When my husband and I first got together, I thought we were pretty lucky. His family’s Jewish and my family’s Catholic, so we only had one holiday in common: Thanksgiving. We spent Christmas with my family, Passover with his, and only once a year did we have to worry about appeasing both sides. But every November, celebrating the holiday together quickly became a nightmare. I’d have to send countless emails back and forth to whichever aunts were hosting that year: “What time does it start? When will the bird come out of the oven? What time are you serving dessert? Yes, I can make deviled eggs, but I’ll have to assemble them there, because they don’t really travel well.” Inevitably, something would go wrong. We’d plan to spend dinner with Family A and dessert with Family B, but Family A would serve dinner late, and by the time we got to Family B’s house, the apple pie was gone. Or Family A would feel like we were rushing them. Or Family B would feel like they weren’t as important to us as Family A. So we made the executive decision to quit Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving had always been my husband’s favorite holiday, but it had turned into a chaotic nightmare of speeding between houses, trying not to offend anyone, and never getting the good desserts anymore. And then we decided to add a baby on top of it. Smart move, I know. Take all that stress, then add a cranky, tired 10 month old and then try to convince him to eat new things in a new place. Oh, and make sure he doesn’t mess up our aunt and uncle’s gorgeous new house. Then, when you're done with the first meal, whisk him three towns over to another crowded house with no nap in between. Well, you can imagine how that went.
The next year, many relatives from both sides decided to split off and do their own thing, so we decided to host a small gathering for both sides of the family, reasoning that it would be easier to stay at home. Easier to host Thanksgiving dinner. With a toddler. In a one-bedroom condo. Go ahead and laugh, I know it was stupid. Well, I know that now. By our son’s third Thanksgiving, we’d had it. We couldn’t shuttle him around. We couldn’t pick one family over the other. And we for damn sure couldn’t host. So we quit. We made reservations at a fancy restaurant in the city, bought tickets for The Muppets, and had our own little Thanksgiving, just the three of us.
And you guys, it was amazing! No schlepping, no cooking, no cleaning. My almost-3 year old was perfectly well-behaved at the restaurant. We even caught some impressed glances from the other diners. Then, he got to see his first movie in the theater, and he was actually still and quiet the whole time (bonus, the theater was practically empty). We even had leftovers the next day! So we did it again. And again, and again. And we’ve already got our reservation for this year.
Sometimes we detect a little disappointment when a family member asks what our plans are this year and we remind them of our new tradition, but I think they understand. It’s not about avoiding our families; we love them, and we look forward to seeing them next month for Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s about doing what’s best for us, and keeping the holiday a happy occasion, rather than a miserable obligation. The most stressful thing we’ll do this month is decide whether we should see The Peanuts Movie or The Good Dinosaur. And that’s the way it should be.
Images: Courtesy of Jenn Rose, Giphy (3)