In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
We are, right now, smack dab in the middle season between my two Thanksgivings. Canadians, bless their hearts, have been known to get a little snide about the American habit of cramming all of our holidays between November 20 and January 2, but as an American-Canadian, the addition of the second Thanksgiving at the beginning of October just means that the "holiday season" takes up a full quarter of my year these days. If the thought of that makes you tired, you're not alone. It makes me tired, too.
The holidays are, in various ways, complicated for just about everyone I know. Whether it's just the dissonance between the remembered magic of childhood Christmases and the realities of managing the days as adults, the stress of meeting conflicting obligations, complex families, or some combination therein, I don't know many people who see November coming up on the calendar without at least some trepidation. Our November Thanksgivings often mean houseguests (anywhere from one to, if everything goes according to plans this year, six) and Christmas usually means one of our twice-annual cross-country road trips to the Maritimes, which are inevitably stressful not least because you're just never going to cross half of Canada, even the southern half, in December without encountering troublesome weather.
So although our Canadian Thanksgiving this year was very low-key, I can't help but have mixed feelings as November approaches. The holidays are full of Emotional Expectations that are, if we're being honest, more or less impossible to meet, but everyone tries so hard. And while I appreciate the importance of family traditions among my in-laws, I also sometimes want to give in to my own family's tendency to just kind of skip it. Oh, sure, we usually did a tree, and kids got gifts, and we had a few foods in standard rotation, but when compared to my in-laws' Very British Christmases, the holidays of my childhood are a little shabby. For all that, I think there's something to be said for both approaches.
Family traditions, like most traditions, are about the group, and in that way are fundamentally about both including the people who you feel belong with you and excluding the ones who don't. Being brought lovingly into a family with intense, complete traditions, there remains a sense in which the ones that came from Before Me aren't really mine; they're about things that were done in a time that didn't know I was on the planet. They would never intentionally exclude me, and in most cases their intention is to include me, but there's a sense in which these older traditions have a very different feel from the ones we've made since I've been around. Things Done Together instead of Things Done Before. It matters.
When I started working with the Kitchen Library last year, I wrote a blog post for them to introduce myself, in which I made a point about inviting everyone to the table, and it's that idea I've been thinking about as I think about Thanksgiving and holidays this year. The Kitchen Library is no more, but my table remains, scarred and stained and lovely, and my newly-reshaped family, which has historically been bad about traditions, is trying to make new ones. For all that it's been stressful trying to coordinate, and for all the other things it's likely to be, we are doing our best to create these Things Done Together. And bless our crummy little hearts, we're doing our best.
A newsletter on life, current events, media & culture, and living in wonder amidst it all.