This blog post has a happy ending.
I have to say that up front, because otherwise it would just look like my annual anti-holiday rant. Don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself a grinch. I enjoy the opportunity holidays offer for quality time with family and friends, games, relaxation, and even a little personal self-sacrifice for the good of everyone.
But honestly, how often is that the way it really plays out? Some sacrifices are necessary, I understand that. You can't usually have family-togetherness-time without shelling out for plane tickets or gas and traveling for hours with squalling kids. However, I feel that much of what we burden ourselves with over the holidays is unnecessary, commercial, and downright detrimental.
So here's the two questions:
1. How many people complain about how commercialized the holidays are?
2. Now how many people do something about it: i.e. stop commercing?
Although Christmas is the prototypical example, let's look at Thanksgiving, since it's the next holiday coming up. I actually think Thanksgiving is one of the least commercial holidays on the calendar. Sure, commercial interests push all sorts of food, but you're going to eat on that day regardless. Still, the holiday seems all about fiddling on the roof, without really stopping to think about why we're up there in the first place.
The reason, of course, is thanksgiving, quality time with family and friends, and happiness. If you can achieve all that while spending days preparing, cooking, and cleaning up after a giant meal, more power to you. If you can do it without subjecting those around you to a choking haze of stress-induced freneticism, even better. One problem: you still haven't even asked if preparing food, cooking, and cleaning is the rest of your family's idea of a good time.
Not to detract from the work that so many people put into maintaining Tradition (and the fond memories I have of my own family's Thanksgivings growing up), sometimes it's worth stepping back and determining of new traditions are needed. If you don't like turkey, cooking, cleaning, or spending large amounts of money, and your wife doesn't like any traditional Thanksgiving food and happens to think that Thanksgiving celebrates gluttony and killing Native Americans (not necessarily in that order), then why in the world are you having a traditional Thanksgiving?
Which is why our family is not this year.
Rather than wake up at 2 AM to put a turkey in the oven, we're going to sleep in as late as Ash lets us. Instead of making an endless succession of cranberry, bread, and vegetable dishes, we're going to order pizza. (And open a can of olives and cranberry jello.) With the time saved by not cooking, we're going to spend quality time with Ash at the playground, followed by some disc golf. Later that evening, rather than washing dishes, deboning poultry, and trying to fit leftovers in the fridge, we're going to play board games.
There's obviously trade-offs. There will be no delicious cranberry, bread, and vegetable dishes. There will be no pie unless we decide to buy one. There will be no turkey wishbone. However, these are traditions I'm willing to give up to create new ones that I think fit our particular family situation better.
My hope is that some of our local friends and family will join us for pizza, disc golf, boardgames, or some subset of those activities. I believe that strengthening relationships is one of the key aspects of a holiday. However, I understand that they might want to stick with their traditional Thanksgivings. We'll see. Either way, I think we'll be doing our part to turn our personal observance of the holiday back to its foundations.