Once upon a time, geeky families were shunned by their neighbors for being weird, socially inept or unfashionable. Today, geek is chic, and geeky families are accepted for being creative, intelligent and original. We no longer laugh at their traditions -- the nerdy customs and beliefs that they pass from one generation to the next -- but embrace them as cool and quirky activities we'd like to introduce to our families.
So, what kinds of family traditions qualify as geeky? You might be looking for slide rules, propeller caps or pocket protectors, but those are the trademarks of old-school geek. The geeky traditions of modern families put a fresh spin on an old concept or invent something totally new. Either way, their traditions are smart, fun and inventive. We've gathered five on the next few pages, beginning with a little wabbit twouble for good luck.
Annual firsts -- the first day of spring, the first day of school, the first night of Hanukkah -- make great fodder for building family traditions, but waiting 365 days to enjoy the tradition can be a drag. One way to get your geek on is to celebrate the first day of each month by borrowing a custom -- a superstition, really -- that dates back to 19th-century England. Anyone saying, "white rabbits" or "rabbits, rabbits, rabbits" upon waking on the first day of each new month was said to receive a month's worth of good luck.
To turn this into a family tradition, make it a race: The first family member to say "white rabbits" on the first day of a new month collects praise and, if you feel it's appropriate, a small prize, such as dibs on choosing the night's dinner menu. Then, of course, there are the attendant arguments about what constitutes proper "white rabbits" communication. Does e-mail count? What about texting? Sometimes, the ensuing debates are just as much fun as the tradition itself.
Looking for something a bit more strenuous? You'll love the next item on our list.
NaNoWriMo isn't a mixed drink or a Star Wars character. It's short for National Novel Writing Month, which tempts Stephen King wannabes to write a 50,000-word novel between Nov. 1 and the stroke of midnight on Nov. 30. The very first NaNoWriMo took place in 1999, attracting 21 entrants. In 2010, more than 200,000 people participated in the event. Friends often tackle the challenge together.
And now, thanks to the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, families have started an annual tradition of filling their Novembers with literary aspiration and perspiration. The rules are different for young writers, who are asked to set reasonable, yet challenging, word-count goals, but the results are the same: increased fluency and confidence, as well as a manuscript that may or may not lead to publication. At the very least, families who participate in NaNoWriMo have something interesting to read throughout the month of December.
Of course, some families may find a literary challenge too daunting. What about an annual pilgrimage to a pop-culture extravaganza instead? Turn the page to learn more.
Comic-Con International is held each year in San Diego, which means it's the perfect destination for sun, sand and Superman. The convention spans four days and attracts thousands of attendees, many of whom are avid fans of traditional comic books and graphic novels.
Even if you're not a comic-book purist, Comic-Con can be a great place to take a deep dive into the vast and varied world of pop culture. Check out a movie premiere, listen to writers discuss their young-adult novels, attend a how-to workshop or meet the cast and crew of your favorite sitcom. No wonder families make the trek to San Diego year after year.
Many Comic-Con experts say that Sunday is the best day to bring the kids. The crowds are thinner, and there are many events targeting younger fans. For example, Comic-Con has welcomed the San Diego International Children's Film Festival on Sunday for several years running. The daylong programming features some of the finest films -- animation, live action and documentary -- for children of all ages, including the Best of Fest, a handful of the best short films and animation from all of the convention's previous years.
It's not Comic-Con unless you dress up as a superhero or a sidekick. So dig out your costumes and start a tradition that would make Spider-Man proud. And if you prefer to geek out in private, consider an evening at home with one of the most popular role-playing games ever made. That's next on our list.
Once upon a time, in the dark and timeless past (you know, the 1970s), Dungeons & Dragons was frequently played by slightly strange, slightly antisocial teens who gathered in dimly lit basements stinking with incense. Over the years, however, the premier role-playing game has become much more mainstream. Those aforementioned teens grew up, got married and had families of their own. Instead of hiding their favorite pastime, they involved those around them.
If you play Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, you can see why it's great for families. D&D is a fantasy game that encourages those who play to use their imagination and sharpen their storytelling skills. Participants create characters and then assume the roles of those characters in elaborate adventures. One player is the Dungeon Master, who sets up and controls the narrative experience. As you can imagine, a D&D adventure can take hours to complete. Many families establish a weekly D&D Game Night -- much like a weekly poker game -- so they can spend quality time together while they're battling hideous, deadly monsters.
No real weapons are used in a D&D game. That's not a good thing to some people, who want to hold steel in their hand and hear the clang of blades as they fight their opponents. As we're about to see, even this can be a family tradition.
Tired of battling your kids to pick up their rooms or do the dishes? Maybe it's time to start a new family tradition that involves doing battle of a different kind. Swordsmanship refers to the skills of a swordsman, and although it seems as if such skills might have gone extinct long ago, it's still possible to learn how to parry, thrust and cut as effectively as William Wallace or Conan the Barbarian.
The easiest way to get started is to look for a swordsmanship center. For example, Guard Up! Family Swordsmanship in Burlington, Mass., offers sword and fencing classes, birthday parties and special events for ages 4 and up. Families who enroll in classes can learn how to use a range of swords, such as foils, kendo and historical weapons. They can also enroll in stage combat classes, which show students, young and old, what goes into acting and choreographing the combat scenes depicted in movies like "Star Wars," "Zorro" and "300."
Granted, a swordsmanship center may not be as common as a Chuck E. Cheese's, but a little research can go a long way. Besides, who said starting a family tradition should be easy?
What are good traditions for families during the summer? Read about 5 summertime family traditions at HowStuffWorks.
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- Comic-Con International Website. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://www.comic-con.org/cci/
- Guard Up! Family Swordsmanship Website. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://guardup.com/
- Hoevel, Ann. "Family day at Comic-Con: Indoctrination ritual." What's Next. CNN Blogs. July 26, 2011. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/26/family-day-at-comic-con-indoctrination-ritual/
- National Novel Writing Month Website. (Aug. 2, 1011) http://www.nanowrimo.org/
- Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons Website. "Official D&D Game Rule FAQ." Aug. 19, 2002. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/faq