Traditions: Thar she blows!

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2011 - 11:38 AM

Editor's note: This article is part of our lighthearted weekly series in which we asked Minnesota families to share their nontraditional holiday traditions.

When members of the Stebbins family are described as being long-winded, they take it as a compliment. That's because their holidays include a tradition they call "blow ping-pong."

"It might be crazy," Mary Stebbins said, "but it's ours."

After the meal, everything is removed from the dining room table and a ping-pong ball is placed in the center. Family members circle the table, get down on their knees, rest their chins on the table and then blow as hard and as long as they can.

The goal is to blow the ball past the family member on the other side of the table. "Before long, everyone is laughing hysterically, which makes it hard to blow the ball," she said.

It's multi-generational to the max. Kids start playing as soon as they're tall enough for their chins to reach the table. On the other end of the age scale, Stebbins' father, who died last year, played until he was 96. By that time, he'd been playing for more than 70 years.

"We don't know how the game started," she said. "We do know that my parents played it as a young married couple when they went to visit my father's family on their farm" near Blue Earth.

"But we've never heard of any other family that plays it. And when we tell people about it, they look at us like we're crazy."

Although she calls it "a silly little game," she also says that it's cherished by the family

"With my parents gone, it has become more important, especially to my kids and their cousins -- my parents' grandchildren -- who have their own kids playing now," she said. "Our holiday is not complete until we play the game."

They've even concocted a format. After 45 minutes or so, the playoffs start. If someone is deemed responsible for letting the ball get past them, that person is eliminated from the game. This continues until only one blower is left standing -- or, in this case, kneeling.

Winning "comes with bragging rights," Stebbins said. "It gets pretty competitive. There's a lot of cheering. I'm sure the neighbors can hear us and wonder what on Earth we're doing."

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