It’s Thanksgiving, some year in the 1990s.
We’re at my grandparents’ house on the farm, just a few short miles from ours. My siblings, cousins, and I are at the kids table, making jokes and stealing each other’s food. The adults are in the dining room, no doubt having some boring adult conversation. There are seconds and thirds and
then it’s time for pie, but not before you tell Grandma what you’re thankful for this year. I always go for the pumpkin, of course, but there’s also apple, maybe cherry. My uncles head downstairs to watch football and there’s a good chance Grandpa and Dad are already taking a nap. The dishes have been started ⎼ Mom washing, Aunt drying, Grandma putting away.
Us kids play a card game or two and then spread out the Sears and JcPenney ads to make our Christmas lists, our wishes circled and highlighted. Everybody goes home late, but full of food and love. In four weeks we do it all again, replacing the pumpkin pie with tea rings and other Swedish desserts and opening up gifts to see if any of our wishes came true, but only after Grandpa reads the Christmas story.
Holidays nowadays, in the twenty-teens, look a lot different.
The kids table is now a second adults table, there are husbands and girlfriends mixed in, Grandpa’s chair is empty, and my husband and I moved from Kansas to Colorado, then Colorado to Florida.
This will be the first year I haven’t made it home for a holiday, and while I know I’m going to miss it, I’m also going to embrace it.
Here are some ways you can make the best of this holiday season if you aren’t going to be with family.
Fill it with Friends
There are plenty of ways to spend time with friends around the Holidays. Friendsgiving, white elephant parties, ugly sweater parties, cookie parties, etc. There really is no shortage of excuses to throw a party or have a special dinner. And if your friends are anything like mine, they fill the family void pretty well.
Make New Friends
Maybe you’re reading this and you just moved to town or you haven’t been able to build a strong group of friends yet. That’s ok! The holidays are a great time to reach out and make new connections. Take this opportunity to meet your neighbors and invite them over for a low key dinner at your place. If hosting isn’t your thing but you still like to cook or bake, make up some meals or goodies and deliver them around your neighborhood.
Serve at a soup kitchen, volunteer with your church, join a traveling Christmas caroling group, visit a nursing home in your area. Serving will not only make you feel good, you’ll get to meet some new people as well.
Get Out in the Community
Attend your town’s tree lighting, shop local at holiday markets, and look for special events that you might have missed in the past because of family plans.
Take a Vacation
With no family obligations to keep you in town (or to eat up your travel expenses for the year) take a trip. You don’t even have to go far; book a staycation for a weekend if that’s more your style. Vacationing over a holiday means less cooking and clean up and more relaxing and enjoying.
Make New Traditions
Traditions are an important part of holiday celebrations, and this is the perfect time to create your own while honoring your family’s. Maybe this year you ask what everyone is thankful for and you also write it down in a notebook you can add to year after year. At Christmas, read the Christmas story (or Facetime while Dad does) but then read a book the kids have picked out. But don’t feel stuck in classic traditions either, do something that’s special to you and it will be much more meaningful in the future.
Your holidays this year might look and feel much different than your past ones. Mine definitely will, but I’m looking forward to the new memories we’re going to create. I hope you are too!