There is no holiday that is quite as centered on food as Thanksgiving. Sure, anytime we have a holiday, an important event, or any cause to celebrate, food and drink are involved. We are social creatures, and we like to be social with culinary treats involved. But Thanksgiving puts holiday fare on turbo-drive.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking and baking, and love having time with family and friends…and well, I love to eat. But I am still amazed at the planning, time, energy, expense, and effort put into providing a binge food fest for our loved ones during this holiday. Ask any Real Woman who is hosting a Thanksgiving meal event at her home, and she will tell you that her planning has involved multiple lists, flowcharts and even spreadsheets. She has planned what to serve, what to buy, when to prepare each portion, what others may be bringing, how it will be served, who will sit where, and so on.
I will admit that there have been times in my life when I have planned a big “special” meal, spent hours doing all of the preparation, enduring the sore back, scalded hands, bodily temperature fluctuations, and yes – even the stress of whether or not it will all come out ok – only to experience the whole meal being consumed and done in a fraction of the amount of time it took to prepare….and I have sat back and momentarily wondered if it was even worth it.
Thankfully, those times I have felt that way have been rare. For the most part, I believe it is well worth it. Anything that brings people together, to actually sit down together, to talk, laugh, maybe even cry, to share stories, traditions, and ooh and aahh and yumm their way through a meal is very definitely worth the work it takes to make it happen.
The one caveat I will add, especially when these food fests happen on holidays, is that we don’t forget why we have the holiday in the first place. After all, Thankgiving isn’t really just about whether your sister made the right stuffing from your great aunt’s recipe, if there will be enough rolls to go around, or if you’ll have enough room in your belly to try three types of pie. It isn’t even about football. (A gasp was just heard from some men in the crowd.)
In school, our kids are learning about the founders of our country, about Pilgrims, their relationships with Native Americans, and harvest time. (Well, at least I think they are still learning about that – although in my son’s Social Studies class they are currently learning about Mesopatamia, so perhaps by 6th grade the teachers are hoping they are already aware of Thanksgiving’s history). In our churches, homes, and work, we are hopefully being reminded of how we need to be thankful for everything we have in our lives, and the importance of reaching out to help those less fortunate. Last year, when we stayed around home for the holiday, my family was able to volunteer some time packing up meals at a local Food Bank so disadvantaged families would be able to make a nice meal eat home. And there are food/donation drives on every corner this time of year, so it is easy to do our part to help where we can.
Beyond all that – besides all the pieces that are wrapped into what makes Thanksgiving special — my hope is that even with the lists and hours of preparation, we each take a moment to breathe and relax, and find a few moments of peace. Whether we are with a huge, lively, boisterous crowd of extended family and friends, enjoying a quiet day with a loved one, or serving up food to those in need, Thanksgiving is a time to step away from all the other demands and distractions in life, slow down, and have a day to simply…. appreciate.