A day of important details

by Kristin on November 25, 2011

in Love, family & community

The day before Thanksgiving, a Twitter friend shared that he is thankful for many things all year and doesn’t like the fact that he feels forced to be extra thankful on a certain day (especially one connected to colonialism).

I felt sort of sad when I read his tweet, but there was also a part of me that got it. Because in some ways it is even more sad to think of a society trying to pack all our gratitude into a single day rather than disciplining ourselves to live in gratitude every moment. It’s like we have this one day when we have to be grateful, but then we can check it off our lists and get on with our greedy shopping and complaining about traffic and crowds.

Today, though, I feel differently about this day of thankfulness. Four relatives and five friends joined us at our home yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, and as I went through the rituals of preparation, feasting, game-playing and cleanup, one of the things I was most grateful for was the day itself. It’s a day set aside for important things we don’t always take the time to make happen.

- We need a special day that prompts us to invite all the relatives to come visit, and prompts them to get in their cars and make the trip. We’re not together nearly as much as we would like.

- We need a day that makes us think of the friends who might be left out and alone—those who don’t have family nearby to share a big feast with. Thanksgiving inspires us to put the extra leaves in the table and share what we have, from the 20-pound turkey to the conversation and laughter.

- We need a day that’s all about the details—about taking the time to go above and beyond to make things special. It’s a day that unearths those recipes that call for extra steps, and prompts me to pull out my grandmother’s silverware and the handmade serving bowls my mother-in-law gave us. It’s a day when instead of choosing the easiest path, we choose attention to detail and beauty.

- We need a day that calls for collaboration. It’s a meal that is too much for any one person to really pull off, so we all come together to see what we can create (and then we all work together to clean it up!).

- We need a day of tradition and ritual to help us remember Thanksgivings past—the people we have shared those meals with, the homes that have held meaning for us, and the certain dishes grandma or mom always made. As the faces around the table change and new food traditions are introduced, we need to tell this new configuration of people those old stories.

- We need an evening that requires nothing more from us than conversation and laughter and simply being together. There are no emails that must be sent or homework that can’t wait. We pull out the games and settle in for fun until our eyes grow heavy, signaling that the day is done. (Obviously Black Friday is not a part of our Thanksgiving ritual.)

No matter how good-intentioned we are about valuing and practicing these ways of life year-round, I’m thankful we have special days and traditions to help re-center us around what matters most. I hope your Thanksgiving was one that helped re-center you, too.

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  • sarah louise

    Hear, hear!

    Although I spent yesterday mostly doing mundane things like research and laundry, had my turkey dinner on paper plates, it was lovely to get together with people and share a meal. As a singleton, I don’t often share meals, and it happens less and less with my new food allergies.

    My birthday often coincides with Thanksgiving, so my parents are making the extra effort to come see me this weekend, starting tomorrow, which is lovely.


  • http://www.roxannegalpin.com Roxanne

    Well said! I always look at these holidays with a bit of cynicism because on one day we’re supposed to be a gratitude and care bear and the next day, the gloves are off and we’re pepper spraying each other to see who can get to the big sales first! Grrrr.

    At any rate, I hope you had a lovely day yesterday.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Kudos and Cheers, Kristin. Thanks for taking time to list six good reasons to observe Thanksgiving. Should we be thankful each day? Duh! My wife and I love each other every day. Still, Kim and I set aside one day a year to commemorate our life together. We love our kids everyday, but we celebrate their arrival again and again. If nothing else, ritual marks the passage of time, and calls to mind times past.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    So agree with this!

    I think there are things that we can take away from our Thanksgiving celebrations, but I so appreciate a day to really step back and focus on thankfulness and I think you sum this up beautifully here.

    Have a blessed day!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    sarah louise, I reveled in some very mundane things this weekend, too. It felt like a strange luxury to do nothing (or almost nothing) on Friday and Saturday. Of course, we were able to do that because it was a holiday weekend so our family’s schedules weren’t packed as usual—another reason to set aside special holidays! (Oh, and Happy Birthday!)

    Roxanne, the whole pepper spray incident made me so angry! It felt like an outrageous article from The Onion, or a Saturday Night Live skit, but no, it was real.

    Ray, loving your wife and kids every day is a great metaphor for this. I guess you’ve been thinking and writing about ritual lately, eh? :) Hope your Thanksgiving was a wonderful time of family, details, collaboration and remembering…

    Alise, it can sometimes be difficult for me to separate a day that I celebrate with my friends and family now from the historical root of the day, but I’m beginning to think it’s OK—even important—to re-imagine and reclaim some of these old traditions. (Don’t ask me to do it for Columbus Day, though!)