Be Thankful for More than Turkey

turkeyThanksgiving. More and more, we’re calling it “Turkey Day.” Is Thanksgiving a holiday about eating as much turkey, stuffing, and pie as we can possibly handle? Has this holiday, like so many others, become so fixed on staying busy, keeping up our traditions, watching football, and buying stuff that we’re missing the point?

For the past few years my dad wasn’t well enough to travel, so we hosted Thanksgiving at our house. We invited friends, family, whoever needed a place to land, and I cleaned and shopped and cooked. Numbers varied, but we usually ended up with a dozen guests crowded around our table built for six. Somehow we made it work.

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Gingerbread Persons

Making and decorating cookies is one of our family’s Christmas traditions. I don’t make as many kinds as I used to, since the last thing I need is more tempting desserts hanging around the house, but when I tried skipping the cookies altogether, we all felt that part of Christmas was missing.

With our kids grown, we’ve evolved a new tradition. I make the cookies—either rolled butter cookies or gingerbread men—and then we all get together to decorate them. (See the bottom of the page for my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe.)  At the end of the day, the cookies go home with the artists.

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I still cringe when I remember the year my parents decided to mess with family tradition. We’d always had a real Christmas tree, illuminated with those large, old-fashioned lights (now considered the height of retro-fashion!) and hung with lead-filled crinkled “icicles” (long banned by the EPA). But the year I turned ten, my mother decided it was time to update our decorations.

She and my dad went to our local Christmas tree lot, picked out a tall misshapen tree, and had it flocked. Spray-on flocking was quite the rage in the mid-60’s. (At least they stuck with white “snow” rather than opting for the very trendy blue, lavender or pink.) Hauled home in our pick-up, the tree went into our high-ceilinged living room. There it was spotlighted with a floodlight. Finally, gold balls were nestled in the fluffy white branches—tiny ornaments at the very top, giant shiny spheres on the sturdy branches at the base. I’m sure the tree was beautiful, with its avant-garde shape and mono-thematic decorations. I, for one, hated it.

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Planning for the Holidays

The Christmas decorations have been up in the stores for months, ads are playing on TV, and a suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed is beginning to engulf me. I feel like Scrooge. It’s not that I’m against Christmas—far from it—but I’m very much fed up with the commercialized substitute our culture feeds us. It makes me want to crawl under a rock and stay there until January.

Every year I rebel against spending money we don’t have, baking things I shouldn’t eat, and the self-imposed pressure to decorate the house—knowing I’ll have to put it all away again a few weeks later. Yet I eventually find myself doing all those things anyway.

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