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Coming home

Posted: November 30, 2017 1:56 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Funny thing about holiday rituals is they can, at times, resemble the dreaded double-edged sword to some family members. But know I use the word “dreaded” loosely and with humor. The “dread” often comes in the form of eye-rolls, uncomfortable sighs, snickers and whispers, and on occasion, the outright refusal of participation. The double edges represent the enjoyable and the not-so-appealing sides of our family holiday traditions and rituals. Suffice it to say most of us strive and hope to create an affable environment during the holidays for our children and extended family coming home. The task at hand can prove to be a bit tricky in certain years as when we gain new family members and sadly lose others, as well as welcome our children’s friends and significant others to the mix. Regardless of how many make the pilgrimage to our house, “home for the holidays” bears a lot of weight in its meaning. From these four words, we can almost feel the heat from our fireplaces or smell the familiar scents winding through and from our kitchens or hear our child’s favorite Christmas song playing in the background. It is what brings our families home. It is the traditions. It is the rituals.

As I “googled” a new version of an old recipe Thanksgiving-eve, something caught my eye. Stories with titles like, “How To Let Go of Old Traditions During The Holidays”, “Six Graceful Ways to Opt Out of Family Holiday Traditions” and “Ditch Your Holiday Rituals.”

“Seriously?”, I thought. Sorry, but Google wasn’t going to be my new advisor on our holiday rituals. But it did prompt some doubts in my head as to the possible unnecessary urgency to some of our rituals, and so I promised myself to have an open mind in this department. I did give more than likely too much thought to certain Thanksgiving Day meal traditions. I was cooking for eighteen family members this year and the pressure was on. Should I make homemade crust for my pumpkin pie or use the frozen store-bought shells? Do I cook the stuffing inside or outside the bird? Will I devastate anyone if the can-imprinted cranberry sauce is replaced by the fresh version? Would anyone notice if the biscuits aren’t from scratch? What if my bird isn’t moist enough? Most of the answers to these questions are subjective and do not need answering. No one will leave the table if the cranberry sauce is not fresh. It is the holiday meal, the family rituals and traditions. It’s what we come home for. It is what carries the weight of all the years that came before.

Holiday food, family rituals and traditions is about reclaiming some of the lost rhythms that can be lost in our busy lives. It is about loving the good, the bad, and perhaps not-so-good family rituals. It is about embracing our traditions whether how old or quirky they are to some members of our family. It is loving all that brings us home for the holidays. So cheers to the after-dinner football games in our front yards, the can-imprinted cranberry sauce and lumpy gravy on our tables, the “good china”, the colored lights on the tree, Nanna’s oatmeal cookies, parades, the squabbling, and the love because it is over the river and through the woods to home and our rituals we go.

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