It’s no shocker that every family has a set of rules in their household. Some don’t want shoes on the furniture. Others don’t want their teenagers to stay out past midnight. But, some families have pretty strange customs everyone must abide by.
#1 Lime Jello
When there are multiple dessert options after a large family meal, the lime jello must be included in the options offered to everyone, but nobody may accept it. Only my stepdad may have the lime jello. The strange thing is that this was never a conscious decision we made and it was never really noticed until I was 17.
It was the first time my now-partner was invited to a big family meal. After the meal, my grandma told us the dessert options as usual, then looked to my partner first as he was a guest. He politely asked for lime jello. For the awkward silence that followed, he might as well have asked if he could eat the cat. Then there was this weird awkward conversation where we had to explain the rule, which we'd never consciously thought about before. It ended with my stepdad, for the first time in the four years he'd lived with us, deciding to have a different dessert so my partner could have the lime jello.
#2 All Bets Are Off
You may not use any tools to open a gift, with one exception. A tool may be used if it was also presented as a gift during the same gift-giving event. Example: Going to get a pocket knife is prohibited. Using a pocket knife you normally carry is prohibited. If you’re given a pocket knife as a present, it may be used to open other gifts at that time. There are no rules limiting how presents may be wrapped.
#3 A Hot Meal
Don't bother dad while he's eating. I was a stay-at-home dad and did most of the cooking. After dishing up and serving everyone, I'd plate my food just in time for everyone to come back for seconds, which I would dish up for them. After a couple of years of eating lukewarm food (and the kids were big enough to get their seconds), I made the rule so I could actually have a hot meal. I still enforce this rule.
#4 Skipped Commercials
Most of the shows we watch are recorded live and then watched later in the week. My mother cannot control the remote, as she will skip the commercials and go five minutes further. She’ll then spend just as long getting back to the correct stop as it would have been to watch the commercials in the first place.
#5 A Family Heirloom
If you find our very life-like giant rubber tarantula, you have to hide it. It has been in the family for generations. My grandfather passed it down to my father who passed it down to me. It’s an heirloom if you will. My grandfather started a haunted house business in the ‘90s and it was one of the first props we had. We have better, much cooler looking props now but decided to keep that hideous tarantula just to scare each other every once in a while.
#6 An Overall Good Lesson
We're all incredibly sarcastic and kind of rude to each other. It's how we show love but to avoid any actual hurt feelings if anyone ever says the exact phrase “stop teasing.” It's over and everyone apologizes. Overall, it was a good way to grow up goofing around and joking with family. But it was also good to make sure no one was actually offended when you roast them over something stupid.
#7 Girl in the Frame
There’s a framed photo of a girl that came with the frame along with the other family photos that we have on the cabinet. My grandpa received the frame and he passed away before he'd exchanged the photo, so we're just keeping it like that. It’s been years and no one has gotten rid of this girl in the picture frame.
#8 You’re It
If you touch whatever is cooking, you become the cook. For example, if you come to stir a pot or lift a lid, you own it. You’re then left to finish the meal. Exceptions are made for preventing something from overflowing or catching fire, though if the latter happens, it may be best for someone else to take over.
#9 First Day
We have a "First Day" rule. You are not allowed to ask to play with or use any toys of your siblings on the first day they receive them. So on the birthdays and holidays that you get presents, you do not have to share with the others. And if they try, you get to yell, "First Day!" It’s helped curb a lot of fights.
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#10 Lights Out
Every Christmas Eve, after dinner and the presents etc., my mom (sometimes against our will) turns off the power in the house and makes us all play hide-and-seek for at least 30 minutes. Some years, we’re all into it, some years we aren’t. But I never regret playing afterwards. It’s a great memory for the smaller folks and lots of laughs for the older ones. Overall, I would recommend it.
#11 Duck Paparazzi
My rule for walks: Every duck you see must be confronted about their various love affairs. A lone male duck? "Sir? Sir are you aware of where your wife is?" I have gotten every person I've walked with in on this joke. In case you're curious, ducks are all having affairs, squirrels you can only get for tax evasion, and geese are always up for a turf battle.
