A Non-Traditional Holiday

Holidays bring families together. Traditions often add meaning to these gatherings. So what did I think of my non-traditional Thanksgiving?

What’s Traditional?

For the past twenty-seven years of married life, Thanksgiving holidays have fallen into two categories:

  1. Dinner with my husband’s parents
  2. Dinner with my sister and my extended family

Even the occurrence of these dinner options has been regulated. In odd years, we’re with my family. (”Easy to remember because they’re odd,” says my husband.) The other years are spent with my husband’s family.

Thanksgiving with hubby’s relatives means bread stuffing. We generally eat it at either his mother’s house (in the next town – seven miles) or his uncle’s house (about an hour away). His cousins and their families are usually present, as well as his mom’s mother and stepfather.

The only non-odd year when this was different happened when my mother-in-law had open heart surgery right before the holiday. We visited her in the hospital after his dad and brother had dinner at our home.

I hosted Thanksgiving dinner one other time when my uncle was visiting from Idaho. Otherwise, when it’s time for the odd-family gathering, my sister is the hostess with the mostest.

Sure, we all pitch in bringing sides and desserts, but she does the turkey and makes the BEST cornbread dressing.

And the day after, while some people rush around in a retail nightmare, I decorate my house for Christmas.

What’s Different this Year?

If you’ve been following my life, I probably don’t need to mention the list of things that are different in my world this year.

In case you’re just meeting me for the first time:

  1. My oldest son is married
  2. My youngest son is engaged
  3. My sister is remarried and moved a two-hour drive away

But sis wanted to host. And I wanted her to (because it keeps my kitchen clean).

So about a year ago, we made reservations at our time share condo located a mile from her house in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

And what's not to like when this is the view outside your window?
And what’s not to like when this is the view outside your window?

The plan: my kids and their significant others, her three kids, my stepdad and my husband and I would stay in the condos. I’d cook my sides there and bring them to her house for the big dinner.

We’d have a week-long vacation. The weekend would be dedicated to family time, meaning a marathon of games. It would culminate with my sister’s birthday dinner out on Saturday night.

And the house would have to be decorated once we returned home.

So What really Happened?

This could have been the Pacific in Hawaii - except for the temperatures.
This could have been the Pacific in Hawaii – except for the temperatures.

My husband and I enjoyed a fantastic week at the beach. The weather was clear, crisp and sunny, but without the famous coastal wind chill.

My step-dad used his truck as an excuse. Yes, it was in need of repair. However, we could have easily transported him in our vehicle.

My new daughter-in-law was on call at the hospital on Thanksgiving and had to work on Friday. (In actuality, she ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis, so no bueno all around.) My oldest son planned to come down on Friday for the games, but the hospital changed those plans.

My youngest son and his fiance celebrated the holiday on Wednesday with her parents. They arrived in time for dinner on Thursday and spent Friday playing games (after a brief shopping excursion).

My niece spent the holiday with her father. She planned to come down on Friday, but her grandmother had a stroke, so those plans were nixed.

My two nephews spent Wednesday through Saturday there. Only one night did one of them stay in the two-bedroom condominium reserved for that purpose. The couch at his mom’s house is obscenely comfortable (I know this because I spent my Thanksgiving turkey coma moments on it).

Our cozy gathering on Thanksgiving Day
Our cozy gathering on Thanksgiving Day

What’s the Bottom Line?

Go ahead and make plans but expect them to change.

When your children become adults, they might choose to spend a holiday with someone besides you. And that’s okay. Even if it’s rough the first two dozen times time it happens.

Holiday traditions need to evolve with your family. What worked when everyone lived within an hour of each other, won’t work when people move further away. Adding daughters to my family means respecting that their are other parents who want to spend the holiday with my kids.

Hopping out of the holiday rut and doing something different, like going away for a whole week, allows for these growing pains.

Holiday traditions should be like the Pirate Code: a guideline. Doing something non-traditional made me especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

What do you think? Are your traditions too important to let them slide for a year or two?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.