At this point we are well-entrenched in The Holiday Season – though there are plenty of irrational religious nuts who would balk at the fact that I didn’t just call it “the Christmas season.” This means there are Santa exhibitions set up in malls and Christmas songs in every store, but there is still a big hurdle to leap in the lead-up to Jesus Christ’s two-thousand and fourteenth birthday. We don’t go straight there after Halloween. We have to contend with Thanksgiving first.
As I have grown older, the idea of Thanksgiving has become a very important concept in my life – my favorite holiday in theory. And in practice; I don’t know why I got so segmented there. Listen, I’m a guy who likes to eat. I would call myself a “foodie,” because I’ll take a burrito over some pretentious deconstruction any day of the week. I just like food. Period. And Thanksgiving is the only holiday built around that pursuit.
It’s not easy to come by a really satisfying Thanksgiving meal, however. Sure, when I was still living at home it was a no-brainer. And after I left home I still went back to Annapolis a couple times for that home-cookin’ type of deal, but for the most part I have had to fend for myself. I’ve taken part in other families’ dinners (by invite of course), I’ve participated in various friends-givings (Thanksgiving ’09 in particular stands out), and I’ve spent a few with the only Los Angeles-based family that I have – my cousin Brian. Brian and his family were kind enough to invite me back again this year, an offer I would never refuse.
As I have made abundantly clear, this holiday is all about the meal for me. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce (which I don’t even like). With a little care and effort it is tough to get such a feast wrong. So you can imagine my horror upon learning that there would be no turkey this year. Instead it would be replaced by a ham. Ham! Brian was nice enough to prepare me for this eventuality a few weeks in advance, but as the hour approached I was filled with a unwavering sense of dread. Would this feel like Thanksgiving?
Guys, this is the part of the story where I learn a lesson about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Old Ebenezer Steve went into his favorite holiday with certain preconceived notions, and he was prepared to be let down. But he forgot that Thanksgiving is not just about gorging yourself on food – it’s about reflection and camaraderie. And gorging yourself on food. Luckily this year’s celebration included all three. Lively conversation and atmosphere can make even the worst dinner taste great. The good news is that food didn’t need any help in that regard. Natalie (Brian is her husband) is an excellent cool – as is the Honeybaked Ham corporation, who were nice enough to slather our ham in sugar. Everything was delicious. Even the cooked carrots were good, and I don’t like cooked carrots.
Let this be a teachable moment for all of us. Tradition has it’s merits, but we should never be afraid to shake things up. As long as all of the pieces are on the board, your strategy doesn’t matter; you’re still playing the game. Strained metaphors aside, Thanksgiving is about eating, but it’s about eating with your family, however you define it.