Without a pilgrim in sight, it felt like Thanksgiving. Last week our family broke with tradition and headed to Florida for Thanksgiving. We drove 14 hours south to join my husband who has been working in Panama City for the past two months. We stayed in a lovely rental home with a calm beach décor. Its large dining table was covered with paper work so our normal traditions took a back seat to function.
My family are hard core traditionalists. At holiday time we must eat the same foods, participate in the same activities and do all the same things we’ve done every year. I’ll be honest, I think there is an element of fear in me that if we vary from our traditions that it won’t feel like Thanksgiving or it won’t feel like Christmas.
For us, traditional Thanksgiving consists of afternoon hors doeuvres followed by an extravagant meal of our favorite foods that I prepare for two days, served on my best china, using every lovely serving bowl I own on a perfectly decorated table. This year it was foil pans, paper plates and no dining table. Did it feel like Thanksgiving? Absolutely.
My girls and I are back in Indiana now but Steve won’t be home for another two weeks. We’re behind on decorating and our family here at home has dwindled from 7 to 3. Does it feel like the Christmas season?
My daughter Emily loves to ask probing questions. She could make a career of creating surveys of random questions that really get at the heart of a person. Her most recent “innocent” question was, “What is your favorite thing about Christmas?” Most people can answer that question quickly. However, I have been trained by answering Emily’s questions in the past that there are no quick and easy answers. She wants a deeper answer.
Prior to Thanksgiving, Emily suggested we just order pizza to make life easier. I was appalled and emphatically stated that Thanksgiving is about the food. We can’t take away the food! However, post-Thanksgiving I can say that our Thanksgiving was not about the food. It wasn’t about the tradition and it still felt like Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, family squabbles entered the picture but even with that it still felt like Thanksgiving. I share this last bit of information only because it is the reality of everyone’s life. Magazines and movies set us up for the ideal holiday and when ours doesn’t line up with the perfect images, we’re disappointed. The reality is that holidays are prime times for family disagreements and tension. It’s shocking but my adult kids don’t agree with all my beliefs and views. Imagine that!
I go overboard during Christmas season. I redecorate my entire house, I buy oodles of gifts (I’m embarrassed to admit how many.) and I forget all about simple pleasures and dive head first into extravagance. Thanksgiving however, was a perfect learning experience for me. You would have thought that I would have learned from watching the Grinch and the example of the Whos down in Whoville but I didn’t. They knew that Christmas was not about the trappings and bows nor the presents and meals.
My answer to the question, “What is your favorite thing about Christmas?” is the magic. It’s the feeling that something special is about to happen. It’s the anticipation that you felt as a child still being felt as an adult. It’s the excitement that the end of the year is coming to a close with a glorious celebration. It’s the charm of glittering lights and decorations that declare that we’re all celebrating. It’s the music that lifts our emotions and sirs up that magical feeling. I love the magical feeling of Christmas even if my house is not decorated it’s only the three of us at home.
The magic we feel may come from the decorations and the things we do but too often our intense Christmas to-do list kills the opportunity for any magic to occur.
So, I ask you Emily’s question. What is your favorite thing about Christmas? Be sure that what you do and what you have scheduled line up with what your favorite thing is. If it’s being with loved ones, make sure you’re not too busy for time together. If it’s creating the magic for others or your children, eliminate activities that don’t achieve that goal. If focusing on the birth of Jesus is what means the most to you, don’t get pulled off track. Sometimes eliminating the things we “think” are vital to Christmas happiness, leaves room for the things that truly “are” vital to Christmas happiness.
So, What is your favorite thing about Christmas?