Spoiler Alert: Our family holiday traditions used to feel like a crushing weight on my back. There was Thanksgiving dinner planning, preparation, shopping, and more. I wanted a stress free, relaxing, holiday. After talking with friends, I discovered we all wanted to spend our holidays giving thanks for simple pleasures that we can often take for granted. But the holidays seem to be so busy that we aren’t always able to focus on what we know is important. So I re-worked our holiday family traditions and have come up with tips for a stress free Thanksgiving. Cheers to recognizing the ordinary miracles and giving thanks for those simple pleasures that we have every day!
Ever wondered if a stress free holiday is actually possible? A holiday, like Thanksgiving, where you would be able to experience truly giving thanks for simple pleasures that we all have in our lives?
Anticipation. Anticipation is one of the simplest pleasures that we have in life. We look forward to something that we know we will enjoy. Isn’t this the reason we want to teach our children patience? To avoid the trappings of instant gratification? Of course – without anticipation of family events and traditions, life would be lacking.
Other times, the weight of carrying out traditions makes you want to lock your bedroom door while aiming to beat the world record for the longest Netflix binge. Or in a cozy closet with chocolate and wine? Maybe that’s just me.
But how would you feel if you could enjoy sleeping in a little, reading the paper for a few minutes with your first cup of coffee, and not worrying about everybody’s else’s happiness this Thanksgiving?
I Was Missing Quiet Moments of Gratitude for Simple Pleasures
I’ve felt the crush of family tradition that makes me want to skip the holidays all together curled up in the fetal position in my warm comfy bed. With a heating pad on my feet. (Try it – I promise…it really IS all that.)
What’s the crush feel like?
The crush feels like spending hours searching Pinterest for the most delicious recipes, the prettiest decorations, and the most magazine-worthy table settings in all that spare time you have while you’re on the toilet.
The crush feels like being responsible for everyone else’s happiness every second of the “big” day. One tiny misstep will have your step-mother wondering along with “all the girls” why holiday hosting seems to be such a challenge for you while she always “just did it.” Perfectly.
The crush feels like spending days on your hands and knees scrubbing nooks and crannies you never knew you had so that Uncle Alfie might not notice something he shouldn’t. It feels like it doesn’t matter that you and your family, friends, and pets actually live in this home year round. Just get it clean. Pretend nobody really lives here and everything will be fine.
The crush feels like spending endless hours looking for stuff. Stuff to decorate with. Stuff to serve meals and snacks on. Stuff to sit on…Stuff, stuff, stuff.
Maybe you dream of a holiday that’s more focused on giving thanks and showing our gratitude for the simple pleasures that we experience every day?
A gratitude filled holiday to soak up spending time with your family and recharging your personal batteries with less stress and more giving thanks for simple pleasures? Maybe you’ve wondered if a stress free holiday for you is even possible?
If you’re left feeling like Cindy Lou Who wondering why some Grinchy traditions have stolen your joyous tree of a holiday, then you need a change. Pronto!
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The Meal Was Our Thanksgiving Tradition
Our traditional meal is turkey, stuffing, creamed onions, mashed rutabagas, sweet potatoes, cranberries (three varieties), pumpkin pie and mince pie with hard sauce.
Do Your Holidays Provide Moments of Thanks for Simple Pleasures?
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On the other hand, next to my mother, I’m certain there’s nothing on earth my father loves more than this meal. He eats leftovers for as long as he can stretch them out. He’d love to be able to stretch them until Christmas when….wait for it. He gets the same meal. Again. So if we would let him, he would exist on this same meal for over a month every year.
All this made me bored with “the meal” from the perspective of an artistic and curious cook. I always want to try new things and switch it up a bit. At various times, I’ve added in new recipes: cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, cheesecake, brussels sprouts, butternut squash soup, corn pudding – you name it. But nothing new has really stuck.
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The suggestion was well received and a new tradition was born!! Each Thanksgiving, we now head to our favorite beach, rent the same amazing house and enjoy the tranquility and beautiful simple pleasures of an amazing space.
The reason that this baby step worked so well was because the beach is a naturally relaxing place for us. And one of our favorite activities at the beach this time of year is the amazing bird watching. So it was a perfect first step toward a joyful holiday for me.
Oooops! I Did It Again.
Once the physical move was well received, I had to figure out how I was going to make “the meal.” Away from my kitchen and the things that I need… And then I started to think…
Do I really have to spend all this time on the meal in a different kitchen? So – I ordered a prepared dinner from an upscale source and had it delivered right to the door. Even though it was upscale, (read: expensive) it. was. not. good.
So the next year, I adapted. Several recipes I make weeks in advance and freeze. Some desserts I purchase instead of bake. I still do a turkey, but the rest is basically done already.
So over time I’ve successfully transferred away from my parents’ traditional meal which was stressful for me and my family. That allowed me to put the emphasis on giving thanks for simple pleasures, creating special traditions and memories with my family, and just generally enjoying my holiday!
You Do You – Whatever That Is
So, in fact, my new “tradition” is to tweek the old traditions if I think it makes sense for my family. My new traditions may not work for you – but I really encourage you to find out what does.
One thing I had was support from friends and others to help make these changes. One of my favorite resources for change is a terrific book called Take the Chaos Out of Christmas. Even though it says Christmas, the wisdom applies to any holiday that can make you beg to wait in line for a Brazilian bikini wax.
And if you want a great read to go with your latte (or wine…who am I to judge?), this is a wonderful list that will have you feeling bold enough to jump out of an airplane – 10 Books That Will Make You The Best Version Of Yourself
Sometimes the old needs a little boost to make things interesting! It doesn’t mean it’s no longer a tradition, it just adds a twist to the story of the tradition and carries it into the next generation.