I wonder if I would think of this prompt differently if it had come up earlier in the year?
The truth is I’m torn between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think I learn towards Thanksgiving because it’s less commercialized and I’m not constantly being told I should be stressed about it.
Does anyone else notice that in December? It’s supposed to be so joyous and festive, and yet more and more, I feel like the message I get — from news articles and op-eds, magazines, blogs, social media, and so on — is everything is so stressful and such a trial to get through.
We’re told how to “make the best of” and “navigate” office holiday parties.
We’re cautioned against indulging too much in all the delicious cookies and sweets and given thousands of strategies to “combat the holiday bulge.”
We’re bombarded with tips about how to “survive” family get-togethers because apparently those are always the worst.
We’re surrounded by people complaining about holiday shopping and malls and crowds and general unpleasantness.
And then there’s the requisite bitching from Christians getting upset because a retail clerk told them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
But I don’t know. Aside from office holiday parties, which in my experience are usually pretty painful and awkward ordeals, I love having such easy access to brownies and candy and cookies (making Christmas cookies with my mom and brothers was one of my favorite traditions as a kid). I love spending time with my family and if anything, get upset when something keeps us all from being together during the holiday. And I even love the whole process of gift-giving — from making a list of people I need to shop for and brainstorming what to get for them, to searching online and in stores for the perfect gifts, to wrapping them and either sending them off or delivering them in person.
And then there’s everything else involved in Christmas — the movies and TV specials, finding the tree, decorating, looking at lights displays, hot chocolate pretty much every night, getting gifts, all of it. It’s awesome.
And yet, sometimes I feel like keeping a positive attitude throughout December is a bit of a battle.
This is supposed to be a gratitude, right?
Maybe it’s because I don’t cook the meal or have to do much besides show up (in recent years, we all go to my grandparents’ house in LA; in the past we’ve done Thanksgiving at my aunt’s old house in Modesto or in Tahoe), but Thanksgiving is so easy. My current “tradition” is to go for a run in the morning (my own personal turkey trot), usually with Onyx, and then just hang out at Grandma’s, drinking and snacking, while my grandma and aunt take over the kitchen (and my uncle mans the smoker). Extended family and others (we lovingly refer to them as “strays”) show up and join in the merriment. Then we feast and watch football. There are usually multiple ad hoc buffet stations in the kitchen and living room and several folding tables all over the dining room and den. After dinner, we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to officially kick off the Christmas season while trying to stuff pie into our stuffed-past-capacity bellies. I usually drink way too much wine and fall asleep on the couch by 8:00.
It’s absolutely fantastic.
But I have to say, it really wasn’t until I went to Denmark that I started to really appreciate and love Thanksgiving. Growing up, I was pretty meh on it because of my weird picky eating habits. By college, I was eating and enjoying the food more, but still pretty focused on Christmas.
But in Denmark, the greatest thing happened.
Obviously, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Europe, so a group of my fellow American students decided we’d have our own dinner on what everyone else thought was just a random Thursday. We took over my kollegium’s common kitchen (and several kitchenettes) to prepare a true feast — something like two turkeys, a chicken, three types of potatoes, two or three types of stuffing, salads, cranberry sauce, rolls, roasted veggies, all the pies, and so much wine. I think there were 20 or 30 people there and for the first time, I got Thanksgiving. It wasn’t about celebrating anything external (like Christmas is about the birth of Christ, 4th of July is…the birth of America, Memorial Day is for the troops, etc.). It was just about being together and enjoying a meal. That’s it.
I mean, I know Thanksgiving goes back to the pilgrims and Native Americans — but because what we celebrate really doesn’t resemble anything close to that reality, I find it pretty easy to just ignore that part and focus on the goodness that happens when people come together in that way.
Ever since, I’ve been all about Thanksgiving.
photo by Christine Walton via snapwire snaps // cc // modified in photoshop