Thanksgiving: The History, Memories, And How to Avoid the Stress

Thanksgiving, a tradition dating back to the early 1600’s. A celebration of the harvest, that would last for three days. It wasn’t until much later that President Abraham Lincoln would tag this celebration as a national holiday. Some would shiver today if they knew that President Lincoln said that this day would be set aside to be thankful and to honor our creator.  Originally, Thanksgiving was to be on the same day/date every year, November 26. This, set in stone date for Thanksgiving would later go on to be challenged or rather flip/flop before becoming a federally mandated floating holiday, so to speak. It was agreed, as suggested by President Franklin D Roosevelt, that it would be better for local merchants if Thanksgiving was set on the 4th Thursday of November instead of the 5th. President Roosevelt hoped that this would help bring the country out of the depression. As today, a lot of people disregarded his plan and only about half of the country went along with this new plan. Was it because of football? Don’t laugh, then, football teams played the big games, the end of season games at this time. With football schedules being set a year ahead, it wasn’t a smooth transition. Finally, in December of 1941, it was proclaimed that Thanksgiving was to be the fourth Thursday of November.

I can’t even remember my first Thanksgiving and barely remember some of the Thanksgiving days in the past. What I do remember is either what everyone usually remembers or just things that make me out to be an oddball. I remember that almost every Thanksgiving my daughter Natasha complains that I make too many appetizers, too many of her favorites and she would get way too full to ever eat her big meal. I remember that no matter how many dinner roll recipes I discover and test run before the big day, bread is the bain of my existence. I also remember that the gravy always needs to be reheated and that attempting 2 new dishes every year is overzealous and not necessary. Oh, I remember that I always want to do one more thing before getting ready for the family and friends to arrive and always get caught still in my pj’s or just getting out of the shower. It may sound like I am only remembering the things that go wrong, and to some, that might be all that you just heard, but what I remember, is that with all of these memories, I find love and laughter. Sometimes I remember not to do something I have unsuccessfully done in the past, like the new dishes thing, I don’t do that anymore. And as of last year, I started letting others bring side dishes, I have learned to relinquish some of the responsibility. (I make sure that I volunteer to make my favorites) I will always ask my son, Zachariah, to carve the turkey and although it may need to be reheated, I will always make enough gravy to feed an army. I will forever add these little Thanksgiving ‘traditions’ to my bank of memories and cherish each and every one of them.

Avoiding stress this time of year isn’t easy, it might even sound like an oxymoron, but there are ways. I don’t mean breathing more slowly, investing in a stress ball or locking yourself in your room until January 5th. Avoiding stress is that simple. As I have learned, after all of these years, give up some controls. Trust me, I know that it is not easy, not simple or a comfy t-shirt you slip on. But, if you’re willing, it can be quite liberating. Like I said before, I let others bring side dishes for Thanksgiving and just make sure that I make my favorites, sure that means the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, but the little things, you can’t imagine how free just letting go of a few little things allows you to be. When it comes to Christmas decorating and shopping and wrapping, there are ways to lessen the stress too. I’m not going to tell you to handmake all of your gifts, if money is an issue or get everything online if your time is short, I don’t even plan to tell you to let the boy scouts wrap your gifts (although that does help them and you). I want to tell you to think, think about Chrismas past, pay attention to your disappointments in the gifts you’ve given, if you are anything like me, in the past, I would buy gifts that they wanted, but also gifts that I thought that they would like. Stop doing what you think will be appreciated, remember the disappointments you felt when they didn’t LOVE it like you thought that they would and stick to a solid plan that will save you time, money and unnecessary stress. Wrapping presents used to be so stressful to me if my tree was gold and red, all of the gifts would have to be wrapped in gold and red. One year I went to too many stores to find the right red wrapping paper and was completely stressed that I couldn’t find any, I remember standing in Target thinking, why doesn’t anyone have red wrapping paper, oddly enough the other color scheme I use is blue and silver and that is all that I could find. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to stress, we tend to stress about things that will never matter, they really will never matter. Think about it, if you love your family and you show them with your words and their favorite meals, do you really think that it will matter that they have one or two gifts instead of five or six? Do you think that it would have ruined anyone’s Christmas if I had just bought the silver and blue wrapping paper and placed it under the tree, the red and gold tree?  I can’t really tell you not to stress over money, but if it’s a toss between rent and presents, remember that a home is a gift and much more important than a gift that will be forgotten in six months. Make your favorite foods, build gingerbread houses, watch a holiday movie together and know that next year or even by February, things will turn around and you can make crazy fun family memories with a Christmas in March, why not?!?

I can’t pretend to know the stresses you may be facing, the memories that you enjoy or try to run from or if you care l about the history of Thanksgiving, but I do know that life only asks of us what we allow it to and far too often, we misinterpret what that is.  No, this isn’t where I begin telling you to breathe, I would, however, ask you to do one thing… think less and live more. (I guess that is 2 things)