For those of you across the pond, or the ocean, who do not celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving, please feel free to disregard this post… you may have much to be grateful for in not having to navigate this holiday.
To be fair, it’s got it’s good points: fabulous food, a four-day weekend, and great football.
But it also requires many people to deal with stressful travel planning, dysfunctional family dynamics, and food and weight issues.
For all us Americans who are going to find ourselves facing down this traditional celebration of unbridled gluttony, I hope I can provide some help in how to approach it.
I have some DOs and DON’Ts to help you manage the holiday and it’s requisite expectations that will hopefully lead you nicely out of Thanksgiving and into the pre-holiday shopping madness feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, instead of exhausted and suffering a horrible case of indigestion.
The DOs and DON’Ts of Survivng Thanksgiving
DO take a moment to ponder what Thanksgiving is all about. A celebration to mark that we have made it through another year isn’t a bad thing. We can recognize that part of the reason we are here and still want to be has to do with other people and what they have been willing to do for us. Take the time to acknowledge that to yourself, and to those significant people in your life if you have the opportunity.
DON’T get all hung up on the food. Yeah, I know Thanksgiving is all about football…I mean, food. But it doesn’t have to be! If you have the time, energy, and resources to prepare a “complete” traditional Thanksgiving meal, then that’s fine. If you don’t, then any other option you come up with that works for you is also fine. You don’t have to have turkey. You don’t have to fix ten different side dishes, because that’s what your mother (or his mother) did. You don’t have to cook, period. Options, people! That’s what we can really be thankful for in this country.
DO get your friends, family, kids, neighbors, someone you sort-of -like in on the action of the holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about community…remember the Thanksgiving story about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans working together to survive? If you don’t have a designated clan, you can decide what your community is. If you don’t know a soul who will sit and break bread with you, go find a local soup kitchen or charitable organization that is serving Thanksgiving meals to people and go help them! You do not have to be lonely on Thanksgiving, even if you are alone.
DON’T forget to take time amidst all the traveling, preparation, cleaning up, conversing, and celebrating to take a moment by yourself to think about what you are truly grateful for. Go take a walk after dinner, notice the sky and the birds and the trees, and the overly-motivated folks who already have their Christmas lights up. Breathe deeply, feel grateful, then go back in there and have dessert.
DO eat too much. It’s okay to eat more than you normally would, and to eat foods you normally wouldn’t, on Thanksgiving. I’m speaking to all of you who are very health-conscious, watching your calories and your weight, or struggling with an eating disorder. My Dad always said “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” Thanksgiving is definitely one of those times when moderation is truly overrated. It’s going to be hard to enjoy all the wonderful food that is available if you’re not going to have any of it. On the other hand, trust yourself to know when enough is enough for you, or if it’s better for you not to flirt with a food that triggers binge eating…use your own inner guidance system to navigate the table.
DON’T drink too much. Seriously, have fun on the holiday, but you know you’re already going to eat too much. Don’t ruin everyone else’s time without even knowing it. You want everyone to have memories of the holiday that they’ll never forget…but not that kind.
DO remember to give to your local food bank, so that others this year can have a Thanksgiving, too. This has been one of the worst few years strung together in this country that people can remember since the Great Depression. If you are able to put a Thanksgiving spread on your table, please consider contributing what you can so that someone else will have something to eat.
DON’T forget that Thanksgiving comes only once a year…for better or for worse. So whether you like it, love it, rock it, or just survive it, the sun is going to set that night and rise again the next morning and it will be a brand new day. And that’s one more thing for which we may give thanks.