Save Thanksgiving: Part 2

Last week, I shared with you a little bit about why I love the Thanksgiving holiday, and why and how it’s become an American “endangered” holiday, sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas.  This week, let me give you a few practical tips to make sure Thanksgiving stays a treasured family tradition in upcoming generations!

Thanksgiving is the kickoff of Christmas…

Yep.  In the past I’ve been known for my resistance to marriage of Thanksgiving to Christmas, and many of my friends have rolled their eyes at me.  I know they are going to read this and dog me about it till New Years.  I hate my friends.

You see, in the foolhardy days of my youth, I imagined picketing large retailers that open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.  I hoped to help empower public outcry that would echo in large media outlets and spark a movement to save Thanksgiving.  I imagined something akin to a green movement, where happy Thanksgiving turkeys would become as trendy and prevalent as reusable shopping bags.

Nowadays, I’m getting too old and too tired to go around sparking movements.  I’ll leave that to the cool kids.  Also, I now have my own children and extended family and church involvement and traveling and all those things that a real adult is supposed to put on their to-do list if they want to pull off a successful Christmas season.  Even though we keep things VERY simple at our house, it really takes more than one month out of the year to participate in this beloved holiday without overspending and stress!

Perhaps it wasn’t the case when I was growing up, and certainly not when my parents were growing up, but today, Thanksgiving is THE BIG KICKOFF to the Christmas season.  All you have to do is watch the Macy’s Parade, to know it!  If we don’t embrace the Christmas aspect of Thanksgiving, that all important kickoff will creep up to the day after Halloween!  (Talk about a “Nightmare Before Christmas”!)  Through my zealous, turkey-hugging ways, I’ve learned that a legalistic attitude about where our holidays should cross or not cross just takes the fun out of both of them!

The “Christmas creep” can be a great tool to elevate our Thanksgiving Day to a new level of significance.  Truly, the best way to prepare our hearts for the welcome of a Savior and the fresh start of another calendar year, is with gratitutde.

Lets talk a little bit about decorations:

  • Why not decorate transitionally.  I used to sell decorative housewares at home parties.  One tip I would always share was transitional decor between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Things like pinecones, nuts, cranberries, pomegranates, and acorns fit beautifully in a centerpiece for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you want things a bit more festive in December, just add a bit of evergreen, something sparkly, and a big red ribbon into the existing mix!  Not only can this reduce stress (those extra bits of decorating can then start in early November), but it also echoes that idea that your Thanksgiving helps prepare the heart for Christmas.
  • I once made a rule that the Christmas tree could not go up until after Thanksgiving.  I’ve been rethinking this lately.  Christmas enthusiasts, like Stephanie, have been known to put their trees up well into SEPTEMBER!!!  If you truly love Christmas that much, I encourage you to follow this rule of thumb:  For every two days your tree is up before Thanksgiving, leave it up one day after New Years.  If the motivation is genuine love for the Christmas holiday, then it shouldn’t bother you to leave your tree up through part of January.  However, if you’re sick of Christmas by the time the ball drops on Time Square, I have to think that putting up the tree so early was not motivated out of holiday spirit, but rather plain old impatience.  Impatience is an ugly quality!  Don’t be like that!  For everybody else, I won’t yell at you if you want to trim the tree on Thanksgiving Day.  It could become a sweet tradition for little ones to look forward to each year, and when friends and family are gathered, ready to help, it can definitely keep holiday decorating from seeming like a chore!   It also might burn off a couple more of those turkey calories after the meal!
Okay, now lets think about activities.  The meal is obviously the main event, but depending on your family dynamic, existing traditions, and guests, other activities may add a bit of extra flair to your day!
  • Go see a movie after dinner!  This is especially a treat for the kiddos as movie prices these days don’t allow for family outings to the big screen all that often!  Plus, there’s always a few blockbusters with mass appeal planned to open over Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Make a gratitude chain!  Provide strips of paper and colorful ink pens for guests to note a few things they’re thankful for this year.  String them together for a meaningful paper chain to adorn your mantle or drape around the Christmas tree!
  • Play a board game.  Just one thing:  Don’t be that girl or guy that insists EVERYONE has to play!  Nothing’s worse than mandatory diversions when you’d really just prefer to loosen your belt buckle and veg out over football highlights.
  • Kill the negativity!  My mother-in-law did this brilliantly one year.  Every time someone at the table was caught complaining or talking bad about another person, they were required to take a slip of paper from a jar and read a famous quote about gratitude!  How embarrassing!  After she enforced it once or twice, and we’d all had our laughs at the initial victims, nobody wanted to be the next Debby Downer!  The rest of dinner was full of uplifting conversation!
And of course, the food!
  • Serve up some snacks before the main event!  The adults will know to save room, and the kids will have something that excites them a little more than turkey and waldorf salad.  Most importantly, you won’t feel pressured to meet a specific deadline when preparing the most anticipated meal of the year.  No one will be going hungry if you decide that turkey needs another half hour!
  • Make a special dessert for the little ones.  A few kiddos like pumpkin pie, but for a lot of them, that’s very much a “grown up” food.  It only takes one super special food item to get the kiddos excited about getting it again next year.  Maybe it’s ice cream sundaes, or maybe it’s cake pops decorated like little turkeys.  They’ll have something to look forward to, and their parents will have leverage for getting them to taste the sweet potatoes they’re so sheepish about!
Whether you’re a Martha Stewart in the kitchen, or you end up going to Denny’s, whether tradition is front and center, or you try to do it different each year, whether you host a large gathering, or just enjoy it with a couple dear friends, as long as your love for this great holiday shows through, your family is sure to feel it, too!
Have a beautiful Thanksgiving!
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