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Why I Value My Family's Weird Christmas Tradition

My Favorite Christmas Tradition Involves a Gift Bag Filled With Random Junk — and Memories

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Image Source: Getty / Tom Merton

So many families have fun holiday traditions, but I can guarantee you that my family has one of the weirdest traditions you've ever heard of — we call it the Crap Bag. Each year on Christmas Eve, my family gets together to eat dinner, open one present from under the tree, and open the Crap Bag.

The whole concept started over 20 years ago when my Memaw wanted to break up the overly stuff- and tradition-filled night with something more light and informal. Hence, she introduced a funny box filled with random items.

The Crap Bag is essentially a mish-mash of junk, all thrown into a gift bag that one family member is in charge of every year. Besides the high responsibility of bringing the bag to the family celebration, the person who has it each year must make one addition to it before the Christmas Eve celebration. The family has to determine what exactly that new addition is.

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After dinner is done and the family has gathered in my Memaw's living room, the bag gets pulled out from next to the Christmas tree. The person who had the bag the previous year gets to pass it to someone else in the family (their choice). The new owner of the bag then has to go through each individual item, pull it out, and announce to the family what it is. While some items have been in the bag for decades and are very familiar to us, it can be hard to determine how long the more recent additions have had a place of honor.

As items get pulled out of the bag, stories are told about how it got added, which inevitably leads to us all reminiscing on old vacations or friends who have passed away, and generally celebrating how even though our family might be a little weird, we wouldn't have it any other way. Throughout the whole unpacking ordeal, two distinct piles always end up on the floor: The "this is definitely old and has been here for a while" pile and the "this is the possible new item" pile. The items that are older and everyone has seen for years are easy to sort out (yes, I'm looking at you, crepe maker) but the newer items can be hard to place — 2017 and this year aren't so different! The piles are meant to make the determining of the new item a little easier, but usually just distracts us as we get caught up in memories.

This weird little tradition my family has each Christmas Eve is one of my favorites for a few reasons. I love being able to spend time with my family and hear those old stories. Many times the stories are exactly the same each year, but I don't care. That's part of the tradition as well. Another reason is that some of the items in the bag bring back fond memories of the past. The Crap Bag is a time capsule of memories and weird stuff all thrown together into one gift bag. Or should I say two bags. The Crap Bag has been around for so long that the original gift bag has begun to rip, so we've swapped in a reusable grocery bag. The original bag still holds everything, but sits inside the much more supportive grocery bag.

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Image Source: Megan duBois

So what all is currently in the Crap Bag? I went to my Memaw's house to get the old friend out to create a full list.

  • Red string in a plastic bag
  • Chick-fil-a watch
  • Vitamin dispenser
  • Crepe maker
  • Sugar cane and vanilla air freshener
  • Makeup brushes
  • Tiered frog candle
  • Bar of soap
  • Ruler
  • Tiny bag of potpourri
  • Artificial poop
  • Used Publix gift card
  • Butter spreader
  • History study guide
  • Unscented candle
  • Camera keychain
  • Bloomin' onion maker
  • Flower notebook
  • Acorn broach
  • Heart locket
  • Grow-your-own-unicorn kit
  • Hotel shampoo
  • Flower photo album
  • Nail file
  • Egg separator
  • Gold earrings
  • Ear plugs
  • BBQ run keychain
  • Noise sticks
  • AT&T notepad
  • Dragon pen
  • Necklace

While this tradition might seem unusual, I love that it's become a highly anticipated part of my Christmas Eve. Who knows what's going to be added to the bag this year, but I'm sure hoping I don't get the bag handed to me!

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