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Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Thanksgiving to Christmas Transition and Family Time

Thanksgiving has now come and gone, and our attentions have been turned over to Christmas decorating and preparations.  The outside lights were installed a week or so ago, and finally turned on for the first time Thanksgiving night.  The inside decorations are being completed this weekend - we traditionally start Thanksgiving night by “un-decorating” all of the fall / Thanksgiving decorations, and pulling out the assorted boxes of Christmas decorations.  Some of the Christmas things start to appear that night, while most remain in boxes until Friday and Saturday.  As of last night, each of the boxes had effectively belched out their contents, and our dining table, which just 2 short days ago held a beautiful feast for the family to enjoy – now held a vast array of decorations, books, Christmas towels and pot holders to be moved around the house and placed into their respective spots for the next 5-6 weeks. 

The Christmas CD’s have been moved into a place of prominence too, as the sounds of the season fill our home daily.  And the various recipes that are traditionally only used at Christmas-time have started to come out for their annual incorporation into our cooking and baking regimen… soon the smells of Christmas will permeate our home as well. 
I love the Christmas season.  I always have.  Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  It’s always been a time to spend with family and loved ones.  A time to enjoy one another, and put aside many of the junk that goes on during the year. 

As a young person, my Christmases were always divided between both sides of the family.  We always spent Christmas Eve with my mother’s side of the family – my grandparents, great aunt & uncles and assorted cousins, and sometimes my aunt & uncle (my mom’s sister) and their girls. We would rotate between our house, my grandmother’s house and my great-aunt’s house (grandmother’s sister), as we all lived within just a few miles of each other.   Christmas Day was at home, and my grandparents (the same ones as Christmas Eve) would show up at our house around lunch time for the afternoon.   

We would also celebrate Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, but it was always either before or after Christmas, depending on my aunt & uncle’s (dad’s sister-in-law & brother) family schedule.  There we would see my aunt & uncle, and their boys, as well as my grandparents, and assorted great aunts & uncles.  Those gatherings are fond memories today as many of those beloved relatives are all long gone, not to mention the fact that 14 years ago my lovely bride and I moved out of California for the first time, leaving those types of family gatherings behind.  It’s just not possible to gather like that any longer when you live 2200+ miles away from the assorted family members. 

These days our family gatherings take place when family comes to us, or if we are able to transport ourselves back to California for a visit, which is typically not done at the holidays.  As my own family grew, my bride and I decided we wanted to be at home each year for Christmas, and in the 14 years of being in the Midwest, we’ve done just that for 13 of those years.  Only one time did we venture somewhere else, and that was in 2010 when we traveled back to California to spend Christmas there with her dad, who essentially dying of cancer (it was protracted, but did happen before Christmas rolled around again in 2011, so we were all glad we went).  Even our kids have determined the same thing – they all want to be home for Christmas.  Even their love of all parks Disney won’t sway them, and you won’t find us in a Disney theme park for Christmas.  We’re just homebodies that way, I guess.  But it’s a good thing.  We’ve created traditions, and the kids don’t want to forgo them.  I can definitely appreciate that, as I didn’t want to forgo the traditions I knew as a kid either.  There was a nice sense of stability and security in knowing that even though some things might modify each year, the holidays were going to be the same. 

This year marked the second year in a row that my folks have been with us for Thanksgiving.  It’s been a great visit, and we’ve had a lot of fun together, just hanging out and enjoying family time.  Last night we spent a couple of hours just playing UNO together.  The laughter around the table was contagious.  The smiles were genuine, and the memories being created were priceless.  I remember times just like that when I was a kid, sitting around the table playing UNO and other games with my grandparents.   I want my children to fondly remember their grandparents in the future when they have families of their own.  And I cherish every opportunity that we get. 

This year also marked a milestone for my kids and their grandparents, well – at least for my middle son – who has now surpassed his grandmother in height.  Yes, my son is now taller than my mother, and he is beaming about it.  He’s on his way to surpassing his own mother, but hasn’t made it just yet, but wow was he excited when he realized he was taller than his “Pama.”  Another rite of passage that I know he’ll remember for a long time. 

My daughter learned – or rather re-learned how to knit with this visit as well.  My mother taught her last year on their visit, but she quickly forgot after their departure home.  But this time she’s picked it up quickly and has been doing a great job with her Christmas present of a scarf for her American Girl doll.  She’s already started another project now, and thinks she won’t forget how as quickly this time around;  only time will tell, but it’s been fun to watch her emulate her grandmother so much in the creative arts.  My mother has sewn, knitted and crocheted all her life, spending her working years as a professional tailor.  Seeing my daughter take after her grandmother in some of those areas is pretty neat. 

My daughter has also been the featured "model" for my lovely bride's new Etsy shop, where she and my mother have teamed up to sell some of my mother's hand-crafted wares.  They offer a number of items for American Girl dolls and their mommies - or - little girls and their favorite dolls.  This really wasn't meant to be a pitch for their site, but the photography throughout the past week, and a couple of trips to the store so that mother could purchase more yarn for the projects she's been working on this week alone, and the new tubs filled with hats, sweaters and more taking up space in my house have all been part of my Thanksgiving weekend.  So with that said, if you have a little girl in your life who likes American Girl dolls, and you'd like to get something for her that is unique and not going to be found on the A.G. website, I invite you to take a moment and check out the shop here.

I love the holidays and have shared a few of my favorite things about them… what do you love about the holidays, and why?

Until next time,


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks. Giving.

