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Why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday
I love November. Novembers in Georgia usually have the best show of colors, the weather is milder and it has my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving!!
I am planning out and shopping for our Thanksgiving menu today and just generally reflecting on my favorite holiday and some of the reasons why it is that and I thought I would share those here.
- Thanksgiving is simple. Or at least more simple. It’s not a present giving holiday. There are no expectations of a lot of money spent on gifts or big, over the top decorations. No one is disappointed that someone got more than they did (unless it is the last piece of Pecan Pie!) or disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted (because seriously, we all want the turkey!). We get to save that disappointment for a whole ‘nother month! Yes, if you are the matriarch of the family, you are probably in a food shopping and preparing frenzy, but if you are anything like me, you love it. Absolutely love it.
- Thanksgiving brings us closer. Closer to those far away, closer to those we don’t get to see often. We hang out in the kitchen, we linger at the tables after dinner, we sack out on the couches to watch parades and dog shows, football, Christmas movies or the annual lighting of the Great Tree in Atlanta (well, that’s what we here in The South do…or at least did until shopping on Thursday became a thing and the location where the tree is decided Sunday would be better for that, ugh…don’t even get me started on that, I am really Grumpy about that!)…that tree is a tradition!
We do all these things, but we do them together. I remember growing up and after the meal was done and the adults lingered at their table sipping coffee and thinking about another piece of pie, they would talk about everything. They would catch up from the last time they were all together at the table, discuss children and church. Politics, work. Life. Occasionally opinions were not met eye to eye, but they always ended amicably and hard feelings were not left behind. Although you can bet on the ride home, the couples are saying something to the effect of, “Can you believe they voted for him?” or “I cannot believe they don’t spank!” (It was the 70s, spankings were still very much a way to discipline, don’t judge). Seriously though, don’t discuss politics at dinner unless you are at a table of all like partied minds; you may want to sit your conservative and liberal family and friends apart!
- Thanksgiving is (partly) about FOOD!!! Good food. Food we think about at other times of the year and wish it were Thanksgiving. New dishes to savor, old recipes to cherish and hand down. I love to host Thanksgiving meal, and most of the time family and friends ask what they can bring. I don’t want them to bring anything, but I will make suggestions of what would be good (appetizers, deserts, drinks). Why don’t I want them to help supplement my meal? Because my meal is my grandmother’s meal. My great-grandmother’s meal. My mom’s. My Thanksgiving meal is composed of the Thanksgiving meals of my youth. I’m Southern, I grew up with strong, Southern ladies who could throw down a mess of deliciousness. Turkey and dressing. Sweet Potato Souffle. Green Bean Casserole and so much more. Pulling out my grandmothers’ recipes and then preparing them for their descendants makes me feel so much closer to them. Thanksgiving eve night and then Thanksgiving morning, the smells emanating from the kitchen take me back, and if I squint my eyes just right, I see I am not alone in my kitchen. Those I love and miss are right there with me. Guiding my hand on the mixer. Leaning in to take a sniff with me when I open the oven. They are gone but their memories live on through their food. They live through me. Bug with her first homemade Pecan Pie
- Thanksgiving is (mostly) about more than food. It reminds us that we should have a grateful spirit at all times, through all things. We have had some rough Thanksgiving holidays. First holidays after a loss of a loved one, times of war, times of want. I remember times when the stress of buying the food for a small meal was more than my strapped family could handle at the time, but we made do with what we could and we were THANKFUL for it. To be grateful for what we have, sometimes it takes us to not have anything. Need a way to feel more grateful? Serve food to the homeless. Take a meal to someone home-bound and alone. INVITE SOMEONE TO YOUR TABLE. Always keep in mind that there is someone out there wishing for what you have. We often think, “Well, I don’t have much!” but the truth is, richness is not found in monetary items. True riches can’t be bought. You are probably far richer than you know. Be grateful for it.
