Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

I’ve heard friends explain their method for deciding where to spend the holidays as a weighing up of traditions. Whose family has the stronger tradition? Which holiday is more meaningful to which partner? If both traditions are equally strong then there’s nothing to do but travel between the two households on the day (Christmas lunch at one, Christmas dinner at the other), or, if the distance is too great, alternate years. If one family’s Christmas tradition is more quintessentially unique and precious than the other, inevitably, that’s where the couple will go two out of every three Christmases. It’s a sensible enough method, but just would not work for Luke and me. Not for Christmas, anyway. I’d lose every time.

For Luke’s family, Christmas is a precious reenactment of childhood traditions. Although marriages and moves have inevitably imposed changes even on the stoutest of these traditions, basically Christmas is bursting with nostalgia every year. My family’s Christmas traditions on the other hand have, in recent years, come to represent the inconstancy of a changed family. In the past six or seven years, we’ve spent Christmas in a different location every year, with a different set of people, observing other people’s traditions more often than not (with a few remnants of ours preserved for good measure). And that’s okay. We’re okay. We’ve adapted. We always have a good time wherever we are.

Thanksgiving, too, has in recently years become a holiday in flux. Shared with in-laws in new towns, with neighbors in new cities, or sometimes with only one person in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday.

It wasn’t always that way. Thanksgiving and Christmas used to follow a prescribed pattern. Thanksgiving when I was younger was always at my Dad’s parent’s house, where as many aunts, uncles and cousins who could attend did. When I was a little older, Thanksgiving moved to our family’s cabin in the mountain’s. It could hold more people, and so more relatives and practically-relatives showed up. Sometimes we’d have over twenty people crowded around two or three tables. We’d play Christmas music, eat turkey and make my grandma’s famous mac n’ cheese. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we’d have our family Christmas, since chances were we weren’t going to see all these relatives again one month later. So it was great really. Two of the eatingest holidays packed into one weekend.

Oh, how sweet it is when the stars align just so (and people’s schedules, too), that everyone can come back to a familiar spot and create a new tradition that reminds us all very much of a precious old one. Like Thanksgiving at the cabin, with over twenty people crowded around tables, and turkey, and snow, and a fire in the hearth. Even better when there are new faces mixed in with the old, and new traditions (like an oyster bar in the yard!) to remind us that our traditions are strongest when they are infused with the new.

I hope you had a happy one.


Well, I survived my first Black Friday. More importantly, we managed to get up to North Carolina for a post-Thanksgiving family visit. It was beautiful. Here are a few bookish highlights/musings from our weekend.

1) While in NC I visited my former local indie bookstore and chatted with the bookseller. Was pleased to hear that their business has picked up a lot with the holidays. I hope this good news is voiced by your booksellers too. Do let us know. Also I bought this book (by one of North Carolina’s more famous authors) and have high hopes for it. If it’s any good, I think my mother would love to find it in her Christmas stocking.

2) Luke and I have been working our way through The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I had heard so many good things about the book and the description sounded good: a more adult Harry Potter or Narnia, but with darker themes. Alas, 300 pages into it (300 to go), I find it all a bit teen-angsty. Plus, the protagonist still doesn’t have a mission. However, there are some interesting ideas: magician students turning into geese and flying south to Antarctica, tattoos with demons lodged inside who jump out and defend their “keeper” in times of need, and the theory that one character provides that magicians (and, by extension, people who seek out magic) are all basically unhappy. It’s intriguing. But we’re tired of Grossman trying to sound edgy and young. The teenagers are constantly getting drunk off of sherry and champagne (really?) and calling one another by the first letter of their names: “What’s happening, Q?” We’re going to tough it out and see if any of the loose plot ends tie themselves up. But we are looking forward to getting on to the next read. And in the meantime, we’re enjoying dipping into PG Wodehouse when we need a break and a laugh.

3) We spent a few relaxed afternoons this weekend sacked out on the couch, sipping green tea and listening to Sting’s Winter album . The sounds in that album are so mysterious and enchanting. It perfectly sets the mood for winter. Now I’m really anxious to pick up some more wintery-sounding albums, as opposed to purely Christmasy ones. I’m going to stop by Decatur CD this week and see what they have. It’s exciting to be preparing for Christmas. Can you recommend any good Christmas/Winter CDs?

“It’s not that screens are bad and books are good, but what books do depends on the totality of what they are… above all the way they invite a child to withdraw from this world into a world alongside ours in an activity at once mentally strenuous and physically still.”

Adam Gopnik

From Book Love: A Celebration of Writers, Readers, and The Printed & Bound Book, edited by James Charlton and Bill Henderson

On that note, I was wondering, will you be “withdrawing from this world into a world alongside ours” this Thanksgiving?

Having traditionally spent Thanksgiving holed up in a cabin in the mountains with family, for the first time Luke and I will be on our own, celebrating with a handful of friends. And then I’m working on Black Friday and Saturday. Tell me: if you are a daring Black Friday shopper, will you be shopping the sales at local, independently-owned stores this year? And if not, would you consider it?

Here’s why:

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy

  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.

The Environment

  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community

  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

This week I’m going to be talking a lot about the holidays. Specifically, how independent bookshops and reading can fit into a week of marathon eating, family time and 4am Black Friday shopping.

This poster pretty much says it all.

So to get us started I wanted to ask you, what are your Thanksgiving week traditions? Do books ever feature in your family gift-giving? Do you rise early on Friday to join the crowds of shoppers at (I know you, readers) Barnes & Noble? Or is Black Friday a day to eat leftovers and go for walks in the crisp fall air?

When the timing works out, our family likes to gather at a cabin in the mountains where we all help to prepare the feast. The meal has become primarily vegetarian over the years, and even when there were more meat-eaters amongst us, turkey was never a feature. We continue to make our long-standing family favorites, first introduced by my great grandmother: extremely cheesy macaroni and cheese and Grandma Rena’s famous, homemade coconut cake. There’s a table just for desserts. Often, someone brings heaps of homemade molasses cookies, which are there to satiate any (nonexistent) between-meal hunger pains. When we finish eating, we all collapse around the fire place, tell stories, goof around and exchange Christmas gifts, since we may not have the whole family together for that holiday. For several years now, my uncle has written a story or two, often with a holiday theme and usually about people in our family, which he reads to us all. In the past few years, we’ve stopped exchanging store-bought gifts and have committed to sharing our gifts with one another, i.e., writing stories, poetry, playing music, cooking, giving massages.

So tell me, what are your traditions? I’d love to hear them.


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