Traditionally Untraditional

It’s beginning to look a lot like the time of year when I wish my house looked like something out of Southern Living or Martha Stewart’s Holiday Spectacular.

And yet…in the midst of all the gleam and sparkle, under the ribbons and tinsel, there are Legos. And stickers. And old Cheerios. The occasional acorn.

My house will never be the kind that asks to be documented and immortalized on the glossy pages of a supermarket checkout magazine. Unless the title of it is Real Life Looks Like This.

I am now about to share with you a secret that very few people know:

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and collect holiday food magazines. I have issues dating back to the days of Gourmet and Food & Wine.

I flip through these pages at night while everyone sleeps...

I flip through these pages at night while everyone sleeps…2001 edition right there.

The magic of food at holidays, in all its drool-inducing, eat-until-passing-out glory is such a lure to my nostalgic sensibilities. My mother was somewhat meticulous in planning Thanksgiving and Christmas, with our fine china and gravy boats, placemats, traditional meals, traditional dining. I remember my parents waking up at dawn to put the turkey or ham in the oven. Helping with the mashed potatoes was my favorite responsibility because I would get to the lick the mixing beaters. And then there were the desserts: The pies, cookies, empanadas, and bunuelos. Everything so lovingly and carefully crafted in its place, in its perfect dish. The candles on the table, the flames glowing in the silverware’s reflection. This was what the winter holidays were like growing up.

Now I’m the grownup. UGH!

And while I reminisce fondly of the aforementioned experiences, I have learned to embrace the beauty of a Whole Foods- or Marie Calendar-catered holiday experience. After a couple of holidays of trying to recreate the shiny spectacle I ogle in my secret stash of magazines in an unlabeled box, I have surrendered to fact that there is no way I will ever manufacture something so perfect.

This is 10% of the actual collection.

This is 10% of the actual collection.

So, this year my plan is to turn the entire thing on itself and not cater nor use a clipped recipe (do people still do that? are you just a pinner now?). My plan is to host a Favorites Friendsgiving where guests bring their favorite sides or dessert, regardless of the season. I can already smell the baked ham, scalloped potatoes, poutine, apple pie, tamales, and rum cake. Friendsgiving will always include family, as well as friends who have become family. There will be wine and various liquors. There is no football on the television. There will be many bad jokes and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. We will attempt to sit at the table together, but small children make it hard to sit for very long, so we will instead create the Countertop of Epic Grazing. Depending on the weather, we may have our own So-Full-Why-Did-I-Wear-Pants? 2.5K around the neighborhood walk. And we might end the night around a rusty fire pit in the backyard, fighting over the last bits of desserts. Like this one:

I'm 40 now, so Food & Wine says I can have this at Thanksgiving now.

I’m 40 now, so Food & Wine says I can have this at Thanksgiving.

Also, I’m pretty much avoiding the whole “How did Thanksgiving become a thing” conversation with the girls at this point. I’d rather them feel like this holiday is whatever we want it to be and less about pilgrims and turkey (although I do have 56 toilet paper rolls JUST WAITING to become Thanksgiving turkeys for school). Plus, we are fortunate not to have weird and unstable family at our holiday gatherings—you know the ones. One might say that we are the weird and unstable ones. Whatever.

The point is, dear friend, if you stress about having the Perfect Holiday, stop. Collaborate! Listenwork with what you’ve got. Tell your tribe that you will not be a slave to the kitchen and the pages of a beautiful magazine and are more excited about gathering with them. Rituals can change. Make Untraditional the New Traditional. Let the wine flow. Use disposable dinnerware. Save the fancy stuff for a regular night with pizza and macaroni. 

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