My little people start talking turkey around October 1. Right about the time we begin earning points at the market to earn our free bird, they’re anticipating plates of ham, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, greens, cranberry sauce, rice and gravy, and butter-soaked rolls. Maven dreams of sneaking forkfuls of sweet potato pie after dinner; the Crusader pictures Friday’s leftovers. By the time the last Thanksgiving football gets hiked we’re all sitting in a food stupor a la Templeton from Charlotte’s Web, crooning,
But sadly, Thanksgiving isn’t all food and games. Something else also rears its ugly head during the holidays: tradition (cue the scary music).
Okay, tradition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can (A) be as easy as the cranberry sauce recipe I make every year, which includes about 5 ingredients and a pot or (B) resemble our Thanksgiving parade preparation, which entails sleeping in our clothes so we can catch the 6 a.m. train into the city, baking and packing sausage balls at 4:30 a.m., and shivering for 3 hours on a cold sidewalk waving at former child stars acting as grand marshals. Perhaps it’s our customary holiday photo opp, easy as (A) the happy pic Hubby snapped while we gathered around last year’s table or painful as (B), the photo we had to wake up Brown Sugar to take.
How can you embrace (A)-type customs instead of (B)-like tragedies? First, start by reciting this passage every morning from now until January 3: “Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1) Then, put it to work! How?
First, celebrate family, not tradition. Sometimes I get caught up in a habit, even if it’s killing me. Parade prep almost did us all in, especially when we had an infant. We spent more time recovering from the morning’s events than we spent listening to the bands, so we stopped going for a while. Instead we paraded to the television to watch the floats, sausage-and-cheese balls in hand. We got to sleep in and leisurely finish up dinner prep.
Changing our morning signaled a change in attitude. We focused on “the reason for the season,” an adage that isn’t just a byword; they’re the best words. It applies to every holiday, whether you’re celebrating Christ’s birth or Resurrection or thanking Him for all life in between. Thinking about Him helps us prioritize family over form and fashion.
Share the load, not just the food. Traditionally, my Mama does it all, from washing and cutting the greens to stirring the dressing with her hand—no, not just by hand, but with her freshly scrubbed hand so she can mix it more thoroughly. All we get to do is wash dishes, dishes she puts away because she doesn’t trust us. Of course, she’s completely worn out by day’s end.
Not so in our house.
Instead of holding onto Mama’s apron strings, I follow my own family recipe: Brown Sugar and Lone Ranger fight over cake batter; Hubby babysits the turkey; my sous chefs Crusader and Songbird also double as trash-taker-outer and caroler; M&M gets underfoot; Maven and Think Tank stir, sniff, and hand out drinks; I chop up the giblets for the dressing (which I mix with a slotted spoon, sorry Mama); and we all help with cleanup, no matter whose dish week it is. Then the entire family collapses on the sofa because we all go down with the ship.
Embrace new traditions. We used to roll from the table to the truck and troop to our favorite tree farm. This way our Christmas tree could settle into its new home Thanksgiving night and we could trim it on Friday. One Thanksgiving we learned that our lovely tree farmers were rolling from their own table to help us maintain our family custom. Their turkey wasn’t even cold!
That put the kibosh to that tradition, but moving our holiday fun didn’t end it altogether. It didn’t even delay it. We could be fully present on Thanksgiving and all Turkey Day entails before rushing on to check off the next activity. Now we make a habit of doing something different, whether it’s playing board games, trying a new recipe, napping in a different spot on the sofa, or visiting with friends. One of our latest, and truly bittersweet, traditions is welcoming the Crusader home from college, something we’re all very thankful for.
And for that reason alone, there won’t be a dry eye—let alone a “dry morsel”—in the house!
Robin’s Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
¾ c water
¼ c orange juice
1 c sugar
4 c frozen cranberries
orange zest (optional)
Rinse your cranberries in a colander, removing any damaged berries. Put the water, orange juice, and sugar on to boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Next, pour in the cranberries. Simmer on low and stir until most berries have burst and mixture thickens, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. At this point, add orange zest. Let the mixture cool completely before refrigerating. The sauce will thicken as it cools.