#12 No Other Movie
If it is a guest’s first time attending a movie night at my parents’ house, the movie is always Pride and Prejudice (2005). How does this happen? Either an invitation is extended phrased as “would you like to come over and watch Pride and Prejudice ?” or a “spontaneous” decision is made to watch the movie after everyone has eaten dinner. It’s never spontaneous. They always plan it. If someone declines to watch it, movie night suddenly becomes board game night. There is no other movie.
#13 Know the Rules
When we have game night, whatever game we play, everyone must sit through a reading of the entire rule book and state that they understand the rules as they have been read. Any rule which has not been read shall not be included. House rules caused so many games to be all messed up, especially Monopoly. So we don’t use house rules anymore, and by reading the rules every time, no one can say they didn’t know the rules.
#14 They’re My Cats
A funny rule we have in my house is that me or my husband can insult our cats as much as we want to, but guests who do that are not invited back. They are my fat, jerk babies. But to you? They are gorgeous or get the heck out. Exceptions are made for our two longest-standing best friends who do the cat-sitting.
#15 Cooking a Turkey
Here’s a weird rule we have in our house. When you cook a turkey, you have to give it a lemon boob job. This whole thing started a few years ago when my mom saw it online. Apparently, she thought it was the funniest thing she ever came across. She past away a couple of years ago, and us kids have been doing it ever since.
#16 Wedding Day
My sister implemented a rule for her wedding that “you do not fight at weddings.” She backed it with the "never see your grandchildren or great-grandchildren" threat. It has become a family standard. Weddings are now less entertaining, but there is also less calling of police, fire departments, ambulances, and lawyers.
#17 Dibs on Leftovers
All while growing up, my family had a 24-hour rule for leftovers. It goes like this: if you have something in the fridge you bought, called dibs on, or didn't eat, you have 24 hours before it becomes unclaimed property. At that time, it is no longer protected and it’s up for grabs by anyone. I still follow this rule today.
#18 Funny Christmas
Every year, we come together in November so everyone knows who they have to buy a present for. Most of us are bad at thinking of presents, so we always have to make wishlists and you have to buy what's on the wishlist. My cousin often puts extra joke items on her list that are obviously too expensive. Because of that, it became an unwritten rule that if you get her name, you have to get a joke present for her.
For example, she was often talking about flamingos one year, so we got her an inflatable flamingo, or we gave her a large plush Husky because she loves huskies. Two years ago, she was looking for land to build a house, so my grandma gave her land, but it was literally dirt in a pot. She always loves the joke presents we give her and it always makes our Christmas much funnier.
#19 Getting Home Safely
If ever giving someone a ride home, wait for them to get the door to their house open before leaving. This may have been more important when I was growing up before everyone had a cellphone. My parents did a lot with our church youth group so there were a lot of events or times after get-togethers where some of them would need rides. This was to make sure they were home safely and not locked out or anything.
#20 To the Bathroom
As a child, if you repeatedly tooted and didn’t stop, you were sent to the bathroom. Looking back on it, it’s an understandable rule that you probably needed to do if you were tooting a lot. I never realized how funny it was until I was telling my husband about it. When I told him all about this rule, he lost it.
#21 A Big Deal
A rule my family has is that you never whistle when you’re near the pond. This was at my old family home. We moved away from there nearly 30 years ago. The strange thing is when I ask my parents about this rule, they have no idea what I’m talking about. But, I very much remember this rule being sort of a big deal.
#22 Cans From Outside
Cans of soda or alcohol are only to be consumed inside the house. People who drink out of a can outside are "common.” That's the only explanation I ever got from my mother and she was very adamant about it. So, you want to drink something that came out of a can outside. You have to put it in a glass. Nope, I don't get it either.
#23 The Dinner Table
Our rule is formally known as "don't talk about lungs at the dinner table.” We're basically not allowed to speak of anything that my dad finds disgusting while at the dining table. This includes most body parts, anything slimy or "unnecessary" (even he can't define that), toots, smells, underwear, dog food and a whole heap of things that even I am yet to find out about.
#24 Mom’s Harmless Rule
Well, my mom thinks the rule is harmless. Whenever we say something negative about somebody, the rule is that we have to then say something nice about them. I've learned since then that it's a toxic, if well-meaning, rule because it suggests that negative feelings are invalid and it's not okay to be upset by other people's actions.
