By Michael Doyle
Growing up, my family didn’t really go gung-ho for Thanksgiving.
Sure, we enjoyed it well enough. But when it came to getting everyone together — the big extended family event — we saved the major hoopla for Christmas. Thanksgiving was nice and all, but it was really a preamble to the “real” holiday.
So when I got married and became part of a new family, it was pretty interesting to get involved in a different set of traditions. First and foremost, that’s Thanksgiving.
For her family, Thanksgiving is, as the kids say, a Big. Freaking. Deal. I never realized it was possible to get that psyched up over a plate of turkey and no presents.
And honestly, that thing where you all stand up around the table and tell everybody what you’re thankful for — I thought that was just something they did on those corny holiday special TV episodes.
But these people do Thanksgiving — all of it. The turkey, the football, board games around the table, the whole shebang.
And somehow Thanksgiving has come to be my favorite holiday too. The cool thing about Thanksgiving, I’ve come to realize, is that it is actually NOT Christmas. You don’t have all the stress of gift shopping or trying to write the perfect Christmas letter or card — and you still get to eat whatever you want without remorse.
There’s a saying with my in-laws: “If you do it once, it’s tradition,” which is commonly just shortened to “It’s tradition!!!” — emphasis on the exclamation point and usually accompanied by some manner of jazz hands.
And it’s kind of true — we do the same things every year. It evolves and changes a tiny bit, but for the most part, this extended Thanksgiving weekend is pretty well planned out to the hour.
A big traditional dinner on Thursday, with everyone gathered and the kind of shenanigans you would expect when you have 40-plus people who (mostly) get along in the same house.
For those brave enough, Black Friday shopping at some unspeakable hour in the A.M. (not my cup of tea, but I’m not too proud to send a wish list).
Something called “guy’s day” on Friday, which I can’t disclose too much about, but includes the kind of things you might imagine would happen when you get 15 or 20 adult males together with nothing much to do. It’s not quite Norsemen plundering Europe, but it’s not far off.
On Saturday, something called either “girl’s day” or “arts and crafts” day, which I suspect has a somewhat more nefarious purpose than what the name might imply, but at the very least almost certainly consists of all the women sitting around complaining about how much money their stupid husbands spent on beer and electronics the day before.
I am sure a big factor in my newfound love of this holiday is that I’m unable to participate in my own family gatherings in Louisiana anymore since we are so far away. But it’s also because, as I get older, I find that traditions are becoming more important to me.
It is also knowing that our kids are building a lifetime of fuzzy holiday memories for themselves, and understanding just how lucky I am to be a part of two very special families.
I do have an awful lot to be thankful for.
Michael Doyle is a stay at home dad to Miles, 4, and Owen, 1, a freelance writer and married to Features Editor Abbey Doyle.