This week has been an absolute flurry of celebration and family, as I’m sure many of you can relate to. Thanksgiving is become the one holiday that brings my entire nuclear family together. All of our kids, our spouses, and even some of our friends gather around the same table to celebrate family, traditions and the next generation.
Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. I don’t know whether it’s the pies, which I’m a huge fan of! – or simply seeing all of the people I love gathered around the table without the pressure of giftgiving and driving in the snow, but late November is still a time of year I see through rose colored glasses. Imagine my glee during my Canadian years, when I got to celebrate two different thanksgivings on different dates in different months. This meant hosting my own and developing recipes I still use and love, followed by going home for the turkey day of my childhood.
These days, I celebrate American Thanksgiving only due to fatigue alone. That said, seeing all of the cousins get together and pick up as though they don’t live in different states made me grin, even when it meant arguing over Legos and tea sets. My aunt’s family celebrated on their own this year, which meant I could bring my favorite pumpkin-pecan pie from the Canadian days. It was a little terrifying to present a dessert of my own after decades of enjoying my aunt’s famous pies, but it turns out different and delicious was the name of the game.
Traditions are wonderful, but tend to have more meaning when they’re flexible enough to adjust with what our families all need. It feel strange not to see my actual cousins for the holiday and to laugh with my aunt and uncle, who we always celebrate with. But they have grandkids of their own, and our group was getting quite large! Sometimes traditions need to bend based on the needs of the year. We had new people at our table, which was delightful in its own way.
As I said, Thanksgiving is always loads of fun, but it is not always so closely followed by an explosion of Christmas. Every year going back so far I can’t remember before it existed, we celebrate decorating day. My mom loves Christmas more than anyone I have ever met. This resulted in her collecting more Christmas paraphernalia than I knew existed! The same aunt and uncle we missed on Thanksgiving, along with many friends, gather one day a year to help my mom deck the halls. Ribbons go on chandeliers, Santas hang from every doorway, and multiple trees get decked out to the nines. We’ve gotten quite efficient, and many people can identify the perfect location for one specific angel, impressing the newbies. We talk about where stuff went the year before, and joke about how the Christmas decorations never seem to get thinned out even though mom tries every year. We gather around the table for lunch and trade stories about our holidays, teasing each other about whatever life changes are underway and catching up on the small side conversations that a busy holiday never really has room for. We decorate in the afternoon too, but the pace is slower and we usually take breaks. Still, by the end of the day Christmas has transformed the house I grew up in into a wonderland. In the meantime, my dad and one of his best friends take all the kids in the house out for a day of whatever they can dream up. Historically, this meant a group of 12 kids under 10 doing everything from games at Chucky cheese to seeing two movies back to back before a very unprofessional game of bowling. We’d go to a buffet for lunch and have ice cream and brownies after a pile of mashed potatoes. Anything goes! It’s pretty much the best day a kid of almost any age could dream up, and our kids have been talking about it for weeks.
Imagine a day like that followed by coming home to Sassy’s house, where Christmas is suddenly pouring out of every room and the house is filled with adults that you love chatting over a comfort food dinner. Needless to say, this is one of the most magical days of the year for all of us. We had decorating day this Sunday after Thanksgiving. After spending the entire long weekend with family, seeing shows and cracking each other up over family dinners, it was a pleasant shock to the system to dive right in on Christmas. Still, the tone is set, and we are ready for a season of celebration and tons of family time.