Thanksgiving was always one of our favorite holidays. The family, the friends, the comfort food, the games we played, and the lazy football watching while recovering after the big meal, while contemplating the next piece of pumpkin pie, often to be topped off with a dollop of whipped cream for those who liked it.
Once everyone left our home, the dishes and table linens were washed, dried, and put away. The next phase of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend began…a full three days of decorating the house for Christmas. Traditionally, I started this process every year, on this same date with a process I followed to a tee, year after year.
Tom brought down all the decorations from the attic, and my work began, often with Christmas music playing in the background or a favorite TV show on, to entertain me during the lengthy process. My two sons never seemed interested in decorating. Instead, once it was done, they’d revel in the beauty of it all if I say so myself.
Richard was living in Nevada from 1988 on, and Greg had his own home in Minnesota, creating his traditions and decorating. His house. In the years since I became an empty nester before I met Tom in 1991, the process continued seamlessly, year after year, never missing a beat, until our lives changed in 2012.
Often Tom had to work on Thanksgiving Day, even getting called to work on the railroad during Thanksgiving dinner. He swallowed a few more bites and headed out the door, leaving me with the adult kids to continue. Usually, he’d return within 12 hours, help bring down the decorations, and head back to work again.
By the end of the weekend, he’d come up the driveway in the dark to see the Christmas lights on the tree. Most years, I decorated two trees, one by the window facing the private driveway and another in the breakfast room to be seen upon entry into the house. It was a festive time. We loved every moment, especially after the work was done.
Following Thanksgiving weekend, although I worked long days, I began the Christmas baking, making plenty for us to have at home but even more to give away to the kids, other family members, neighbors, and friends. Every spare moment from the Wednesday before Christmas, when I made about a dozen pumpkin pies, to after New Year’s when the decorations were put away, I was busy.
I shopped, mostly online, wrapped numerous packages, each with a handmade bow made by me on every single package. We sent no less than 200 Christmas cards, each with a handwritten message inside, and took them all to the post office after placing matching Christmas postage stamps on each card. Oh, good grief. I worked so hard.
In the 1990s, we started making bottles of homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream, later called “Lyman’s Irish Cream.” Tom did all the prep work making the delicious recipe and filling the bottles while I designed and printed the decorative sticky labels, placing them on the bottles once the outsides were dry.
The first year we may have made about 25 bottles. During our last Christmas in Minnesota in 2011, before we decided to travel the world, we made over 120 bottles to give to special friends, which we both personally dropped off to the recipients. Whew!
Then, of course, there was a holiday dinner party for friends, the celebration of Tom’s birthday on December 23, Christmas Eve dinner, and festivities on Christmas Day. As the years passed, our children created their own traditions at their own homes with other extended family members, and those special traditions we’d hosted year after year changed with the times.
Yes, 2011 was the last year we tackled all of these projects. And now? What do we do? We don’t send Christmas cards. We don’t buy all those gifts. Instead, we send gift cards to the grandchildren. We stopped sending gifts to our adult children, requesting they don’t buy anything for us either.
Once we began traveling, we stopped purchasing gifts for one another. We never have a Christmas tree or any decorations. We no longer make Lyman’s Irish Cream. I don’t bake cookies and Christmas treats. It’s all over now. And what do we do on Thanksgiving today? And over the Christmas season?
We celebrate the meaning of the holidays without the usual merriment associated with these special times. We are thankful. We are grateful, and we never feel lost, alone and sad about having let go of all that embodied the holidays for us years ago.
This will be the 10th holiday season we haven’t celebrated as we had in the past, and we are content and fulfilled in many other ways.
Today, on Thanksgiving, we’re meeting up with our new American friends, Carrie and Jim, at Two Trees on the Crocodile River (we were rained out a few days ago), and together we’ll all have a toast to Thanksgiving in the US. As for Christmas, we’re planning to spend Christmas Eve at Jabula with friends, along with others like us, who may not have nearby family members to join in the celebration of the holiday season.
On Christmas Day, we’ll stay at our bush house, cooking a nice meal on the braai and enjoying our wildlife friends who come to call any day of the year.
It’s all good. We’re content.
May your day be content and fulfilling.
Photo from one year ago today, November 25, 2020:
|This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #247. View of houses on the channel heading out to sea in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For more photos, please click here.|