Thanksgiving Memories: Traditions and Thoughts

I will be honest, I have not always been thrilled about the Thanksgiving season. I used to end up feeling stressed out, disappointed and relieved when it was over. I did not understand that the problem was my inability to celebrate Thanksgiving the way I WANTED. Almost all my life, I have spent Thanksgiving at an extended family member’s house. I have a large family. Every year, each one of us contributed to the Thanksgiving meal. I know you may be thinking I should be grateful to have family to spend the holidays with. You’re right, I feel guilty for the exact reason.

Thanksgiving has evolved for me over the years. In my opinion, it is the best holiday for creating your own traditions and that’s what makes it enjoyable. Now in my 30’s I refuse to feel obligated. The term “obligation” sucks all the fun out of the occasion. If people are killing themselves over someone’s else’s expectation, is it worth it?  I just don’t want to put myself through that…anymore. Most people have bought in to this ideal that the holidays should be about fulfilling their unrealistic expectation of what is “supposed to be”. I have finally reached a point in my life where I get to spend the holidays where I choose and—it is glorious!

For the last few years, I have not spent Thanksgiving with my extended family. Thanksgiving has become less about my biological family and more about choosing the people I want to spend the day with. My son is a grown man now, so he spends Thanksgiving with friends sometimes. Recently, my mom, son, significant other and I enjoyed a great meal at Golden Corral for Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I love it when it is a small group having a quiet meal. For most of my childhood  and as a parent myself, Thanksgiving was always about going over to my family’s house, I did not even know what the holidays felt like in my own home. My family would make a whole spread and it was a day to eat, chill and watch the game (which bored me out of my mind). In the last few years, Thanksgiving has become a day for friends. When you spend the day with friends, there is less pressure. You don’t get grilled about what you’re doing with your life or everything you aren’t doing with it.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It is a day to reflect on the goodness of the Lord and be thankful for all that has happened so far that year and anticipate what you expect God to do for the rest of the year. It’s a day to chill, enjoy good food and good company. Thanksgiving has no written rules that you must spend it with family or cook a meal. You may miss the people you don’t spend the holiday with,  but it doesn’t have to be a dark cloud over your head. When my son looks back on his Thanksgivings memories, if he remembers playing with his cousins, eating my aunt’s delicious stuffing that he loves, that’s great!  But now if he chooses to create his own memories, I am totally okay with that too.

I think we should be honest with our extended family and let them know we have other plans. We need to do this so we can feel refreshed, not depleted. Some of my family members may have been disappointed by my decision, but I hope they love me enough to allow me to make this decision in peace. Besides, who wants someone to be there when they are not there out of their free will and are suffering because a sense of “obligation”? You’ll just be a sour puss in the midst of their good time, and you’ll be a lot more miserable about the situation than they will. Everyone should do what makes them happy on Thanksgiving and spend the day doing what they want the most. Isn’t that what the holidays should be about?


  1. At the same place of my life my sister. I understand completely. In my case we always did the cooking, everyone came over and then took out the left-overs. I was left with the cleaning and no invitations to any relatives, so I cut that out a few years ago.

  2. Great suggestion! You are so right obligation takes away all the fun. TG should be about celebrating and making memories, not suffering afterwards.

    1. I went through this for years it’s hard for me to be in a crowd of any kind. I always feel out of place, But out of “obligation I would go anyway.

      For certain family members of the group it’s important to see that you’re doing well. My son discussed that it was time we paid our family a visit since we haven’t seen them in awhile, we may do that this year.