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In less than 24 hours, as I write this, my frenetic holiday season will begin.
I don’t mean that in a ”Woe is me, the holidays are here to suck away all my energy and joy” way. I mean it in a ”Yay, the holidays are here!” way.
The holiday season is front-loaded, as Thanksgiving has come to be the defining celebration for me. As I put it to a friend earlier, ”Christmas is Kentucky, but Thanksgiving is home.”
That’s not to say that I don’t love visiting my home state and seeing all my family for Christmas. It remains the only time of the year I see most of my family back in western Kentucky and southern Indiana. But when I say ”frenetic” about the holidays, it’s really Christmas that I’m talking about. With my family scattered to the winds, Christmas week is now broken into a series of long drives as my husband Cavin and I shuttle from family unit to family unit, drives interspersed with too-short celebrations that generally involve an overabundance of food.
I’m always glad to be there, but I’m also always exhausted and somewhat relieved when it’s over.
Whereas Christmas is about traveling all over the land where my home used to be, Thanksgiving is about settling in to celebrate where my home is now. Over the past few years, my house has come to be one of the big Thanksgiving stops for my in-laws — by 5 p.m. on Thursday evening my house will be overflowing with kids and family and a wild overabundance of food, because even after five years of cooking Thanksgiving dinner I still can’t resist the urge to make that one extra side dish or that one last pie.
I actually make two meals for the day. First is a smaller lunch, basically a few Vietnamese dishes along with some fruits and tofu picked up from Eden Center. Lucky for me, although my in-laws are Vietnamese immigrants, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner they want all the traditional, American fare that I grew up with — from the turkey to the dressing to the mashed potatoes — so I get to share the same comfort foods with them as I did with my own family.
But what I most look forward to is having a day where I can relax and think about things other than politics or work or the thousands of other things that press for attention most other days of the year. At Thanksgiving at my house, we don’t talk politics. Well, that’s not completely true. Some people talk politics, I believe, and quite animatedly. But it’s all discussed in Vietnamese so I remain blissfully unaware.
Instead, after the turkey’s been carved, the pies eaten and the dishes stacked in the sink, I’ll be sunken into the couch playing video games or watching the Disney Channel with my nieces and nephews, who will by then likely be on a massive sugar buzz. Where Christmas leaves me exhausted and relieved, Thanksgiving leaves me exhausted and content, at least for a few hours.
Being a non-religious type, it took me a number of years to realize I could be thankful for what I have without having to attribute it to God or a greater power. But now I understand how fortunate I am to have friends and family, a home and job, all of which I love. That’s plenty of reason to celebrate.