Thanksgiving is a holiday for connecting, not collecting

Thanksgiving still remains my favourite holiday. When else is nature strutting her stuff so vividly? When else do you get a day off to spend with family that isn’t focused on buying or spending or doing laundry? When else do you find most families not cooking processed food? And perhaps most importantly, when else do you get pumpkin pie?

Regarding pumpkin pie, I just love it. It is so miraculous -a pie made of a vegetable that is beyond edible and is actually delicious. Imagine a dessert that allows us to rightfully have one less vegetable on the table during dinner.

I take my pumpkin pie very seriously, if you haven’t figured this out already. First of all, grocery-store bought pie won’t do -the spicing seems off. My mom’s pumpkin pie had no cloves, and was light on nutmeg and heavy on brandy (and in the absence of brandy, rum would suffice.) Second, I simply don’t see the point of eating pumpkin pie without whipped cream. I tried once and the experience left me flat and unfulfilled.

This is just one throwback to my childhood, and to the ways things were done by my family. At least I am wise enough now to understand that tradition for one family is travesty to another.

Another case in point: in our family it was the woman who carved the turkey and roasts. I thought it so strange when I encountered a man who didn’t cook the meal suddenly stepping in for the glory of carving the beast and placing it lovingly on everyone’s plates, as if they had anything to do with it.

I’ve learned since that some people actually believe that pumpkin pie can be eaten with vanilla ice cream (or plain -heaven forbid.) Also, it seems that some men cook the turkeys (and don’t burn their garage down doing so.) I’ve also been told that some women prefer the men do the carving. (Perhaps they’d like to get off their feet for the first time all day?)

We really are moulded by our childhoods in so many ways.

That said, along with finances, child rearing, religion and politics, I would think that traditions should also be discussed and agreed upon when couples are doing their premarital counselling.

Perhaps the negotiations might go something little like this:

“Ok, I’ll give in to your champagne and orange juice tradition on Christmas morning, if I get to run the finance. You agree to stop crinkling your nose at my families’ traditional yam dish, and I’ll let you raise our children in the Jewish faith.”

The retort might be: “I only require flowers a few times a year, but not cheap carnations and I need heartfelt words in a card on Valentine’s Day and in return you can have your annual hunting trip. Even though spanking worked in your family, we aren’t going to do it (to the kids) … and if you agree to that, I’ll let you show off your gifts under the Christmas tree for three days.”

I’m open to new traditions, but some I’ve never bought into. There has yet to be a ham on my table at Easter dinner, but I always save the turkey wishbone unless it breaks in the carving. I’m also crazy enough to think that there is nothing wrong with breakfast for dinner several times a year.

Where I’m rebelling more against “traditions” are those that are being crammed down our throats by marketers. Stores are full of the next traditionally appropriate merchandise before the former holiday meal is digested in our bellies. The massive Christmas decorating and gift giving has gotten out of hand, and I have encouraged minimalism, gift exchanges, or not trading gifts at all. Perhaps it is also part of my anti-commercialism, but the only Halloween decorations I’ve ever had are the pumpkins we carve or anything ghoulish that we cut out and stick to the window.

I guess I focus on connecting with people instead of collecting things, so I am always happiest when I can spend holidays with the ones I love, not being bound by commercial traditions.

If I could start a tradition for the whole year it would be to give thanks every day, with a focus on connecting and not collecting.

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