Holidays don’t have to continue to be what they have always been to be special. Holidays are special because they enrich our lives and honor what we care about, and the act of celebrating is good for our health. How you approach that is totally up to you.
We’ve focused on redefining Thanksgiving family traditions. Here’s how our unusual approach to Thanksgiving works for us.
Please Don’t Pass the Food
Not everyone was blessed to grow up in a family of gourmet cook. Count me in that group. Dry turkey, Stove Top stuffing, rehydrated potato flakes, and canned green beans with those weird little canned fried onions on top were the staples. It was like being trapped in a mid-century atomic era Jello commercial.
After piling a week’s worth of food on a single plate, everyone ate until they felt sick and watched football for hours or fell asleep in a recliner.
Many people find the smell of holiday food soothing; it brings comfort and reminds them of family. That’s not me. I don’t love it. I despise it. Thanksgiving dinner smells like sodium bloat and an IBS attack.
When I got older and lived away from family, I was invited to Thanksgiving celebrations with others. I realized there are people out there with more sophisticated cooking skills.
That was great, but by then, I had been diagnosed with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack itself when gluten is ingested. And let me tell you, holiday foods are basically required to have gluten.
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People do their best with what they know, but at the time, most people just didn’t know about Celiac disease. I learned quickly to bring my own frozen meals. I had never had an emotional attachment to food because so much of it was out of my reach, so it was easier to bring food I could rely on instead of constantly being disappointed or sick.
When I got married, my husband enthusiastically began creating gluten-free replicas of traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Freshly snapped green beans, organic mashed potatoes with grass-fed butter, smoked turkey with homegrown herbs, and cornflour-based stuffing, to name a few highlights.
And that is when I realized that not only do I make a terrible sous chef, but I also don’t really enjoy a big meal.
I loved every dish he made but felt guilty about how long they took to prepare when I didn’t want to eat but a few bites of each dish. I’m the absolute worst person to take to an all-you-can-eat buffet. And Thanksgiving is essentially a holiday designed with overeating in mind.
Travel Instead of Turkey
Modern-day Thanksgiving is about food, family, festivity, and being thankful. But I hate holiday food. And our family is tiny and, frankly, pretty basic. I don’t need to eat my body weight in mashed potatoes to be thankful, and everybody knows that kids just eat the dinner rolls. There is literally nothing about Thanksgiving that gets me going more than any other day.
So our little family decided to do something different.
We love to take family trips, but with three kids in school, the opportunities are limited to school breaks. The thought of being away from our parents or extended family over Christmas or Easter didn’t feel right. Those holidays are directly connected to our faith and, therefore, inherently more meaningful to us. But Thanksgiving has some serious wiggle room, and the kids have an entire week off school!
Several years ago, we decided to throw any guilt out the window, give ourselves permission to travel during the Thanksgiving break, and embrace anti-tradition as our new tradition. We have since developed some unconventional Thanksgiving traditions.
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Some years, we travel with friends and cook a Thanksgiving meal where we stay. I enjoy my popcorn and wine while everyone else eats gluten-filled dishes. Some years, we order in or go to a restaurant in the city we visit. Once, we attended a pro-football game one year and ate in the parking lot. Sometimes, we do stay in town and attend a family event. I pack my one-trick pony, Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Stuffing Mix with diced apples and Italian sausage thrown in so it looks homemade, and refuse to take the leftovers home with me.
While not traditional, our way of redefining Thanksgiving family traditions works perfect for us.