Is it worse than usual this year—that sudden arrival of the holiday season? Seems like everyone’s talking about how it can’t possibly be Thanksgiving yet, and yet, here it is.
Everybody notes impending stressors of the holiday season (which, ironically, stem from the pressure to, like, enjoy the holidays). And though there are travel plans and gift shopping looming large over my next few weeks, I’m mostly looking forward to some cozy holiday traditions.
It may be contrary to the whole concept, but I like the way traditions evolve. It seems heartbreaking as a kid, when you become too old to be sequestered on Christmas until the big stocking reveal, or you have to work your $@%# retail job on Christmas Eve. But if we still did the same things we did when I was 7, it’d feel…I dunno, cold somehow, like vacuu-sealing the last 25 years. Traditions change, and you make new ones, and somehow that makes them all better—richer, warmer, more alive.
Thanksgiving growing up involved the usual—other Asolo families, kids’ tables, turkey and pie and all. But my sisters went off to college, and Pa sometimes had to work out of town, so we improvised, went to Boone one year, a friends’ house the next. I’d come back from Stetson and sleep clean through the Macy’s parade, stumbling out of my room every year to find flour-covered Ma standing in front of It’s a Wonderful Life, crying in the kitchen.
After I graduated, Ma decided to take a break on the big production (Thanksgiving falls, after all, during one of the busiest points in the Asolo season), and the ‘rents would just make sure I was included in on whatever invitation they’d received. And then they gave me their blessing to do my own thing, and voila: grownup Thanksgiving.
Since moving into the house, CCB and I have hosted the last few Thanksgivings—just Ma and Pa and us, a lovely, peaceful dinner party featuring a fried turkey. That is, until last year, when CCB noticed the turkey frier was leaking oil, and I spent the early part of the evening wondering if we were going to be one of those redneck legends who caused a four-alarm turkey-fueled catastrophe. So this year it’s back to the ‘rents’ house, and the tradition continues.
And it only gets better from there: Our annual “Eff You, Black Friday” celebration will this year take the form of a day-long kayak trip. I can’t think of a better way to not shop than paddling around on the water.
Then on Dec. 1, it’s Ringling’s “Holiday Splendor” event: An unwrapped toy donation gets you nighttime admission to the museum and grounds. We’ve gone the last few years with my parents, ending a meandering tour of the grounds with a walk through the decorated Ca d’Zan and then cocktails on the terrace, looking out over the dark bay to the lights on Longboat Key. Puts me in the spirit just thinking about it.
Then CCB and I host Christmas Eve dinner—a tradition that began when I lived in my tiny 10-by-16 apartment in Indian Beach. Ma fixed her spaghetti carbonara, a childhood favorite of me and my sisters, because it was simple enough to be prepared on a hot plate. And we all ate dinner on the patio table under the stars (because six people wouldn’t fit in that apartment). Now CCB and I have room for a proper indoor dinner, but Ma still fixes the spaghetti. It’s how we find new joys in remembering the past. And besides: It’s bacon and cheese and pasta. I see no reason to change that tradition just yet.