unusual Holiday Traditions

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The holiday season is full of traditions - decking the house with lights, setting out cookies for Santa, caroling around the neighborhood. Those are the classics. But in some families, the holiday traditions are a little more imaginative. We asked you, our listeners, to send in your unusual holiday traditions, and you did not disappoint.

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FRAN DECKER: My name is Fran Decker (ph), and I live in Key West. And I'm a little bit embarrassed because my family has some very odd holiday traditions. On Christmas, you have to wear underwear on your head. The underwear on the head got started - oh, I was probably in my late teens. And my mom used to give me a set of really pretty, fancy underwear every year. But then we would get a little bit tipsy, and we would put them on our heads. And, of course, when I got married, and my husband came to our family for the first time, oh, yeah - underwear on the head.

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JAKE STRANGIN: This is Jake Strangin (ph). The Christmas tradition I want to tell you about that our family does is the Christmas stick. My mom got tired of wasting a Christmas tree. She got a big pot and filled it with sand and a cinder block, and then she just went and found a big stick and wrapped some Christmas lights around it. She did it that first year, and then it just became a tradition after that.

The year I really remember was about 2014. We were going to our favorite barbecue place, which is about a 90-minute drive away from Tulsa. And my mom just says, stop the car. Stop the car. And so we pull over on the side of this little state highway. And she is just seeing a really good haul of potential Christmas sticks. I never really learned what the criteria was exactly.

Last year, she got really sick really suddenly, and about a month later, she passed away. So Christmas this year, we have to go find that Christmas stick on our own.

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LISA ROSOFFSKY: My name is Lisa Rosoffski (ph). I'm from Boston, Mass. And my story has to do with something we call the Hanukkah butt. Many years ago, when I was in college, I took a sculpture class, and my final project was making a sculpture of my choice. And it turned out to be this large torso made of plaster with a very generous bottom sticking up into the air. And one Hanukkah, we were all at grandma and papa's house, and one of the grandkids discovered the torso in the basement and insisted on having an adult drag it upstairs.

From there was born this Hanukkah tradition that - we called it the Hanukkah butt. And the Hanukkah butt took its place in the living room every Hanukkah. Presents for all the grandchildren were piled around it.

And one funny memory I had was that my nephew Sam (ph) went to school, and all the kids were asked to share their holiday traditions. And so Sam proudly talked about our tradition. And he was confused because none of the other kids had Hanukkah butts in their family.

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DENISE MCCANDLESS: My name is Denise McCandless (ph), and I live in West Hollywood, Calif. Every year for Christmas, my family passes around my dead cat's tail. Over 40 years ago, our beloved 18-year-old family cat Mitty's (ph) tail - a piece of her tail just fell off. And I found it on the driveway, and I picked it up, and I decided that I was going to wrap it in a beautiful package and give it to one of my sisters for Christmas.

Everybody loved it. My family's a little bizarre. And we have been passing my dead cat's tail around for over 40 years. Right now, it looks like a cross between a - either a pipe cleaner or a petrified joint.

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JEFF CALKINS: This is Jeff Calkins (ph). My family home is in Buffalo, N.Y. I'm one of nine children, and there are a good 30 grandchildren. We have a tradition by which my father, who is now 99, leads a parade down the stairway to see if Santa actually came.

EVAN CALKINS: Oh, my goodness. Anybody else hear a little tap, tap, tap on the roof?

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E CALKINS: Oh, several did.

CALKINS: People line up, youngest to oldest. They are lawyers and doctors, and they all in their pjs come down, led by my 99-year-old father, to see if Santa did arrive.

E CALKINS: Well now, do you think Santa Claus came?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I think so.

E CALKINS: Oh, do you?

(LAUGHTER)

E CALKINS: Oh, isn't that wonderful?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Isn't it?

CALKINS: I don't know if we do it to entertain him or to entertain ourselves. But at this point, it looks like a clown car as they continue to come down the stairs one after another after another after another. We keep thinking that it'll be the last big Buffalo Christmas with all of us gathered in the house in which we grew up. But it seemed poised to have another one this year. And who knows? We may do it again next year, when he's 100. But we can only hope.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Oh, wonderful.

SHAPIRO: We checked in with him today, and yes, this morning, 99-year-old Evan Calkins (ph) once again led his family down the stairs. However you choose to celebrate, I hope you're having a beautiful holiday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.