Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving Traditions and How Commercialism is Ruining My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving Traditions and How Commercialism is Ruining My Favorite Holiday

When I was a little girl, I remember how special Thanksgiving was. Family coming together to cook, eat and spend time together. Dinner was served around 4pm and my cousin and I would sit and listen to the grown ups' conversations while trying not to get into trouble. Afterwards us kids would run off to play while the adults would clean up and then sit around for awhile catching up and discussing the upcoming holidays.

When I got married, my husband's family was acclimating themselves to this American tradition, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in South America. Gone were my family's traditions, the typical stuffing and array of side dishes. In it's place were Spanish versions of what they understood to be traditional side dishes, stuffing and even the seasoning of the turkey itself. 4pm dinner was unheard of, we didn't sit down to dinner until 9pm! Anyone and everyone that didn't have family or couldn't go home for the weekend was invited over to eat. Since I married young I really couldn't help them with the cooking, I didn't know how to cook but I tried my best to help them understand what the holiday signifies and why it was such an important holiday for me. Even though Thanksgiving was being celebrated in a totally new way for me, I loved it and enjoyed every minute of learning a new way to celebrate it along side them!

When I moved to Florida I realized that I no longer had my family or my husband's family to help me cook Thanksgiving dinner and almost panicked! Sure, I had an idea of what to do but I was scared I was going to be one of those women who burned the Turkey! Thankfully I didn't, but it lacked something, it lacked the large crowd and familiarity, companionship and camaraderie that I was accustomed to. It was just my husband, my two little girls and I. We have since moved back to New York to be closer to our families and over the past 6 years I have made it my mission to always make a turkey, whether or not I was hosting dinner. (and each year I keep getting better and better!)

For me, Thanksgiving is all about family and friends. I don't sit there and contemplate the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving as we are taught in school. Instead I treasure the traditions of traveling home to be with family, preparing a meal to share, give reasons why we are thankful, even if we only say it within our hearts. Because it's hard not to be thankful when you see so many generations and extensions of your family surrounding you, reminiscing about the past, remembering the ones you have lost and supporting each other through the memory, meeting the brand new additions to the family whether it be a birth, a marriage or a new friendship.

How Commercialism is Ruining My Favorite Holiday

I don't do Black Friday. I never have, and I never will.
The "Holiday Season" begins for me on Labor Day Weekend. To me, it signifies a building up to Christmas and New Year's gatherings, the starting point for planning, decorating and celebrating. It used to be that stores respected the holidays, point blank...they were CLOSED! 

Each holiday had it's time to shine: 

  • Labor Day was all about the last bbq, the beaches and pools officially closing, kids getting ready to go back to school. Now you see school supplies being marketed in June, right after the kids went on summer vacation! I don't know about you but I  totally looked forward to hearing the first strain of Staples back to school commercial in August, it had significant meaning, it served as a reminder that Fall was right around the corner.

  • Halloween was a great build up to the fall season, the only thing being marketed was candy and costumes and kids buzzing with excitement about how much candy they were going to score or whose house they were planning to egg bomb. 
  • Thanksgiving was a day that people planned for, booked flights for (and that was the main focus). You ate, talked, (or ignored the people who annoyed you) you went to the annual parade, played a couple of games of flag football and then caught a quick nap before you left your house at the time when most people were going to  bed to stand in a God-forsaken long line, mapping out the route you were going to take in the hopes that you were going to get to that new toy that your kid just HAD to have that Christmas.
Who remembers watching this every year the week of Thanksgiving every year?

  • And then came Christmas...I'll just save that rant for another post!
So have you guessed what my biggest pet peeve is yet???
Christmas has now become the biggest focus of the holiday season, with the main focus being shopping! It's not like we are going to run out of time doing our Christmas shopping, there is online shopping for heaven's sake. I don't want to hear Christmas music before Halloween. It was bad enough that my favorite radio station tunes into the North Pole's radio waves for a month, but it's annoying that when I am trying to buy decorations for Halloween in the first few weeks of October they are already sold out and lets not even talk about the paltry selection of Thanksgiving decorations. People who are already hanging Christmas decorations make me want to pull my hair in frustration and ask them wth!

What Happened to Thanksgiving!!!

The reason I love to host Thanksgiving is that I can orchestrate (at least to some extent) what will happen that day. Even though I don't really like to cook on an everyday basis, I actually enjoy buying, prepping and cooking the turkey. Our family still adheres to the 9 pm dinner hour, but that's OK since I make the turkey & stuffing, some baked sweet potatoes and an appetizer so I get to sleep in a little bit longer. Tiny kitchen equals zero space so I usually coordinate with everyone in order to have a well rounded menu, all the women bring a side dish and the men bring the drinks. One of the newest traditions that was created last year was to have a drawing to see who hosts Christmas that year (and I always pray really hard that my name is never chosen!). Even though I have a tiny apartment I deal with my slight touch of claustrophobia and for one wonderful night I have it crammed packed with family and two hours into it I start fidgeting and wondering if I can slip away to my room for a minute and try to calm down a bit!

An added bonus this year is that I was able to get the day off from work on Black Friday, not to shop, but to actually relax. My plan is it wake up a little late in the day, finish cleaning up from the night before, and then tune into my favorite radio station that will be playing holiday music as my girls and I pull out the decorations and reminisce about past Christmases and worry about what gifts we are going to buy this year

So I beg you...

Please, please, please stick with the tradition of putting up the Christmas tree with all the trimmings and decorations on Black Friday, the day AFTER Thanksgiving, make it an extension of your Thanksgiving tradition. Share stories of past  Christmas memories, dream of things you would like to do during the holidays, as you a unpack the decorations and the ornaments weave tales of when it purchased and if there are any special meaning attached to them, such as if they are heirlooms or has a significant meaning. Do everything in order, enjoy each holiday, sit and watch all the holiday specials on TV when they are supposed to be viewed, go take in the holiday shows (or would you actually go see the Christmas Spectacular on the fourth of July?) The holidays are not about shopping, its about spending time with your loved ones, creating memories like the ones that I have. Every holiday should enjoy its time to shine.

Happy Holidays! ♥OX (love, hugs + kisses)


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