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Keeping Thanksgiving Simple... Real Simple - by Lorraine Espenhain

Keeping Thanksgiving Simple… Real Simple.

This year I’ve decided to keep Thanksgiving (and Christmas, for that matter) simple…real simple.

I have a confession to make. Spending five or six hours in a kitchen preparing food is just not my idea of a good time. If you’re into cooking and have made a hobby out of it, then you’re in Seventh Heaven, especially on Thanksgiving Day. I get it.

But for me, cooking is something that I do because it is necessary to survive, not because I find it enjoyable.

There. I’ve said it. I feel so much better, now that I’ve gotten this off of my chest.

Doing it Differently

In the past, when Thanksgiving would roll around, I would don my apron and do the whole “six-hours-standing-and-cooking-in-the-kitchen Thanksgiving Thing.” Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. The appetizers, the turkey, the gravy, the way-too-many sides, and of course, the homemade pies.

I wouldn’t be able to go to Mass.

I had no time to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.

I couldn’t enjoy my family or join them in any of the activities they were doing because I was tied to the kitchen chopping, stuffing, rolling, and stirring.

Last year, I vowed that next year would be different, and I have decided to keep my vow.

I did some research over the Internet several weeks ago just to find out how other families celebrated their Thanksgiving Day holidays. You can well imagine my surprise when I discovered that not everyone eats turkey and all of the trimmings on that day. Actually, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read this.

Some families make it a tradition to cook Chinese food on that day. Others eat brisket. Some barbecue on the grill. Some roast the turkey, but then they enjoy turkey sandwiches with a simple side dish. Some don’t even do any of this; they simply go out to a restaurant.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were many other families who had decided that in order for them to get into the spirit of the holidays more and to focus on the true meaning of the holidays, they would just keep things much simpler than they had in the past. They learned that when they kept things simple, they enjoyed the holidays. These families spoke my language. We bonded in cyberspace.

Changing My Game

This Thanksgiving I’m going to just prepare something simple. I haven’t decided what it is yet, but it won’t be all that it was in the past. In the past, I used to sit at my kitchen table, write out a menu, a list of ingredients, and a cooking schedule for Thanksgiving Day. This morning, however, was different.

I wrote down everything that I plan to do and enjoy with my family on Thanksgiving Day – things that I could never do before because I was always in the kitchen for six hours cooking a feast that was gobbled up in a comparatively short time.

I’m going to watch the Macy’s parade on television. I’m going to go to Mass. When I come home from Mass, we’ll eat our simple Thanksgiving meal. I’ll plug in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD that I never get to watch.

Afterward, we’ll play some board games together. Then, we’ll gather around the table and pray the family Rosary. After that, we’ll sit around making ornaments for a miniature Christmas tree centerpiece that I purchased. Then, I’ll make coffee, hot chocolate, and break out the pumpkin pie… with the whipped cream, of course.

This is the way I want to spend my holiday. It might not be the way that others like to spend their holidays, but it’s simple, it’s what I want, and it’s what I’m determined to enjoy.

No Turkeying Around

We can’t be afraid to tailor the holidays to our specifications. I’m a simple person. I like things to be simple. Simple is beautiful. Simple is stress-free. I enjoy life, my family, and the holidays much more when I keep things simple.

I refuse to allow convention to dictate to me any longer what I must do in order to make a “proper” Thanksgiving (or Christmas) holiday for my household. I want to enjoy the spirit of the holidays. I want to enjoy my family.

It’s funny… of all my childhood memories, I can’t remember what my mother served on those days. What I do remember are the games that we played at the table. I remember going to Mass together as a family. I don’t remember the food that was served or what kind of pie my mother chose to make. If the house was spick and span, I don’t recall that either.

When I was growing up, during the holidays, my mother would purchase extra cookies, cakes, and… ahem… booze. This was because it was customary for people to drop by the house unannounced for a holiday visit.

This started at Thanksgiving time and went on until New Year’s Day. A simple drink. A simple piece of cake. No fussing in the kitchen in order to impress visitors. People kept things much simpler so that they could enjoy the gift of one another, and I think we’ve lost this in our society. I really do.

I Wish I May…

As I get older, I see more and more that so much of what we do in life is not what we want to do, but what we think others believe we should do, or what we see everyone else doing. We take our cue from the masses when it comes to fashions, hairstyles, the cars we drive, the professions we choose, and the way our homes should look inside and out.

The only way I can be truly happy is if I march to the beat of my own drum, and that beat is a pretty simple one. Celebrating Thanksgiving in a much simpler way this year is not about being non-conformist, unconventional, obstinate, lazy, weird, or even rebellious.

It’s not about the need for an attitude adjustment. It’s about being who I really am on the inside and wanting to enjoy the holiday with my family instead of spending so much time in the kitchen cooking and baking that I have no time for them whatsoever.

This year, I’m tailoring Thanksgiving Day according to my specifications… my simple specifications.

I want to wish all of you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday, whether that day finds you in the kitchen preparing turkey and all the trimmings, cooking steaks on the grill, frying chicken and rice in a wok, or heading out to your favorite restaurant with those whom you love.

May your holiday, however you choose to observe it, and whatever you choose to eat, be filled with lots of love, happiness, joy, and most of all…

…plenty of thanksgiving.

© VV / Dollar Photo Club

About Lorraine Espenhain

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Lorraine now lives in New Mexico. She is a wife, homeschooling mother, religious instructor, and freelance writer with 200+ articles on She also has her own children’s column at Agua Viva, her diocesan newspaper. Meet Lorraine
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