I saw a small line with a small tent in front of Best Buy as I went to pick up my eldest son for the holiday yesterday. “Who on earth spends a day dedicated to family and food and gratitude in a tent on the cement outside a store?” I thought to myself.
Then I started pondering the different ways I have spent Thanksgiving over the years. Growing up, we had a traditional feast (turkey, yams, green bean casserole, cranberries – the whole nine yards). Mom had risen early to make the food. We kids watched the parade on TV, and there was football later in the day. It was predictable and comforting. We ate midday in order to facilitate the making of turkey sandwiches in the evening. There was usually a fireplace roaring and Christmas specials on at night.
Since then, I have had Thanksgiving in Moscow: a meal sponsored by some embassy people and their Russian counterparts (read: minor diplomats assigned to keep an eye on the Americans). There was a lot of vodka and champagne, and there was a man who really wanted to talk to me privately, preferably behind a locked door (no go). I have also witnessed the frying of a turkey in the yard in a big pot filled with imperial gallons of peanut oil. One year I was told that I didn’t need to help cook because I didn’t know “how they liked it.” Um, okay. Let me sit and drink wine then.
Other years have found us at a hotel Thanksgiving celebration: New Orleans and Augusta both offer excellent options in this category. Some times it has been just me and my sons; other times we have been part of a larger cast. We passed several years amiably with the whole family at my sister’s house, letting Whole Foods do the bulk of the cooking. One year was in a hospital. Those of you who have had injury or illness befall your beloved, you know that a Thanksgiving meal with hospital staff is both sobering and deeply meaningful.
All of this to say: although I know there are different traditions and ways to spend Thanksgiving, I have never once been tempted to camp out in front of any store. But maybe that’s what those families do: they camp out, get their stuff and have their celebration in their own way? Maybe there’s an art to this kind of shopping? Maybe there’s a fun to it that I can’t see as I drive by, judgmental thoughts in tow.
Pundits stand ready to tell you what’s “right” and “wrong” for everything- from when to put up lights to when to shop to how to greet others over the holiday season. Traditional America will prescribe the right way to celebrate any holiday: turkey in November; sparkling trees and stockings in December; champagne and midnight kisses in January. For a moment yesterday, I was right there with them as I drove past Best Buy, but really while there’s nothing wrong with these traditions, the best times are when we do our own thing.
Last year we started making crab cakes for Thanksgiving, and I’ve never made yams (sorry, Mom!); a friend of mine makes a turkey shaped cake; some friends celebrated last week; still others will celebrate later this weekend (maybe they were in tents somewhere!).
The best holidays are those that we enjoy with the people we love wherever we are – even if that’s in a tent.