5 Things I Love About Thanksgiving… The “Other” Holiday

White twinkle lights, evergreen boughs, colorful bulbs and bright, shiny paper parcels wrapped in red satin ribbon are all appealing to me. They truly are. But as I grow older, the gilded pageantry of Christmas has taken a backseat to the November holiday that I love even more.

“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.” Ann Curry proclaimed from inside of my television years ago when she was still on The Today Show. And I remember thinking how odd that statement was. How could anyone enjoy any holiday MORE than Christmas? Isn’t that something akin to blasphemy? Though as she explained her reasoning, I began to understand. And since that moment, I have looked at Thanksgiving in a whole new light.

You see Thanksgiving, to me, is everything that’s wonderful about Christmas without all of the crappings trappings of the Big Day. It is food and family and time off from work without all the shopping, running, spending and decorating. It is like a Christmas dress rehearsal without the pressure of ticket sales, a live audience, props and costume changes.

I don’t know if everyone else can say the same. Perhaps you’re Turkey Day is a real pressure cooker. But for this gal, I find it particularly blissful for the following, five reasons:

  1. It is a day for sleeping in because I am NEVER trusted to cook the meal. I usually bring the rolls… and believe you, me, it is best for everyone that way.
  2. It is a day for laughing with and corrupting my seven nieces and nephews without having to compete with various new iThings, Star Wars Legos or the latest CD by One Direction.
  3. It is the annual celebration of Carb Fest USA… a.k.a. the typical American Thanksgiving meal. Seriously, when else can you get away with serving at LEAST four starches in one sitting? A culinary scenario that includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, pumpkin, pecan and cherry pie ALL chillin’ atop the SAME table at the SAME time = a Carboholic’s fantasy!
  4. There are no gifts required. And I am not listing this one as some stingy, selfish, shopping-hater (even though at times I can be). I mean that no money—other than that which was spent to prepare or provide the meal—was spent on more “stuff” that we probably don’t even need. No expectations were set other than that of gathering together, giving thanks and (hopefully) enjoying the company of those we hold dear.
  5. It is usually the day that ends with my family breaking out a copy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and we all smoosh together in one room to watch and recite the entire thing — from Counsin Eddie’s dog named Snot and his infamous Crime of Fashion in the form of a black dickie… to fried felines, squirrels on the loose and Jelly of the Month clubs.

Whatever your Day of Thanks brings to you and yours this year, hopefully it includes some thankfulness (of course), some laughter, some love and at least ONE thing with whipped cream on top.

I am not operating under any delusions that I will ever BE this woman… but I like the idea of her.

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Roll Patrol

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition everywhere. Everyone in the family coming together to share in a great feast featuring such culinary delights as turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And of course there are the additional items that make the meal complete like the salads, buttered rolls and other sweet treats.

In many families, such as my own, the responsibility of providing all of the food is a shared one. Someone (usually the hostess) provides the bird and stuffing and others do their individual share to contribute to the cause with their “specialty.” My sister’s, for example, is green bean casserole. Hers is hands-down the best so she provides that dish year after year, among other things. My mother brings the candied yams and usually a seven-layer salad… sometimes a dessert as well.

I’m not certain where all of the other food comes from… like the mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, garnishes and pumpkin pie. I only know that it doesn’t come from me. I am—99% of the time—relegated to roll patrol. When I inquire as to the item or items I might contribute to said smorgasbord, I am always told by my sister, mother or cousins in a very soothing tone: “Oh… That’s OK Joanna. I think we’ve got it all covered. But, I’ll tell ya what… You can bring the rolls! and their voices slide up an octave as they deliver this news… probably relieved to have thought of something I can actually provide that poses little risk to the continued gastric integrity of themselves or others.

Ah the rolls. Now that’s a prominent role one longs to fill in the grand scheme of things (my apologies for the bad bun… I mean pun). For everyone knows that the roll bearer is usually some sorry sap that is either A. Poor as a church mouse. Or B. Good for nothing when it comes to the kitchen… Or C. Has been totally overlooked in the planning of the event for any number of reasons… Or D. Is still considered a “child” by their family because they are unmarried with no children.

