The past few years, my family has been having what some people would call a “non-traditional” Thanksgiving. The reason for this is two-fold.
First: We’re lazy. Wow, are we lazy. When I was younger, a kid or a teenage, we were less lazy. But I’m now thirty-mumble-mumble and the lazy is full blown.
Second: My family has shrunk. I’ve always had a small family. It took me until I was like fifteen to realize I should have two sets of grandparents. I had my maternal grandparents but, in my mind, my Dad burst forth from the bowels of Hell fully formed. (Not really. He wasn’t that bad, just a grouch with a short temper.) But we lost my grandparents many years ago and then my Mom in 2014 to cancer. So, for a little while it was just my Dad, my brother, and I for holidays and it just seemed like so much effort. We still met but the year my Mom died, we had Chinese food. It was all we had energy for.
Since then, my brother married and we have one more person at the dinner table for holidays. But my Dad’s health has declined, so much so that a big to-do is pretty much beyond him. However, he still lives in the house I grew up in (we’re trying to move him to the same apartment complex as me but it has to be first floor and there is a long waiting list) and that house is pretty much the only place that will fit four people. We could go to my brother’s house but it’s always a mess and even the short drive is too much for my Dad. So, short and simple has been the word for holidays.
Two years ago we ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods. It came with a turkey and sides. My brother and sister in law actually had to return to Whole Foods because the server had forgotten a couple of sides. So, pro-tip, if you order your Thanksgiving meal, and there are a lot of places that will do that, always check everything before you leave the store. It just might save you the hassle of a trip back.
The dinner from Whole Foods was ok. The sides would good but for some reason the turkey didn’t have any skin. It was cooked (actually, I think it was smoked) but we had to put it in the oven to give it a little color and flavor. I wouldn’t do it again.
Last year we did a beef roast in a crock pot and my sister in law and I made sides. My brother made deviled eggs because that’s just what he does for holidays. It was a very nice Thanksgiving. (I was also invited to my sister in law’s family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and was completely overwhelmed with how large her family is. I mean, it was only nine people including myself, but it was way more than I was used to.) Pro-tip, if you are looking for hassle free holiday meals, the crock pot is your friend. Embrace the crock pot.
It’s ok to have a non-traditional Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter. What matters is family. Even if that family is small or far away, it still matters. Even if that family is not related by blood or has four legs and a wet nose. Have Thanksgiving with your boyfriend or girlfriend curled up on the couch with a movie and pizza. Have Thanksgiving with your best friend with a board game and mac&cheese. Put the cat’s bowl on the table, just this once, while you eat cereal. Host a community potluck dinner. Skype and chat with friends you only know over the internet while eating pizza rolls. Attend a Friendsgiving. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you remember that we are all human beings and we are all in this together.
Ideas for non-traditional Thanksgivings:
- Finger foods. Mozzarella sticks. Potato skins. Stuffed jalapeños. Frozen pizza. Queso dip and tortilla chips. Anything that’s easy and can be heated up in the oven or microwave.
- Movies Marathon. Get a couple bags of microwave popcorn and some boxes of candy from the dollar store and have a movie marathon. Food an entertainment.
- Potluck. Have everyone bring a dish and spread around the work.
- Order dinner. Full Thanksgiving meals can be ordered from places like Whole Foods, Dierbergs, Kroger, other large grocery stores, and some restaurants.
- Got to a restaurant. Most places are closed on Thanksgiving but wait a day or two and go out. I’ve more than once waited until the Saturday after and gone out with a couple people to whatever restaurant hit out fancy.
- Friendsgiving. They’ve become popular the last couple of years. Invite your friends over for Thanksgiving and spend the holiday with people you actually like.
But the point is that Thanksgiving does not have to be your blood relatives sitting around a table eating turkey, potatoes, and the green bean casserole your aunt brought but nobody will eat because it tastes weird. Gather. Gather with friends. Gather with co-workers. Gather with neighbors. Just gather with other human beings and be together.
The setting is not important. The food is not important. How you gather with others is not important. Just gather.