In this post we will also address family-friendly ways to celebrate Christmas together such as gambling and playing with fire.
Since I was a wee queer Martha living in Allentown, Pennsylvania, my family's major holiday tradition was to have a big Christmas dinner with our family friends. The weekend before Christmas we always celebrated with our neighborhood family. The blood family we spent Christmas with would change every year, but you could always count on getting together with the Wendahls, Newcombs, and Dubovs.
I've checked with other people from Allentown, and it seems like this is a thing. Allentown is a hotspot for people moving from New York and Philly, so my hypothesis is that a critical mass of uprooted families fostered the development of friend-traditions. In any case, the neighborhood-family Christmas dinner is something I look forward to every year.
The party itself changes from year to year. Sometimes we sit around the table together, sometimes it's a buffet. Sometimes there is a pinata. Sometimes there is a Yankee swap. We keep getting new family members that join us, like Little Miss K here, and that keeps the party evolving.
There is one thing, however, that remains the same from year to year. An activity that has remained a reliable constant in my life and continues to thrill every Christmas. It's a game the whole family joins in on, even handsome Neuman (who wouldn't stop moving for long enough for me to take a photo).
It's called the Dollar Game. Quite frankly, every year I forget how much fun the Dollar Game actually is. Then we start playing and I feel the adrenaline pumping, and I hope it never stops. But it does eventually stop, and when it does, one person walks away with a decent wad of cash.
Here is how you play this strange version of gambling that somehow because a Christmas tradition for my family:
1.) Everyone brings three dollars to the table
2.) Someone procurs three dice.
3.) Person #1 rolls three dice. If a die lands on 1, 2, or 3, nothing happens. If a die lands on 4, you add a dollar to the pot in the middle of the table. If a die lands on 5, you pass a dollar to the right. If a die lands on 6, you pass a dollar to the left.
For example, if you roll three dice, and they land on 3, 4, and 6, you put one dollare in the middle and you pass one dollar to the left. You now have one dollar.
4.) The dice are passed around the table and everyone rolls. When the dice return to you, you only roll the number of dice that you have dollars left. If you only have one dollar left, you only roll one die.
Don't worry if you only have one dollar left, the person next to you might roll a 5 or a 6 and give you a dollar back!
5.) The game ends when only one person has a dollar left (the rest of the dollars are in the middle). The winner takes all the cash!
The only skill you need to play this game is to remember to bring $3 in ones. This is not an easy skill to master - proven by the fact that neither me, Rachel, or my parents brought the correct amount of cash. Once you get it down, though, you are ready to go. I have never actually won the Dollar Game, but it is pretty much my life's aspiration.
Maybe you are not into exposing your children and/or dogs to gambling just yet. That's fine. There are so many other family-friendly holiday games that you can play. For example, have you ever heard of Snap Dragon? Look, this could be your gay family:
These dykes and their gaybies are demonstrating Snap Dragon, a Victorian parlour game that was very popular around Christmastime. I highly recommend it. The set up is easy: get a large, shallow platter. Fill it with brandy (or any other liquor). Drop many raisings in the liquor in the platter. Set the liquor on fire.
The rules are easy, too: take turns dipping your hands into the flaming liquor and retrieving raisins from the bottom. The winner is the person who has consumed the most flaming raisins before the fire goes out. This game is always a crowd pleaser. I'm telling you, kids love it, just like they did in 1904.
Does your family have games it plays on the holidays? Do they involve gambling or setting things on fire? Do they involve gambling AND setting things on fire? I certainly hope so.