In my case it is neither A or C. It is firmly BOTH B and D. I am not ashamed to admit that I am… shall we say… culinarily challenged. Neither am I ashamed of the fact that I have borne zero offspring. I just find it interesting from a sociological standpoint. Like marriage and children is equal to having wicked-good skills when it comes to cooking. I can tell you with great confidence that I DO know how to cook things (beyond boiling water). Though most of the time, I choose not to. What do I need to cook for?

Truth be told, I did imagine myself at this age, with a husband and a couple of rug rats in tow, carrying a warm, covered dish to the gathering complete with seasonal oven mitts on both hands. And although I definitely never thought I’d still be the roll bearer at age 36… It sure makes for one hell of a quick and easy shopping trip.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Watch for tumbling turkeys on those tootsies at 5 a.m. when you arise to turn on the oven. And don’t forget to take the bag of “stuff” out of the bird before you slide it in to cook it. Even a roll bearer like me knows that.

The Day Before Black Friday

Do you remember it? You probably do… C’mon… think! Think! You know, it’s that day in late November where we all stop what we’re doing, get together with our families and friends, eat obscene amounts of food and watch football. We stuff ourselves with loads of turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and candied yams and green bean casserole and hot, buttered rolls and of course, pumpkin pie. And many of us also take some time to pause and reflect upon that for which we are thankful. I guess that’s why it is generally referred to as Thanksgiving.

However, for some strange reason, in recent years the term “Thanksgiving” seems to have eluded us. Despite the fact that our country remains deep in a recession and we’re still seeing some of the highest unemployment numbers in decades, I noticed a disturbing trend emerging even stronger than in years past. The trend being that what was formerly referred to as Thanksgiving is now merely The Day Before Black Friday.

I’m not an idiot and I don’t live under a rock. I’ve known for years that here in America we worship the almighty dollar more than anything else. And in direct correlation with that, we worship things. We see it… we like it… we want it… we HAVE to have it! After all, the neighbors do. And by all means we must keep up with our neighbors and our relatives and our friends and our co-workers. But even with the knowledge that “things” are so important to us… I am still shocked by what I hear at the very top of every newscast during the holiday season (which, by the way, NOW begins immediately following Halloween.)

Notice there is ZERO mention of: “How to Prepare The Most Succulent Turkey,” or “10 Tips for Fixing a Feast Fit for 20,” or even the ever-popular: “How to Avoid Gaining 10 Pounds While Still Ingesting All The Carbs Your Body Can Possibly Handle Without Winding Up in a Coma”

Instead of those all-time favorite Holiday Classics, we are bombarded with: “How to Be the First in Line To Get Your Air Swimmers Giant Flying Fish” or “10 Self-Defense Tips for Fighting the Frantic 3 a.m. Traffic at Wal-Mart” and the NOW popular: “How to Best Manage Your Credit in Order to Still Provide a Magical Material Christmas for Your Child Even Though You’re Broke and Haven’t the Money to Make Your Subprime Mortgage Payment.”

I'm fairly certain THIS is Dante's 9th circle of hell.

What is wrong with this picture? Surely I am not the only one who has made note of this and found it a teensy-bit troubling, unsettling, nerve-wracking or nauseating? Hello? Can I get an Amen?

It doesn’t feel like that long ago news programs, talk shows and magazines served up extra helpings of wisdom on how to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with the people who mattered most. But seemingly overnight this once-favorite holiday has yielded it’s prominent position to the day after. I’m not exactly sure who is to blame. Whether it’s us—the consumers? Or whether it’s the big-box stores, manufacturers and credit-card companies? I suspect it is probably both… A marketing match made in heaven… Or hell. Depending on how you look at it.

I may be part of a minority here, but I think I’ll stick with the day before Black Friday as my holiday of choice. After all, there is no waiting in line, no angry mobs to deal with and no anguish over paying the bill for those stupid Air Swimmers when it comes due in January, February and March. You see, on The Day Before Black Friday there is only the warm, lazy feeling of being lulled to sleep in front of a football game surrounded (hopefully) by people you love… with a tummy full of turkey.

And I much prefer that.

P.S. By the time the credit card statement comes… that “must-have” flying fish is most likely enjoying the company of dust bunnies… somewhere underneath a bed.

P.P.S. THIS is how I plan on spending my Black Friday…