In the United States, the holiday season is a big deal! I mean, we take it very seriously and blow it way out of proportion. And for anyone who has never experienced this two month period of decorations, cheesy holidays photos, stupid sweaters, and shopping mall Santas, let me just give you a few highlights:
- Americans kick off the season with Thanksgiving. This holiday is intended to celebrate the harvest from the summer growing season and is a time when families and friends gather to eat traditional foods and give thanks for their many blessings.
- A roasted turkey and/or cured ham is the traditional meat for the big dinner. Sides include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauces, various casseroles, and copious amounts of bread, desserts, and other carbs to lull you into the after-dinner-nap wherever you should land.
- Many families begin decorating for Christmas after dinner. This includes setting up and trimming a tree while sipping wine or nog or beer. So, by this point we are full and drunk and trying to not argue over who gets to untangle the lights. Oh, the holidays!
- Retail stores being their Christmas shopping massacre…I’m sorry, they start Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving. This is when they cut prices on certain items so low that Americans will cut a bitch in order to be the lucky recipient of an Elmo doll marked 50% lower than usual. I’m not kidding and I’m sure the Black Friday Mayhem will once again make the evening news all over the country. This shopping…”adventure” was something my family never participated in. I guess we care more about our safety and wanted to see another holiday season than braving the hoards or insane people killing one another the day after they just thanked God for everything that have. Also, this is capitalism at it worst. It is truly one of the ugliest moments you could possibly witness. Imagine red cheeked women and beer bellied men wearing “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” sweaters rushing the door of a Macy’s store with an expression more like a rabid dog than someone looking to buy Christmas presents for the grandchildren. The horror.
- Once Thanksgiving and Black Friday has passed, the next few weeks are back to back holiday movies on t.v., holiday music EVERYWHERE you go, and annoying American arguing over the true meaning of Christmas until the big day arrives and everyone is quiet, for at least an hour, because we’ve all had too much holiday…”cheer”.
That is my quick overview of the holidays, American Style.
One Thanksgiving though was very different. I didn’t return to Houston this time and stayed in Tulsa to have a Friendsgiving. I invited some friends over and we all agreed on a menu, time, and the most important item at hand, “What kind of wine do you want”? It was a cold evening and as everyone was arriving, the food seemed to be multiplying. I had no idea everyone was bringing so much grindage! There were only…1, 2, 3, 4…5 of us yet we had enough grub for small army! Whatever, it’s the holidays. Let’s eat this food!!
Dinner was long and pleasant leaving us stuffed a bit tipsy from the wine. The night was cool and crisp so a few of us decided to go on a moonlit walk to ease some of the tension around our belt lines before engaging in Round 2: The Dessert. Everyone helped out with the cleaning and once the last dish was dry, we ventured out for our walk. We made it to the end of the street and started to cross when I noticed two silhouettes walking toward us, wrapped head to tow in scarves, hats, and puffy coats. “Is that Claudio and Susanna?” I asked my friend Julie. I called out to them, “Hey! Claudio…?!! Susanna?”. I saw the shadowy figures heads perk up and the two of them started walking faster in our direction. Stepping into the light, their faces were red and every breath they released hung in the cold air. “Where are you going?”, I asked. “We’re walking to the store to get some food”, Claudio responded. Uhhhh…it’s Thanksgiving. The store is closed. I could see their disappointment, sprinkled with a bit of panic, and I couldn’t take the sad puppy dog eyes; both of them standing there wrapped tight like packaging. “It’s okay though! We have tons of food! Come on!” I said as I grabbed their hands and led them toward my house”.
See, Claudio and Susanna were both relatively new to Tulsa, to the US and to me. They were unaware that most places were closed on this holiday and I wasn’t about to let them walk about home with empty bellies! As soon as we entered the house, Julie and I started a fury of unwrapping left overs and heating them up and piling the Italians’ plates. “Do you want stuffing? Have you ever HAD stuffing? Here, eat that. Taste this”. I’m sure we 100% overwhelmed them as we moved about the kitchen and forced them to try everything all at once. But, guests obliged us and tired everything we stuck in front of their faces until, at last, everyone was finally stuffed.
The evening moved along other friends stared to arrive; coming to us from their various other holiday dinners. What started as an evening of five grew into a full house of smiling faces. This seemed like a good time to start decorating the tree! As I mentioned, it was customary in my home to trim the Christmas tree after the big Thanksgiving feast. I invited everyone to grab some ornaments and get creative. I started the holiday playlist and watched everyone decorate the tree together. Nobody was shy and kept reaching into the boxes, pulling our decorations, and placing them on the tree. It felt as cosy as possible, watching everyone smile and adopt one of my holiday traditions, if only for that moment. And, of course we took cheesy photos next to the tree once it was fully dressed and lit!
Years later, when I stop to think about everyone that night, I have a sense of cosmic awe and wonder. My house was full of so many different people with different backgrounds and cultures. This particular night blossomed into a lasting memory and turned out far better than anything I could have planned.
And finally, had we not decided to go on that walk, I wouldn’t have spotted Claudio and Susanna walking and they wouldn’t have joined us. See, the universe is always pushing you to those individuals sent to change your life.
Thanksgiving is next Thursday and to all of my dear ones near and far, I wish you and very Happy Thanksgiving.
Ciao ~ C.