Tag Archives: traditions

Turkey Time

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We all have our Thanksgiving memories to cherish. As children, we look forward to the super-sized, special meal. And as we get older, we watch our loved ones prepare the meal, picking up tips for when it will be our turn to prepare our own Thanksgiving meal.

When I was young, Grams always gave me the impression that a turkey took at least twelve hours to cook. She would rise at the crack of dawn, or before, and start shuffling around in the kitchen. By the time I got up, I was met with the sight of her wrestling the stuffing into the gaping carcass.

Once the turkey was in the oven, she began the other dishes. A huge pot of potatoes on the stove, sweet potatoes going into the oven, and the good old green bean casserole being thrown together. And last, but not least, the cracking open of the can of jellied cranberry sauce, plopped into a dish with no attempt to hide its can-shaped appearance.

The carving of the bird never went well, even though it had now cooked three times longer than it should have. Grams would call Dad to carve, but then proceed to tell him just how it should be done. She’d finally just take the knife from him, eventually resorting to using her hands to tear it apart. If that wasn’t appetizing, I don’t know what was!

Although I don’t make the Thanksgiving meal like my Grams used to, I did learn some things from her. Remember to remove the innards from the bird BEFORE cooking. A turkey does not need to cook for TWELVE HOURS. If you must resort to using your hands to carve the turkey, wash them first and DON’T lick your fingers as you work. Bon appetit!

Christmas Traditions From an Outsider’s Point of View

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I’m not a Christian, so I don’t really celebrate Christmas myself. A loosely practicing Jew can really muck up Christmas. I’ve had a Christmas tree that I called a Hanukkah bush, hung blue lights and stockings, sung Christmas carols about Jesus, and even attended midnight mass. I can just see my very Jewish aunt shaking her head and wondering why. But I’ve also been a part of many Christmas celebrations over the years with Christian friends, and have seen how the holiday is done by those that know what they’re doing. Today as, I was cruising through the holiday posts on Facebook, I was musing at how differently everyone celebrates the Christmas holiday.

First comes decorating. Real tree, or fake tree? Ornaments handed down over the years, or ornaments to match the chosen theme of the year? Tinsel? Popcorn or cranberry garland? Angel or star? Lights…all one color, or mixed colors? Outside decorations…over the top, fill your yard, cover your house, and light the neighborhood? Or simple lights along the roofline? Nativity scene? Angels everywhere? Wreaths? And when do you put up the tree…Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day? Christmas Eve? Whenever you have a moment to yourself without the kids? Or with the kids?

And the countdown and preparations. Elf on the shelf? Advent calendar? Shopping trips? Pictures with Santa? Naughty or nice checklists? Cookie exchanges? Airline tickets?

Food is a big deal at any holiday, but Christmas seems to come with more than any other. Ham or turkey? Or something more fancy like prime rib roast or lobster tails? Or perhaps a special, local or family traditional fare…like lefse, or lutefisk? Potluck, or is one family member responsible for the entire meal? Christmas cookies, candy canes, fudge, and all of the cute treats that look like something Christmassy. Glug, grog, cider, hot chocolate, hot toddies, or a good ole Tom & Jerry?

And what about Santa? Do you have a family member (or perhaps a Jewish friend) dress up as Santa to visit the kiddos and pass out presents? Or do some gifts appear that have Santa’s name on them? Do you leave cookies and milk out for him? Anything for the reindeer?

Then there’s the opening of the presents. Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning? Or maybe one on Christmas Eve, and the rest the next morning? Does everyone take turns, oohing and ahhing over each gift, or is it mass chaos as everyone tears into their prizes, regardless of what’s going on around them? And do the presents get put under the tree as they were purchased or made, or do you wait until the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve to drag them all out of hiding?

And for those with larger families, how do you decide where to celebrate, and when? If you have to make it to 4 or 5 houses to “do Christmas” with each relative, how do you fit them all in, and still make it meaningful for your family? Do you eat 5 Christmas dinners in one day? Do you ever get to have Christmas at your own house if you are traveling all over creation to attend all of the relative’s celebrations?

And, last, but not least, what’s it all about to you? Presents and decorating, eating and drinking, visiting and enjoying time as a family, or the religious parts? I see a lot of folks get caught up in the rat race of Christmas, running around to find the best gifts, getting everything cleaned, made and ready. They must be too exhausted to enjoy the holiday once it arrives! And there’s the expectations that tend to run rather high for most. We’ve all seen the Christmas morning tantrum over a gift not received, or a gift that doesn’t work as promised. And that’s not always just the kids!

As an outsider, whatever your Christmas was, I hope that it was everything you hoped it would be. I hope that you spent it with family and friends, and that you inhaled deeply the time together.