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My Favorite Family Holiday Tradition

2018 has flown by for me – I can’t believe it’s almost the holidays already! My family has a few holiday traditions, but one of them is really special.

Every year on December 23rd, the night before Christmas Eve, we pick a restaurant and go out to dinner. The catch? No matter how good or bad our service is, we give our server a 100 percent tip.

Yep, you read that right. 100%. So if our dinner comes out to $50, we pay $100 – $50 for our meal and $50 to tip our server.

A big part of the excitement is that our server has no clue the holiday gift we’re planning to leave for them. As kids, we used to drop hints when they would come by to check on our table. “We have a BIG surprise for you,” we’d say between giggles. I’m sure they thought we stuck gum under the table, so this probably was a pleasant surprise.

It was important to my mom that our good deed had one single rule: We must tip 100% regardless of the quality of service we receive.

Over the years, we’ve been to many different restaurants to celebrate the holiday tradition, but there’s one I will never forget.

I sat down at the table across from my mom and sister, the three of us were already grinning as the waiter introduced himself.

A few minutes later, he headed back over with waters for us while we read over the menu. Except, we never got a chance to drink them.

To this day, we’re still not sure exactly what happened. Maybe he tripped, maybe the floor was slippery, maybe it was divine intervention. But on 100% tip night, our waiter dropped an entire tray of ice waters directly into my lap. 

Yep, you read that right. He dropped the tray directly into my lap, which spilled cold water allllll over me. Let’s not forget that this was also in late-December! Needless to say, I was furious. I wanted to go home. I’m cold, I’m cranky, I’m not even hungry anymore. And there’s no way in hell this guy is getting a good tip after that.

My sister started to reach for her jacket when my mom finally spoke. “No, we’re not leaving. It’s 100 percent tip night.” 

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe she wanted to stay and eat dinner here, let alone tip the waiter at all. But, our tradition only has one rule. We must tip 100% regardless of the quality of service we receive.

In hindsight, I’m sure our waiter was just as shocked as I was that we left him such a nice tip. But our worst 100% tip night also left me with something: an important life lesson on gratitude. 

It’s easy to be grateful for the things we have on the good days. It’s easy to be grateful for the sunshine, for your Christmas gifts, for your new iPhone.

It’s harder to be grateful for the things we have on the bad days. It’s harder, after a waiter dumps ice water on ya, to be grateful for a meal with your family, that you have more clothes at home, that you can afford to give a 100% tip.

I think this is one of those lessons that we can’t learn from a self-help book, life coach, or inspirational quote. It’s one that we have to learn through action, and I’m grateful for that tray of ice waters for bringing me that a-ha moment.

One of our close family friends recently gave me this Gratitude Journal for my birthday and I use it every day! On the bad days, it’s a perfect reminder of the things I still have to be grateful for. Things like clean drinking water, an incredible support system, a bed, a working car, money to buy gifts for the ones I love.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about? Being grateful for another year spent with the people who mean the most to us, while spreading a little joy a long the way.

    your turn.


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