I'm going to put it right out there. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It's not just the warmth and camaraderie of the gathering, or the delicious recipes for the family. It's more than that. Yes, it's the element of thanks, but it's also the tradition, and the creation of a memory that transcends all else.
Thanksgiving is also one of the least commercial holidays we can still enjoy. It's old fashioned in a way that even the most modern of us can appreciate. Oddly enough, the celebration we know of as our national holiday is newer than you may imagine.
A bit of history
Yes, in 1621, Plymouth colonists celebrated their survival of a harsh winter and a bumper crop of corn with some the friendly Wampanoag Indians. They put forth a feast of available foods to share what would have been a grand meal. But it wasn't until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln promoted the spirit of the feast when he encouraged citizens to observe the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving and praise.
It was 1941 when the date was officially set aside as a national holiday. That was when the fun truly began. Turkeys were first introduced to North America in the early 16th century. While there is no official documentation of what was actually served at that first pilgrim gathering, turkeys are considered to have been a strong possibility. Some believe they weren't available then, but we'll go along with popular speculation.
Keep it focused
Now, turkey has become the favored recipe for the family at Thanksgiving. How to prepare the bird? Well, it depends. Some like the old-fashioned roasting in the oven. Others deep fry. Still, some combine the gobbler with other fowl, creating a turducken. It's a de-boned turkey, stuffed with a de-boned duck stuffed with a de-boned chicken. Hmmm.
Again, I personally go for the more traditional. While I don't make Thanksgiving dinner exactly as my mother did, I certainly attempt to keep it as close to the fold as possible. I'd hate to see the holiday morph into something so far from the old-school that it's unrecognizable. After all, aren't we following the path of some folks from nearly 400 years ago?
Whatever your recipes for the family on the holiday, and no matter how creative or traditional they may be, remember – much like a gift – it's the thought that counts. So many people stress over presenting the perfect meal worthy of a cover photo on Gourmet magazine. Honestly, things may go wrong – boy have I heard some crazy stories!
Just remember, it's about being together and showing gratitude for each other, and that fact that you have food to put on your table. Yes, you may have the "Bickersons" for your family, or your Martha Stewart- clone of a sister-in-law watching your every move, but let it go.
No stuffing (yourself)
Not to sound like a promotion for a zen self-help book, but take a deep breath, look around you, and get in the spirit of the holiday. And for goodness sakes, eat something. Yes, so many people starve themselves all day for the big meal so they can indulge. Bad idea.
It makes you cranky, and shrinks your stomach to the point where you barely have room for the bird and all the rest. Have breakfast, snack on healthy food during the day, and enjoy a regular portion of your Thanksgiving meal without having to change into an elasticized waistband.
Although it may be "tradition" to complain about your swollen belly and go for a nap on the couch after dining, resist the temptation to overdo. Except when it comes to gratitude, happiness, and preparing snack recipes for the family with love. That, you can never overdo.