#25 Day of Laziness
Christmas is a universal day of laziness. Nobody gets out of their pajamas or does anything that would require getting out of pajamas. We also eat food that's been made the day before or snacky junk food such as pizza pockets, mozzarella sticks, etc. Nobody goes anywhere either and we just lounge around. It's fantastic.
#26 You Snooze You Lose
There’s a basic rule we have in our family, which is if you snooze, you lose. We’re a large family so when we meet, there are bound to not be enough chairs, enough dishes, etc. We operate a strict you snooze you lose policy. The second someone gets up, the chair they left behind is fair game. The same applies to the last roast potato.
#27 No Drinks
My mom won't let us have any drinks 30 minutes before, during, or after any meal. We'd be thirsty and she wouldn't let us. When people came over, she'd explain her dumb rule and expect people to abide. If not, she'd say in a jokingly manner, "Fine, but you shouldn't be drinking before-during-after eating." I moved out, but feel bad for my siblings.
#28 Clean Trash
My mother-in-law must wash all plates before putting them in the dishwasher to be washed. And all garbage must be washed before being put in the garbage can. If you throw out something, like an empty jar of apple sauce with the lid on it, she will fish it out of the trash, wash it out, put the lid back on and throw it away.
#29 Birthday Week
“Birthday week.” Upon being asked to do anything, the birthday person can claim “birthday week” and not have to do it. This lasts for one week from the first claim of “birthday week.” You can claim birthday week seven days before your birthday only to have to unload the dishwasher the day after your birthday. you can also claim “birthday week” the day before your birthday and have a week-long, post-birthday chore-free period.
#30 Little Scavenger Hunt
We hide each other’s food if someone gets up and walks away from the table during a meal. Upon your return, the whole family keeps eating like normal, and it’s up to you to go and find where your meal wound up. It sounds rude but it’s actually pretty fun! It’s like a little five-minute scavenger hunt for your stuff.
#31 The Spirit of Christmas
Our mom won’t buy anything with explicit warnings or anything that even suggests violence for any of us. We’re all in our 30s. I asked for a necklace for Christmas one year based on a Miranda Lambert song “Gunpowder and Lead” and she refused to buy it because it wasn’t “Christmas-y.” It was annoying when we were in our late teens, but now it’s just a quirky thing our mom does.
#32 Divided Money
When a family member passes away, no money is to go to any family member besides the surviving spouse. If there isn't a spouse then the money is divided into exactly equal portions among family members. Then each family member picks an organization to donate their portion to. We've all seen too many families ripped apart from money and assets. Woe to the family member that tries to break that pact.
#33 Cold-ish Dinner
Unless I specifically ask my wife to help serve dinner, she is to sit her keister in her chair and eat hot food. We have a wee baby and too often she gets stuck with cold-ish dinner due to our child. If I get her seated first, she can get most of her dinner down before the screeching monster needs her to the end of the earth.
#34 Glass Ornament
We have a pickle ornament that gets hidden deep within the branches of our Christmas tree. But, the ornament you really want to find is the Christmas Pipe. It's not actually a pipe for substances or anything, but rather a very antique glass ornament that's supposed to resemble an old clay smoking pipe or something.
#35 Compost Bin
Food scraps that have no meat go in the compost bin. We've always composted and we now have a new rule for always labelling the compost container. It was implemented when my husband and I were first married and he accidentally ate green bean casserole out of the compost container. It was a plain old Tupperware container and my mom had just dumped casserole on top of the old coffee grounds and eggshells. He didn't realize his mistake until he got down a level or so. The poor guy was traumatized, so we came up with the new rule to label all compost containers. It wasn't his fault, his family had never done anything like that.
#36 Germ-Free House
The new rule is we have to take everything off in the mudroom if we went to the store or interacting with people because my mom thinks you're covered in germs if you went to the store. So, you go from the laundry room to the shower and she bleach-sprays everything you touch between the laundry room. It's weird, but were all germ-free, so who knows?
#37 Healthy Breakfast
Growing up, we weren't allowed to eat anything for breakfast that had sugar in the first two lines of the ingredients. We could have things with sugar for snacks, lunch, dinner, etc., but never for breakfast. Also, we weren't allowed to watch the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Spongebob. To this day, I prefer the unflavored cheerios, as the honey-nut ones are too sweet for me.
