Lynn Kirkle — Matt and Kate

Lynn Kirkle's son, Matt, holding his sister, Kate, while picking a Christmas tree out at Menards.

My family has a lot of traditions. However, the word "tradition" assigns a certain dignity they don’t necessarily deserve.

In our world, tradition means we do the same thing in the same way each and every year — simply because that was how it was done the very first time we did it.

For example: One of our traditions is that we go pick out a live Christmas tree the night before Thanksgiving. We get the tree and then we all go out to dinner. Then after all of our guests have left on Thanksgiving Day, we decorate the tree.

But here’s the reality of our tradition.

Do we go to some adorable, Hallmark movie type of Christmas tree lot or farm? No, we do not. We all pile into the minivan and go to Menards. Why Menards, you ask? Because that is where we happened to buy our first live Christmas tree a million years ago. So we drive across town playing Christmas music and pass a plethora of establishments who are also selling live trees to go to a chain hardware superstore.

And we love it. We love it and would revolt if something had to change.

Such a storied heritage, right?

The same thing goes for "The Nutcracker." My oldest daughter and I have been going to this ballet every year since she was 5. This was our 19th year. My mother-in-law started joining in the fun some years ago as well, so it’s a traditional trio. We make it into a big day, too. We leave the house at 8 a.m. to do some shopping, eat lunch and then head off to the show. After that, we get ice cream.

But this also has a traditional asterisk. By shopping we mean going into Target to look around; it doesn't involve any festive Christmas shopping, which might be implied. This year I bought an energy drink and a clutch — plaid and adorable, FYI. My daughter bought a pair of tights. There is no reason for us to stop there other than the fact that we stopped there 19 years ago when my little girl needed a barrette for her hair.

Lunch is the same. The Old Market is filled with amazing restaurants, but these are restaurants we never even consider on this day. Instead, we go to the same spaghetti place we’ve gone every year. Even though it’s yummy and we love it, it’s pretty pedestrian compared to some of the culinary offerings downtown. But of course, we would never consider eating anywhere other than the place we first selected when my daughter was 5 — because it is tradition.

My family’s list of wonky traditions is long.

“Boys Day Out” — aka the day the girls go to the ballet — means the guys eat lunch at Bronco’s Hamburgers. Nowhere else will do. The Fourth of July requires we drive out to one specific firework stand in Papillion — even though our neighborhood is surrounded by tents selling explosives. We also have to go to the same hot wings restaurant every year to watch the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.

I’m not saying we’re normal; we’re just festive creatures of habit.


Lynn Kirkle is a writer and lives in Omaha with her husband and five children. She writes twice a month for, and can be found on Twitter @LAPainter.

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