I maintain that Thanksgiving is one of the most underrated holidays. You either like the food, or you don’t. (Hopefully you do!) There are no gifts. That’s a big one for a lot of people. You almost always see extended family and receive some overly personal questions about school or work or social life. It starts at “What’s your major?” and evolves into “So why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
(Because I haven’t found the right guy, okay?)
Yet being in Europe for this Thanksgiving, I realize just how much I’m missing out on. For starters, I’m missing out on Thanksgiving as a holiday. It’s a harsh fact of life that Europeans don’t get a day off to spend time with their families and eat delicious classics like turkey and pie. Their founders didn’t sit down with Native Americans for dinner.
Thus, there was no delay in full-fledged Christmas mode here in Copenhagen. After Halloween, the city set up Christmas lights over the main pedestrian streets. Christmas stalls were set up to sell everything from hot chocolate to gifts. Stores redecorated to incorporate wreaths and signs that read “God Jul,” which means “Merry Christmas” in Danish. All of this would be severely upsetting to my mother, because she has very strong feelings about not putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.
What I really miss about Thanksgiving at home are the things I didn’t know I’d be missing. I miss football. Football! I’m not a huge football fan, but there is something about watching NFL games in my family room over Thanksgiving break that makes it really feel like Thanksgiving.
I miss the low-level stress my family has around our Thanksgiving meal. I miss debating over our division of labor, who has mashed potatoes and who has Brussels sprouts. I miss making the pecan pie from what I thought was grandma’s recipe. (I was recently informed that that recipe is actually from a random person my dad met at a Thanksgiving meal he had with his friends in Washington, DC right after he graduated college.)
Although that doesn’t tell the beautiful grandmother-granddaughter story that I believed for 20 years, I think it still has good wisdom in it. There is someone out there that had dinner with my dad 30-plus years ago, when a group of recent college graduates from out of town decided to make Thanksgiving together. I don’t know who you are (on the off chance you read this), but thanks for giving me the best pecan pie recipe in the world. I make it every year. I hope your family makes it, too.
I even (very minimally) miss having to clean up with my siblings. Although it can be a very high-stress environment, there is always music and a lot of laughs. Hopefully my mom doesn’t see this, though. I might be on dish duty more frequently.
What I miss the most about Thanksgiving is the comfort. It’s the ease with which I can talk to my family and really, truly feel at home. When they say there’s no place like home, that’s no joke. It’s true, and it’s never been truer around the holidays. I’m blessed to be able to have such a wonderful meal every year. I’m blessed to have a family I love, and a family that can see each other on these holidays.
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. So, if you’re dreading going home for Thanksgiving because you’re going to see that random aunt from forever ago, I challenge you to embrace it. Embrace the moments you have where your house is warm and full of love, because those are the most important ones. Embrace the awkward conversations, because it’ll make for good inside jokes with your sister next year. Embrace helping out in the kitchen, because it might lead you to having a really funny and really genuine conversation with your dad.
Embrace your comfort.