#38 Don’t Lose It
I live with my boyfriend and his mother. We're not kids — our combined age is 210 years. But, the mom still rules. There’s only one cup in the house for each of us. If you leave your cup somewhere like out in the garden, you cannot have tea or coffee until you find it. I knew I had been accepted when she handed me a cup and said, "This is yours, don't lose it.” There are three bone china cups in the cupboard in case we have visitors. I've never been brave enough to touch one of those.
#39 Happy Birthday
Every time you eat birthday cake in my family, you have to stick at least one candle in the birthday person's slice. Then, you have to keep singing “Happy Birthday” to them again until their slice of cake is completely gone. This rule doesn’t apply if you're eating cake without the birthday person hanging around.
#40 Food Issues
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is served at every big family event. (I’m talking Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Mothers' Day, etc. This started because my son had food issues, and then his younger cousin, who's autistic, also had food issues. This was one food we knew both boys would eat. They're 13 and nine now, and much more diverse eaters, but we still always have this on the table, no matter what else is served.
#41 You’re Too Young
It's not a rule, but every camping trip, I have to bring the card game Mille Bornes (it's a classic French racecar game). The kids then have to leave us so the adults can play. We've probably been doing this for ten years. The funny thing is, we tell the kids that they’re not old enough to play even though I was eight when we started this tradition. I was playing then too.
#42 They Moved Away
It’s not really a general rule, but something every one of us does as if it was a rule. Whenever somebody asks, "Where’s this person?" you answer, "They moved to America" and keep playing that game. When they ask when they’ll return, you just say stuff like, "Never. They left because of you.” It can be so annoying when you like really need them but your sisters keep messing with you.
#43 Crumbs in Bed
No food or water bottles are allowed upstairs. The small cups in me and my brother’s bathroom are allowed, but that’s it. A few years ago, I found out that none of my friends had this rule at their house. Some people might hate it, but I honestly don’t mind. Maybe that’s just because I’ve never had it any other way.
#44 Looking Like Dorks
Besides having to wear them until we were 18 years old, our bicycle helmets had to be white or yellow. The theory was that bright colors made us more visible to motorists, but they made us look even more like dorks in a state where most kids didn’t wear them. Plus, it was back when the style was black or dark colors.
#45 Grandpa’s Chair
There’s a rule at my parent’s house. In the living room, there was a chair that nobody in the family ever sat in. Visitors could sit there, but not any members of the family. The reason was that my grandfather always sat in that chair. He passed away when I was four years old, but no one ever sat in “his” chair.
#46 Evil Spoons
Every time someone in the house has peanut butter, and the peanut butter is spooned out of the tub, the dog must have some. The spoon cannot simply be put into the dishwasher or sink, but the dog must lick all the peanut butter off. The problem is, the dog is scared of spoons but loves peanut butter, so it’s a long and painful process. I have no idea how this started and at a point where it’s too much of a thing to stop. Despite fearing the evil spoon, we are pretty sure the dog enjoys it too!
#47 Added Benefits
No one was allowed to start eating dinner until everyone was seated at the table. It had the double benefit of everyone helping get everything set up so we could eat sooner. Plus, it socially pressured everyone to stop what they were doing and go to the table when dinner was almost ready so everyone else didn't have to wait.
#48 The Compact
It's my rule, but everyone follows it. I call it The Compact. The Compact is that I will let all bugs and spiders live… except for the ones that I see in the house. A spider doesn’t want to die? Then don't come in my house. If you do, make sure nobody can see you. I’m also the bug technician in my house as my husband usually shrieks like a girl and runs away. A spider on the outside of front door lives. A spider on inside of the front door dies.
#49 Jack Daniels
Shot of Jack Daniels for every special occasion, even if it's solemn. Funerals, weddings, births, etc. My grandpa loved Jack Daniels so much that my uncle is named Jack Daniels. Granny was naive and didn't know what it was. So when my grandpa passed, we snuck a bottle into the church and took shots during the dinner. We also had a special table set up at our wedding for everyone to take a shot in his memory.
#50 Ungodly Choir
We scream the "Happy Birthday" song all at different speeds at the birthday person so it's just a massive cacophony of noise. My family is huge (like 12-15 people at some parties), so it's like the choir from the underworld. We do it in public, too. It’s very hard not to accidentally start doing it when at friends' birthday parties.