Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Holiday Traditions

With the holidays rapidly approaching (what do you mean, Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK??), the annual juggling of family traditions is at the forefront of many minds. Some families have deeply-ingrained, sacrosanct holiday traditions, others are more casual. But whatever traditions you grew up with and assumed that everyone shared, when you get married you discover differently.

Just figuring out who’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner may be a sticking point with some families. What do you do when your family always gathers at your mom’s house but your husband’s family always gathers at his Aunt Matilda’s house (which happens to be 300 miles away from your mom’s)? Do you kill yourselves having dinner at one home and then driving frenetically to the other for pie? Do you try to convince one of the families to move their celebration from Thursday to either Friday or Saturday? Do you play the newlywed card and insist that everyone come to your house?

What about timing? Are there appetizers beforehand or will that ruin everyone’s appetite? Is dinner served at 1pm or at 6pm? Do guests need to arrive late enough that they had time to watch the parade before leaving home, or do they need to leave early enough to watch the last football game in the comfort of their own living room? Do the hosts have a big enough living room to accommodate all the football fans? And are the non-fans then expected to clean the kitchen, or are they allowed to nap while the footballers lounge on the couch?

And then there’s the menu. You grew up on bread stuffing, your husband grew up on cornbread stuffing – so do you make both? Mashed potatoes or wild rice? Jellied cranberry sauce from a can or whole berry relish made from Grandma’s secret recipe? Pumpkin pie or apple pie? With whipped cream or without? Brine the turkey or baste it?

It seems like no matter what you decide on any of the above questions, someone’s not going to be happy. But then, change is hard. So sometimes it’s best to start a completely new tradition. Our family’s solution is to host Thanksgiving dinner ourselves. The troops are arriving at 1-2pm and dinner is scheduled for 4pm (assuming the turkey cooperates). The menu includes roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, jellied cranberry sauce (with the ridges from the can still in evidence), peas, squash, creamed onions, rolls, and both pumpkin and apple pie. Anyone who can’t live without a particular dish that’s not on the menu is welcome to bring it. It might not be the exact family tradition that any of us grew up with, but it’s now officially OUR family tradition. And I know that a lovely time will be had by all – because, after all, it’s family, and it’s Thanksgiving. How can it not be lovely?

Bookmark and Share