While strolling through the aisles at Target, I paused in front of the fall decorations. I was captivated by garlands of golden leaves, pumpkin candles, floral centerpieces and a glittery banner that spelled out T-H-A-N-K-F-U-L.
As I ran my fingers along a gilded serving dish, I mused that my children have never experienced a formal Thanksgiving.
We spend time with extended family … laughing, playing and eating amazing home cooked food until we burst. But we usually use disposable pans, paper plates and plastic cups. We lounge in yoga pants and eat the meal that’s ready when its ready. Afterwards, we pass out forks to devour the pies right out of the pan as if it’s a communal trough. Then we spend the duration of the day picking at desserts, reheating seconds and gabbing while the kids play.
Last year was particularly classy. My mother and aunt magnanimously offered to “prepare the food” and give me a break from cooking. Then they purchased our entire Thanksgiving meal from a truck stop – the day before. We ate dry turkey and barely identifiable side dishes scraped from styrofoam take-out boxes. We laughed for months over the debacle.
Standing there in Target, I was taken in by all of the lovely autumn decorations. And in that moment, I thought maybe our Thanksgiving needed a face lift.
I envisioned a formal holiday where my kids actually change out of their pajamas for the meal. I thought perhaps it’s time we sit around the table with manners and non-disposable serve-ware. I figured that at a minimum we could have real decorations for once. My hand reached for the banner but stopped short as my daughter quipped, “Mom, we don’t need any of that stuff!”
Her words were an echo of me preaching that same sentiment for years. Funny how your children can be the very mirror you need to see and hear truth.
Our Thanksgiving evolved into the beloved tacky and informal affair it is because we wanted it to. Our extended family decided long ago that we’d rather spend our holiday just enjoying each other rather than prepping, decorating, harping on everyone to keep a schedule and spending the day doing dishes.
This is not to devalue a beautifully appointed meal or families who enjoy decking out their Thanksgiving table. But our family is spread far and wide. We have limited time together so the ambiance isn’t something we prioritize.
Our holiday has become like a comfy, worn pair of jeans we slip on each year and sigh in relief. We don’t get bogged down in what the world tells us is beautiful and necessary to celebrate. We just relax and let the company of each other take center stage.
My children have never known a gilded centerpiece, but they do know the inherent beauty of a family that loves each other. They treasure Thanksgiving because of who we spend it with, not because of the table settings. And here I was, mentally dismissing one of our favorite holidays because of a pretty end-cap display.
The world does a great job of making us feel like what we have or what we do is not enough. We are pressed on every side to keep up, improve, embellish and curate even the most personal experiences.
But you don’t need burlap banners and beautiful place settings to make a holiday special. A lovely spread is fun and festive, no doubt. But no family should feel less than for keeping it super simple.
If you find that your family is drowning in the details, arguing and stressing over minutiae that adds no joy to your holiday, maybe its time you sweep the table clean – literally – and go for an informal celebration.
I can tell you from years of experience that turkey tastes just as good on a paper plate. Families can toast their thanks with red Solo cups. And no one died the year we ate day-old truck stop food. So simplify and use the time saved to sit down for coffee and conversation.
Because it’s not the decorations that make a holiday special, it’s the people you celebrate with.
P.S. I don’t usually say this about about past posts. But if you haven’t already, you really should read about the truck stop Thanksgiving. I promise you will never feel bad about any meal disaster ever again.