Thanksgiving Traditions Revisited

One of my New Year’s goals for the year of 2014 was to live my life with intention. This means that over the course of the year I have done my best to take full responsibility for all of my actions. To make choices about my behavior throughout the day, rather than just randomly reacting to things all day. To stop feeling like I had no control over the choices made in my day. As an example, at the end of the day I have a choice to make about whether I head to the gym or not. Prior to this year I would tell myself that I had to go. I would go to work, and if at the end of the day, if I didn’t feel like going I would make up excuses. Maybe I had some work to catch up on, maybe I had a stomach ache or a sore throat. Maybe my husband and I should do something instead of me working out. This year, if I don’t feel like working out, I say I don’t feel like working out, what can I do? I can go to the gym anyway and see how I feel or I can go home and do something else. And then I choose one. And when I choose go home, just because I feel like it, there is no guilt attached. That is living with intention. Being truthful to yourself and choosing your behavior.

Traditional Thanksgiving Table Decoration

The holidays are a very difficult time to practice living with intention. What do the commercials and sales for Thanksgiving and Christmas say to us? We are bombarded by glittery signs about SALE, SALE, SALE! The Macy’s down the road from us has a “One-Day Sale!” every day. Zales tells us that our men must spend 5,000 dollars on a three diamond necklace, not just on Christmas, but also one for Valentine’s Day and one for Thanksgiving in the shape of a turkey. Obviously, we will not believe that you love us unless we have multiple carats hanging on our chests. My poor husband is led to believe that women only want diamonds, cars, make-up, bras, or this Hawaii Hula Chair as gifts.

Hawaii Chair
Hawaii Chair

For Thanksgiving the commercial messages tell us that we must make turkey, pies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and matching beverages. We must invite all of our family to our homes even if we cannot tolerate these people and then eat as much as we possibly can stuff into our faces. We must decorate our tables with centerpieces created by carefully folded gold napkins and carved squashes. We must then watch the football game after the meal and drink massive amounts of alcohol. We must spend days before the holiday planning and folding and decorating. Then, for some reason now, we must get up after our naps and head to the closest Walmart to stand in line for 12 hours until they open their doors for the Black Friday sales. Hopefully, after the doors have opened you can rush inside and grab the closest television or toolbox offered to you at a deep discount. Maybe you will kill or maim someone along the way. It does not matter. You need this toolbox. The sale is too good to pass up.

Holiday Shopping!

This is what our holidays have been reduced to. I refuse to be a part of it. But what then, does that mean for my Thanksgiving celebrations? Do I ignore the holiday all together? Insist on going to work and living as if it were any other Thursday? Of course not. I plan to enjoy the holiday, but intentionally. Here’s how:

1. Think back to your Thanksgivings past.
What were some of the traditions that my family had? I remember that family was always the most important part. We would usually travel to a relatives’ home and spend the day there. Most of my memories of Thanksgiving are of my Aunt Barb’s house.
The adults would stay upstairs and prepare the meal, while the children hung out downstairs and played the Atari all day.
We had the usual suspects for dinner- (at 2pm) turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and spanakopita. I’m pretty sure my grandmother led some prayers before we ate, and we may have said what we were grateful for, although that may be in the later years.
We stuffed our faces, then we would go outside to play soccer in the backyard, no matter how cold it was. We would go for a long hike in the woods near the house, and I have a recollection of visiting a waterfall on those hikes, that would usually be half frozen.
We would go back and have a hot beverage, eat more pie, and watch football. Then my family would pile into a car and make the long drive home, stock-piled with leftovers from the meal. As soon as we got home, I remembered that we would always open up the leftover containers and have one more bite of whatever it was we brought home.

2. Think about what traditions you loved.
For me, it was being with family. I loved having everyone together. I also loved turkey, Atari, soccer and hiking.

3. What traditions will not fit into your life this year?
Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel with my family this year.
I no longer really eat pie, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or 90% of the foods that have become holiday staples.
I refuse to support turkey farms. Most turkeys you find for the holiday have been raised in horrid conditions. How else could you buy them that cheap?

Turkey Farm
Turkey Farm

4. How can you incorporate those traditions you loved, and replace some of those that aren’t going to work?
For me, I am not near my family of origin, but my husband and fur-babies are. My friends, that I consider to be family are here. I will celebrate with my friends and husband this year. I will Skype into any family members home that will allow it.
Gratitude, on Thanksgiving day, and every day. I will make everyone near me tell what they are grateful for. Because I enjoy this small bit of torture on a holiday.
Turkey from Whole Foods would work, but I will probably make some cornish game hen instead. Less work, less leftovers.
Instead of all of the other sides we will probably have brussel sprouts and bacon.
My husband and I may take the dogs to the beach in the morning.

This Thanksgiving plan sounds so much more doable for me. It makes me happy to think about it. I do not have to buy, thaw and bake a turkey. I don’t have to create multiple side dishes that no one is going to eat. I don’t have to be around too many people. I do not have to decorate. I do not have to watch football, and I do not have to buy anyone a ring in the shape of a turkey. This is the beauty of living with intention.

Holiday Must Have!!

What traditions are you keeping or tossing this holiday?  Share in the comments!

Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what’s important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I’ve learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

One thought on “Thanksgiving Traditions Revisited”

  1. We are going to my friend Mark and Derek’s house to spend time with them and Mark’s entire family. We’re bringing the punch and a cheesecake. I feel lucky to have the best of both worlds this year – a chosen family Thanksgiving with two friends that I am truly thankful for and a real family Thanksgiving (sadly minus you) at mom and dad’s house. Great memories of Thanksgiving at home (or really, Aunt Barb’s). That’s just how I remember it, except that I liked to sit up front between Mom and Dad and sing carols or listen to NPR on the way home.

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