When it comes to the holidays, I want mine old-fashioned:
I want Thanksgiving to be a full, legitimate holiday in its own right, not a food fest fueling a Black Friday of frenzied shopping for sweaters and power tools and perfume and gadgets that none of us really need.
I want the stores to keep their tinsel and lights in their back rooms until the day after Thanksgiving—not the day after Halloween (or the day after the back to school displays are taken down). It’s just not magical when it’s out there for nearly 20% of the year.
I want all of us to treat the holidays the way my parents and grandparents treated them: They were a day long and didn’t require special plates, kitchen towels, whole-house decor, or a major credit card. My mother never needed a checklist, a calendar, or a 6-week plan for keeping sane during the holidays.
Most of all, I want to love holidays the way I did when I was a kid, when bliss was poring over the pages of the Sears catalog Wish Book for about two weeks before Christmas, and eating as many cookies as I could stuff into my stomach on the one day we celebrated, and spending that day playing games with my cousins and watching the grown-ups laugh loud, eat hard, and pass out in a turkey coma in front of the football game after dinner.
What I really want this year
I know I’m not going to get any of those things I listed above for Christmas–except maybe to reclaim some of my childhood love of holidays.
I can’t control the culture, but I can control myself, and I have the power to give myself (and my family) what I really want this year: To stop being so grumpy and Scrooge-y about and throughout The Holiday Season.
Luckily, this week I got a great idea for how to do that: Thanksgiving Advent.
What’s Thanksgiving Advent?
Every year since my kids were babies, I’ve filled a wooden advent calendar with treats and slips of paper with tasks, one for each day starting with December 1. (You can see it in the back of the photo to the right–along with my mom, who gave it to us. She’s the one in the crazy red crown.) To get your treat you had to answer a question or do something, such as…
- Tell us about best gift you’ve ever given someone.
- Hum your favorite Christmas carol until someone guesses what it is.
- What’s the one thing you most want to do on winter break?
This has been all well and good (and it’s one of the few traditions we have that I’ve always enjoyed), but now, thanks to Facebook, I’ve got a better idea: Thanksgiving Advent.
Since November 1, one of my FB (and real life) friends has been posting something she’s thankful for each day, which she plans to continue doing until Thanksgiving.
I like the idea of this so much better than Christmas advent–or at least, better than what Christmas advent seems to have become for many of us (a countdown to a day of consumption). I really like the idea of taking the concept of advent (preparation for and anticipation of a sacred event) and applying it to Thanksgiving–because my biggest complaint by far (I know, hard to see in this rant-y post how I could choose just one) is that we’re losing Thanksgiving.
I made my share of construction paper turkeys in elementary school, but for me Thanksgiving isn’t really about Pilgrims and Native Americans and the feast they shared. I have a hard time getting behind a holiday celebrating events so closely connected to genocide, no matter how brave and/or well-intentioned and/or innocent many of the individuals involved were.
For me, Thanksgiving is now about gratitude and reconciliation and perseverance and the power of a woman with a pen. (All things I like a lot.)
In 1847, the prolific and interesting Sarah Hale began a crusade to establish a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Prior to that, it had been celebrated only in New England. 17 years later–after her appeals to five different US presidents–Lincoln signed legislation to establish a national holiday. It was an act to help unify our country after the devastation of the Civil War. That I can get behind. Seems to me our increasingly divided and hurting country could use a whole lot of reconciliation right about now–and a focus on gratitude would do much to get us there. (Want the whole story? Check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s Thank You, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving.)
In my own life, the single best thing I’ve done to make it better is to develop a practice of gratitude. Thanksgiving Advent is a way to both acknowledge/stop fighting the weirdness that we now call “The Holiday Season” and do something that is good for us that doesn’t have to cost any money. No fancy-schmancy calendars needed.
Unfortunately, I’ve had this great idea too late to really start at the beginning of November–but I think this is one of those holiday traditions we can consider better late than never. And I don’t want to create/contribute to any kind of holiday craziness by thinking I somehow have to catch up.
Today I am grateful for…warm sweaters and scarves. It’s turned cold this week, and I’ve been so happy to have ways to keep warm.
See how easy that is?
If you want to take it a step further, make it a family affair. I think the real reason I’ve liked our Christmas advent calendar tradition is that it became a way for the kids and me to share something every day at dinner. So, even though I expect a fair amount of eye-rolling (these are the same kids in that photo above, only now they’re in the full swing of adolescence), I’ll be sharing my great idea at breakfast this morning and asking everyone to share something they are grateful for today.
And hey, let’s not forget to get Halloween in there…
This doesn’t have to be just a Thanksgiving/Christmas mash-up. Instead of going out and buying some kind of new treat for those who participate (or foregoing the treat all together), I’ve got an even better idea: Use all that candy left over from Halloween. You want a candy? Give up some gratitude first.
How about you?
Tell me what you think: Have I succumbed to the insanity of the season? Want to join me? And what you grateful for today?
Sears Wish Book page by rjwhite