“We have ANOTHER HOLIDAY to worry about.  It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us” laments Charlie Brown, in the annual classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - first seen on CBS television in 1973 and aired in prime-time every year since.  Once we hit Halloween, it seems, we are barraged with holidays and their respective celebrations, festivities, gatherings and fun all the way through January.  In my family it’s actually all the way through the end of April.  It’s the “gift giving” season – between Christmas in December and four birthdays and an anniversary in January, February, March and April.  Whew.  But of all of the various holidays and celebrations, one of my favorites, and honestly one of the most-often overlooked is Thanksgiving.  It just kind of is there, at the end of November, very much overlooked by the traditional start of the Christmas season. Especially considering here in the U.S. “Black Friday” is the very next day, though in the past few years those sales have been creeping further and further over onto Thursday – and continuing to overshadow Thanksgiving. 

As a holiday, it lacks the hype and build-up that both Halloween and Christmas have, and certainly doesn't spark a lot of extra-celebrating as the other 2 do either - no costume parties, or staff parties, or caroling through the neighborhood.  In stores it's truly overlooked, except perhaps in the grocery store where all of the feast supplies will be found.  There may be a few decorator items to be found (and I do mean few), but they're most often relegated to the worst shelf space way behind the more prominently displayed Halloween fare, and often behind the soon-to-be prominently displayed Christmas fare. Very few people send out Thanksgiving cards, and no one puts up Thanksgiving lights on the exterior of their homes.  In fact, many people bypass it altogether by not just putting up their Christmas lights - but turning them ON each night days or weeks before Christmas.  In my neighborhood, there are already more than a dozen homes who have been turning on their outside Christmas lights for the past week or more.  And a couple already have their lit and decorated Christmas trees in their front room window for all to see.  So much for giving Thanksgiving a little bit of prominence, huh? Personally I do install my outside lights, simply because I like to avoid freezing my butt off in the cold whenever possible.  I'd much rather get them up and in place when the temps are still decent, so I like to grab a nice weekend in late October or early November whenever possible...but I never turn them on until after Thanksgiving. I don't want to give Thanksgiving the shaft by heading straight to Christmas.  That's almost as bad in my opinion as just lumping both of your children's birthdays together in one single birthday party.  That might be acceptable if you have twins, but if not, they each deserve their own celebration...even if they were born in the same month, and might have birthdays close together.  They're different people with different friends.  Just as Thanksgiving and Christmas are different holidays celebrating different things.  Don't lump them together.  That's just sad. 

But I do like Thanksgiving.  Sure it is filled with wonderful foods; and since our celebration of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. is always on Thursday, it can generate 2 or even 3 days off from school or work depending on a person’s age and situation in life; and it’s generally a time to spend together with family or friends.  But it’s really so much more than just those things.  Thanksgiving.  Have you ever really stopped to consider it between bites or turkey, mashed potatoes and rolls (or popcorn, buttered toast and jelly beans as Charlie Brown served up on his ping-pong table in the backyard?) 

This year, like last year, my mother and her husband are here with us to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s a great time for them to reconnect with the grandchildren, and for us to be able to enjoy with them.  We have always recognized the brevity of life, but after last year’s death of my wife’s father in the fall, the first of any of our parents to leave us, we better understand the importance and opportunity of being able to spend time together.  Throughout our nearly 19 year marriage we have always tried hard to be sure to spend time together with extended family when possible, but living 2400 miles for more than a dozen years of those years has not really made it all that easy to do.  We can’t simply go across town to see them, or call them up and ask them to come over and babysit.  Every gathering is intentional and purposed.  We give thanks that we still have them in our lives, and that they are still able to travel.  We know that one day they won’t be around, or simply won’t be able to travel.   We’re relishing the time that we have. 

Thanks.  Giving.  Two very different words combined together create the name of the holiday.  Here in America Thanksgiving traditionally has its’ roots with the Pilgrims and a feast celebration from 1621 – but there have been days and feasts of Thanksgiving before that.  Even sacrifices and offerings as far back as the Israelites of the Torah section of  Old Testament in the Bible.   Thanksgiving has been set aside to recognize and celebrate with great joy the bountiful harvest, and celebrating all that God has given or provided.  So by name alone it speaks of gratitude for what WE HAVE.  But when further examined, it also is a great opportunity for GIVING.
For the past 8 years, our church has partnered with another ministry in town providing meals for the community – shut-ins, and others in need, specifically on Thanksgiving Day.  Through meals delivered to people’s homes and meals served on-site in the church’s gym, each year nearly 2,000 hot meals are provided free of charge.   In addition they offer a phenomenal Food Pantry, serving more than 200 families each week.  We have used both the Thanksgiving Meal and the Food Pantry as wonderful ways to teach our children the importance of GIVING.  Each year on Thanksgiving morning we get up and head over to the church to pick-up our maps for delivery, and then the corresponding meals that we will be taking.  Many wonderful interactions with people have taken place through the years.  Some older and not able to get out on their own anymore, others simply in need of some help due to bad situations they’ve found themselves in. 

Because of the serving others concept that my wife and I intentionally added in to our Thanksgiving celebration all those years back, for us Thanksgiving has become so much more than merely a parade on tv, food comas and sports in the afternoon.  It’s a time where we can and do give thanks for our own blessings, but also a time to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that we are able to touch by giving to them.  For all the media loves to hype the “door buster” savings to be found in stores – the true blessings aren’t found in any store, but rather, in the people you surround yourself with in life.  Whether they are family, friends or someone you meet in serving others. 
Whatever you do this Thanksgiving week, whether you celebrate together with family or friends, or by yourself, I wish you a wonderful time and hope you’ll find some way to give this year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,