- Thanksgiving is part of our ‘story.’ No, I am not talking about the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians, but yes, it is part of the American story. I do know how a lot of indigenous peoples feel about it, but I don’t get into that. I don’t observe this holiday for that old (incorrect) history lesson, I observe it for what I have already detailed above, but also as the day my husband and I made our story official. Thanksgiving is when we got engaged. That year had been a rough year. I had cancer for the first time that year and although it was minimal and we thought (at the time) that it was gone, it was a year of a lot of ups and downs. It was a Thanksgiving where my extended family, included my grandmother, were spread far and wide for the holiday, and my two children from my first marriage, JT and LouLou, were spending that holiday with their father (this was before Bug came along, and also before the Ex and I became friends again. Since then, we’ve done holidays, birthdays and special occasions together. Not because it was good for us, but because it was good for the kids. In the end, it has been good for us all. Divorce sucks bad enough as it is, we chose to not make it harder than it was for any of us.)
I was sad that my Thanksgiving had become just Mr. and I, and he wanted to go hunting. Hunting! He was dragging me hunting for Thanksgiving! I resigned myself to the fact that this would be a different holiday for me, but with the Mr. insisting we would have all the traditional foods I expected, and also some nice alone time, I went along with the preparation and actually began to look forward to our long holiday weekend in the woods. Because an oven big enough for roasting a turkey was an issue, this was the year the Mr. began doing the Southern Fried Turkey that everyone raves about. If you’ve had it, you know how good it is. If you haven’t…well, I’m so sorry about that!
The night before Thanksgiving, hanging at the camp of the hunting club, we began preparing our items for the next day. While we thought there would be no other members at the club that night, we found a few weekend bachelors that had come down to hunt over the holiday weekend, and when they found out we were cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the next day, it was quickly decided that our meal was no longer for just two people, but was for everyone that was in camp and hungry for Thanksgiving. That was the beginning of our always making room at the table for whomever may show up rule. We still do that almost 20 years later. I don’t care if you are a stranger and we don’t know each other, you are invited to sit and partake in the meal we’ve prepared and I hope that when you leave my table, you are no longer a stranger to me, but a friend.
As stars shot across the sky overhead, an owl hooted in the distance, and a large campfire roared in the camp commons, we laughed and joked and canoodled like young people in love. The final step was to prepare the turkey for injection and then a dry rub so I stuck my hand in the cavity to pull out the parts bag, but instead found a ziplock. With a ring inside. Yes, there was a ring in the turkey butt!!! When I turned around in puzzlement to the Mr., he was on bended knee, with love in his eyes and a smile on his face. It was then that this man of not many words when it comes to love and the mushy stuff declared his undying love for me. For me! It was there where he said for us to let’s not do this big wedding thing we had talked about and began planning. It was there, in the hunting camp, where he told me he didn’t want to finish the year out without my being his wife. He wanted to marry me. Not later. Now. As soon as we could get it arranged because he wanted to start the new year as newlyweds. Joined forever. It was just over a month later, in a ceremony by the ocean on New Year’s Eve, surrounded by a small number of family and friends, his proposal became a vow.
I look back on that Thanksgiving, and I think about how sad and blue I was leading up to it because it wasn’t going to be the same as all my other Thanksgivings but how it turned out to be the best one ever. Sometimes we have to let go of what we expect in order to receive what blessings are coming our way. No, I wasn’t proposed to in a 5 star restaurant or an iconic setting, but it was just as much a fairy-tale as Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World, maybe even more so, because it truly was a magical moment. I am glad we didn’t get engaged in any fantasy-induced type of place. My ring was in a raw turkey butt and I had to get through gross stuff to get it. That’s pretty much what marriage is. A lot of gross stuff to get to the bigger prize. That’s also what Thanksgiving is to me. We go through a lot of gross stuff all year-long. Thanksgiving is our day to be grateful we got past all the icky to get to the good.
Even if Thanksgiving isn’t your favorite holiday, take the time to reflect on the things you are grateful for this year. Yes, it is possible you may have to look hard and dig deep, but it is also possible that once you start looking, those things that are a blessing to you will appear tenfold and your list of things to be thankful for will be miles longer than the things that are burdens. And if you are still struggling, I have a spot at my table for you along with a plate full of food, but also a few large helpings of Joy, Compassion, Empathy, and most importantly, Love.
“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward