You know the feeling. You wake up the day after Halloween with last night’s candy still settling in your belly, and begin your day. Maybe it happens at home as you watch the morning news. Maybe you hear it in your car on the radio. Maybe it hits you when you arrive in town and holiday decorations suddenly dangle from every streetlight. The holidays are coming – fast and furious.
I have to admit, I was actually very anxious to get going on the holiday season this year. For some reason I was ready in mid-October, wanting to pull out the bins of snowmen, snowflake garland and sparkling lights to put on display. But as Thanksgiving approaches I’m having some…misgivings.
Every year I plan a big, elaborate Thanksgiving celebration. I almost always cook – something I love to do. I spend hours planning the menu, and money I don’t have to create the perfect feast. While I love the preparation, the anticipation, the gathering in the kitchen with friends and family, I feel like Thanksgiving is the kick-off of chaos. I ultimately end up stressing about the onset of the holidays, eating too much over the course of the subsequent weeks, and forgetting what the holiday season is truly about.
So this year, I canceled Thanksgiving.
What gives me the power to do such a thing? Nothing, really. But in recent years, I feel like the end of the holiday season means sitting at a crowded table, pushing around yet another pile of homemade stuffing, and desperate to get some sleep and get the decorations put away. I don’t like feeling that way, and I don’t want to feel that way. So this year, I’m taking steps to change my holiday routine.
My decision was not an easy one. Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays, and so representative of the autumn-winter transition I love. But I realized that celebrating it the way I have been went against what it should actually mean; and it wasn’t making me happy. As I thought about it more, making a big fuss over a meal was setting me on a stressful course for the entire season – a season that is supposed to be joyful. I knew I needed to do something different.
Instead of spending a fortune on a dinner we really can’t afford, we are ordering takeout Indian food (which I’ve coincidentally been craving during my current pregnancy). On Black Friday, we’ll dig through the bins in our basement and find the rest of our holiday decorations. We’ll bake cookies and hopefully find a good Christmas movie on television. I’m also hoping to get a jump on holiday shopping – by buying almost exclusively online.
By ordering takeout, we are saving some money, and using some to buy food for people who need it. It’s a small step, but an important one. My plan is to continue to take small steps that will minimize holiday anxiety, and bring joy back to the season. Next year, my goal is to volunteer to cook and serve a community meal at our church with our children (who are too young this year). Maybe the year after that we can organize a fall donation day, and gather clothing and food that we can give to others. Eventually, I’d like to attempt to make my father’s famous raisin bread, and teach the technique to my children. These are the things that I want for the holidays.
Did I have to cancel Thanksgiving to accomplish these things? No – but eliminating the pressure of the feast somehow helped me grant myself permission to do things differently. We will still be thankful, of course. In fact, this month we started a new tradition of saying “grace” before our meal, by stating one thing we are thankful for; it’s a tradition I hope to continue throughout the year.
While I’m nostalgic for the turkey and all the trimmings, I’m excited to chart a new course. I hope your Thanksgiving – however you choose to celebrate or not celebrate, is the beginning of a blest and joyful holiday season.