The days are growing shorter, and colder and more and more frequently my thoughts are turning toward the holidays.Thoughts of family, friends, wonder, and joy fill my mind,as I recall holidays of the past. There are so many aspects of the holidays that I love. I think of the joy of decorating, trying new recipes, and above all, the smiles on the faces of he people I love.
Thanksgiving, to me, is a time of prayer and gratitude for the blessings we have. I believe it should be spent with family and friends. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated as a feast given by the Pilgrims giving thanks and celebration to God, and Thanks and celebration to the Wampanoags in gratitude for their help surviving that first harsh winter in this strange new land. It is believed that they feasted on fish, venison, fowl, squash, berries, and corn, at that famous feast. While fish is not very common at the Thanksgiving table, the menu has not changed much over the years, with squashes and turkey reigning year after year. Most Americans still have a feast on Thanksgiving, but it feels like so many have forgotten to give thanks, and to be joyous for what they have been given, the blessings in their own life.
In our home preparations begin two weeks before Thanksgiving. The children make turkey centerpieces with construction paper, and lunch bags, as well as place cards decorated with pumpkin, leaf, and turkey stickers. I look through magazines, and on the Internet to see which two new recipes I will be making this year, and I take time to read over old favorites. Our children are given time to prepare a prayer of thankfulness, which my husband and myself prepare as well. We also take the time to write down how our friends and family have been a blessing to us, to read to each other on Thanksgiving. We bake cookies and breads ahead of time, and freeze them, which fills our home with warmth and delicious smells. We have a lot of fun preparing our baked goods together, joking about funny things which happened in previous years, and simply enjoying being together.
Early on Thanksgiving morning I wake up and wake up the older children. I warm the oven and prepare the turkey while they begin cleaning and chopping vegetables. We work together to prepare our family’s secret recipe stuffing, and to prepare, and begin cooking the turkey. Around time that w finish others begin waking up, and we enjoy breakfast together. The highlight of our morning is the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. It has been a tradition in our family for decades. We love comparing new balloons to old ones, watching all of the performances, and of course we can’t help but feel thrilled, and overjoyed with anticipation at the sight of Santa Claus. In mid to late afternoon we gather together to offer up our prayers of Thanksgiving, for all of the things which we have been blessed with. Of course after we eat there is football to watch for the fellows, while we ladies clear up the food and dishes, and begin warming some desserts, while putting the finishing touches on others. We enjoy dessert for dinner, first telling each other how each of us has been a blessing to the other. When we fall asleep, satiated, content, and looking forward to Christmas, I am truly Thankful for all of our blessings.
For many the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving, with black Friday shopping. I fully and firmly support bargain hunting, and who doesn’t love gift giving? However when I see people shouting shoving and screaming, I have to wonder, “Why do they give gifts”? “Why do they celebrate”? Christmas, after all, is not merely a holiday, it is a Christian holiday, and a very special one. When we celebrate Christmas, we honor the birth of our Saviour. A baby, who was born to die. We give gifts to each other, in remembrance of the gift he gave to us. His life, that we might be saved. I believe that Christmas should not be taken lightly, or down played. I think that while we shop for our gifts and treats we should treat each other with love, kindness, and courtesy. Be merry, it is contagious. Help someone carry their bundles to their car, stop and let some one else’s car go, share an extra coupon. You can be a blessing to someone else, even in a small way, even with just a smile.
For us Christmas begins with decorations. We make a paper chain, using red, green, and navy blue construction paper. We remove a link each day to help the children count down the days until Christmas. We use an Advent calendar as well, opening a small door to a scripture reading each evening which our children enjoy, and which helps us to focus on the deeper meaning of this joyous season. We bake dozens of cookies. Some of these cookies we enjoy with cocoa while watching Christmas programs, but many of these go to the police station, fire station, and nursing home. We go Christmas caroling with our church, which really puts us in the Christmas Spirit. I think our favorite family tradition however is putting out the nativity. Wondering which precious piece is hidden under layers of bubble wrap, and paper towels. Watching our children’s joy as they place baby Jesus under a shepherds watchful gaze, it is one of the most wonderful things. We love to prepare for the church Christmas pageant by volunteering to help launder and mend costumes, and dusting off angel wings. Of course one of our favorite traditions is our family photo with Santa Claus. Invariable someones hair is sticking up, or a dress is tucked into tights, but those photos give us joy ( and giggles) all year long.
However you and your family celebrate the holidays, I hope that you do with love, kindness, and charity. Please take a moment to reflect on what these holidays mean to you and your family, reflect on the blessings that you have, and consider how you may be a blessing to someone else. We never know who is struggling, lonely, or with out, and how you may alter things for them with your kindness. I hope that these holidays will strengthen your family, and offer you serenity.