Although I do have fond memories of my childhood Thanksgivings, I also distinctly remember wanting to stay far, far away from my mother all that week. She always took upon herself the burden to entertain and feed the extended family. It was certainly a noble gesture, but one that she was not organized enough to do well. We kids generally wanted to eat quickly and leave the Thanksgiving table as soon as possible.
When my husband and I started our own family, I spent my first two Thanksgivings trying to recreate the ideal Thanksgiving meal – even though it was generally just us, thousands of miles away from family. My poor husband had to stand helplessly by while I whipped up enough turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes to feed an army. His pleas for simplification went unheeded.
It was only after I had an infant to care for and just couldn’t put in the effort required for the traditional feast that I began to rethink my approach to this holiday. I reviewed every tradition that I had assumed was so necessary and asked myself two questions: what does this tradition mean? And do I even enjoy it?
I love holidays, and I would rather spend them with lots of friends and family, so we began organizing large Thanksgiving potlucks every year. I’m not especially fond of turkey, especially when dry; my usual Thanksgiving entrée is Crown Roast of Lamb. I love incorporating local foods – our holidays in Hawaii often boasted local favorites like sushi and fresh pineapple. My kids like simple foods, so we make sure to have chicken and rice for their enjoyment.
Our Thanksgivings are certainly more relaxed and enjoyable, but we also intentionally include some time for real thanksgiving to the Maker of All. Now that’s a tradition I can live with.
Sheri Payne is a homeschool mom of 3 in Virginia