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Posts Tagged ‘Black Friday’

I have just finished today’s cook-a-thon in preparation for tomorrow’s celebration.  I’ve made stuffed garnet yams with pecan streusel, mashed potatoes that can be baked off in the oven, prepped the green beans, baked a gorgeous pumpkin roulade with ginger mascarpone buttercream.  I’ve chopped the leeks, mushrooms, and celery for dressing, made an apple crumb pie (and bought another gorgeous pecan chocolate chip one from our school’s fund raising activities), made my cranberry conserve and Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish.  My niece and daughter are bringing other things, and I have a pretty short punch list of things to do tomorrow, so I’m in pretty good shape for the holiday.

The holiday?  I know that the original holiday was one of thanks for being saved from near-starvation (thank you, native American people).  In a show Ben and I are doing with our Revels Repertory Company, Ben says, “From pestillence, fire, flood and sword, we have been spared by Thy decree.  And now with humble hearts, oh Lord, we come to pay our thanks to thee.”  That sense of gratitude is what moved this country to declare a day of thanks-giving.  And so why has it become a holiday that is all about food – much of it bought, not prepared by our hands – and shopping?

Whatever happened to gathering around a roaring fire, telling stories with members of your clan who you haven’t seen in months or more, listening to lovely music, maybe taking a walk if the weather’s good?  I can not say that all my Thanksgiving holidays were like this.  For many years we celebrated at my aunt and uncle’s home in Newburgh, NY (or at my cousin’s in Rochester, NY, or at my parents’ home in Hamden, CT).  The den in each of those homes would get blue with cigar smoke, as the men puffed away, drank bourbon, and watched college football, while the women sat in the living room, drank cocktails, noshed, and caught up on all the family news.  Many years, my cousin and I ended up making most of the dinner as the cocktailing went on a little too long.  And yet, we would gather at the table, champagne would be poured, my uncle would carve, and we — descendants of poor Russian immigrants — would indeed count our blessings.

But now it is different, and not just because my aunt and uncle and parents are gone and I am the mom-in-charge.  At the risk of being branded “Mrs. Crankypants,” I have been so bombarded with Black Friday ads that I could gag.  I don’t need a large screen TV, thank you, nor a cashmere sweater.  And they aren’t on the list of anyone else I’m buying for this year.  And when I see that lunatic woman from Target gibbering about how she hasn’t slept in days because she’s so excited about the Christmas sales, I nearly run screaming from the room.  So even though you want me to get out of bed at 4 AM, I can assure you that I’ll be sleeping in on Friday.

Where did this madness come from?  I certainly support the idea of stimulating the sluggish US economy (not to mention, the crippled world economy).  I feel, however, like the traditional Thanksgiving holiday got turned, somewhere along the way, into a gluttonous pig-out followed by a massive shopping trip.  And I’m not sure how all of that happened, really.

Some of it has evolved, I fear, from people not knowing how to cook any more.  Things get bought, pre-packaged, rather than made; I’m not kidding when I write on my catering business’s Facebook page that I’ve gotten lots of questions about how to make gravy, not to mention how to make good mashed potatoes from ‘scratch.’  I was fortunate to learn this stuff from my grandmother and my mother (and then to have perfected it through opening a catering business).  I’ve made sure my children know how to cook, and I wish more of us did – both because it’s better for us and because it would cost us less money.

And what about the zombie-like commitment to shopping and running to the mall in a state of stressed exhaustion immediately after Thanksgiving dinner is concluded?  My friends, John and Connie, will be out skiing near their home in the mountains of Montana.  I hope that our friends, Margarethe and Reinhard, will be doing the same near Reno, NV, where they have a lovely home.  While my funky knee will probably suggest that a walk isn’t in my Thanksgiving plans, I do expect a soak in the hot tub will be.  We will be spending time with our relatives and friends, and visiting Ben’s parents the next day.  I expect that none of us will watch a single football game on TV, nor, I expect, will anyone in the family have an argument with another guest at our table. We may even go see Kermit and friends over the weekend, and we’ll all be singing “The Rainbow Connection” when we do.

Sounds pretty sappy and boring, you’re saying?  Maybe so — but I’ll take it over the madness at the mall, any day.  I’m taking back my Thanksgiving — and if you want to join me, I’ve got enough leftovers to go around!

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Sometimes I worry about myself.  I fear that I may be turning into some version of “Mrs. Crankypants” with what I am about to say.  Nevertheless, here goes:  it’s now officially the holiday shopping season and there is not very much that I want to buy.

I know, I know…we’re supposed to.  And it does stimulate the economy. And right at this very minute, my younger daughter is Out There Somewhere, doing her part at the Black Friday sales.  And yeah, it’s true that right now, money is pretty darned tight for us.  And I suppose that does influence my thinking, to some extent.  But even when I think about what would be on my ‘wish list’ if money wasn’t an issue, there’s not a whole lot that I can come up with!

Sure, I would like to go on a nice vacation somewhere warm in the winter.  And I always like a little bling.  But really, what do I need or want?  I don’t need another cashmere sweater.  I love Chico’s (God knows I look like an ad for the company, most of the time) but I don’t really need more clothes. I don’t want a Keurig single-cup coffee thingie…I brew mine by the pot and like it that way.  And I don’t really want a George Foreman grill, even though my friends love them…my gas grill and my broiler pan work just fine.

I’ve got an iPod Touch and don’t really need an iPhone.  An iPad would be a fun toy, but one more gadget isn’t necessary.  And mostly, my husband and I seem to keep cleaning out stuff that we don’t need, rather than adding more to the pile. And all those gimmics advertised for “just $19.95”??  Nope, don’t need those either.  The Obama Chia Head, however…now that might make me think twice!  No, this year, as for the last couple, my husband and I will have a pretty short list of what we want, and we will be making a lot of our holiday gifts.

Ben is a fine artist, and he loves making our holiday greeting cards. This year’s design is finished, a text selected and — in a departure from the last ten or so years — we actually may get it done and hand-painted and in the mail before Christmas, rather than waiting till February (procrastination being a fine art to be honed).  I’ll be making some of the twelve-plus types of Christmas cookies that have been a part of my family tradition since I was a little girl…and then sharing them with friends and family.  Ben will be making part of the gift we give to our family and friends…as a fine woodworker, Ben makes beautiful items that we are glad to share with our loved ones.  And I’ll be adding some consumables, from my catering business, to go with the items Ben makes…homemade preserves and pickles, savory and sweet items, all made in my kitchen.  We feel like these are the most meaningful gifts, the ones made with our hands…and we look forward to sharing them.

Yes, we know our children will have their wish lists, and Ben and I will do our best to fulfill some of their wishes.  But for us – not a long list.  It is the season of giving, and we will be reaching out to family and friends, focusing on the gifts that we give to one another by just being, rather than by buying more things and stuff.  But that Chia head?  Might have to have that!

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