“Just Saying No” to Thanksgiving Stress

Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays. I really owe these good feelings to my own parents, who set an early example for their five kids on how to do it right.

Somehow in their division of marital labor agreement, my mom and dad decided that Thanksgiving was Daddy’s domain. So while he and the kids rose early to chop veggies and bake pies and stuff the turkey, Mom took to the couch for a day of relaxation. When I think now about her mothering of the five of us, I realize that those Thanksgiving mornings were some of the very few times I saw her get the “time off” she so richly deserved.

The resultant happy memories, the “perfect recipe” for stuffing (with Stovetop as its base) and pies baked “sort of” from scratch left me with warm feelings about a holiday that tends to stress-out too many moms. Our family lingered over the cooking, made a huge mess in the kitchen, and sat around the table chatting and laughing (and drinking, if you were old enough) for a long time after the last bit of food had been enjoyed. Sometimes there were guests — a favorite priest or a relative who was visiting — but often it was just us. We used the “good dishes”, candles were lit, and prayers of Thanksgiving were always at the heart of the meal.

When someone asks my own boys about their Thanksgiving traditions in future years, they won’t have the Norman Rockwell types of memories I have. In Hendey family fashion, many of our traditions equal non-traditional ways of doing things. We’ve had plenty of family Thanksgivings around our own dining room table or with Greg’s wonderful mom, but just as many away from home. A few years ago, during Eric’s first year at Harvard, we had to “divide and conquer” when we couldn’t get him home in time to celebrate. I headed to Boston and Adam and Dad headed to Ruth’s Chris. In fact, those two liked that particular “tradition” so much that we found ourselves dining there again last year.

This year, our “tradition” will have us traveling to Las Vegas. Nothing says “Thanksgiving” like a buffet meal on the strip, right?! I’m happy that we can get Eric almost all the way home, that we’ll be able to relax, take time off, and visit together. I’m happy that we’ll have the chance to attend Mass together at the Cathedral or the Shrine, that we’ll likely enjoy lots of great talks and some fun too. And frankly, I’m happy not to be cooking this year too.

As I approach the holiday weekend, the greatest “stresser” in my life at the moment is getting enough work done to take the weekend offline and relax in an unplugged fashion. I’ll be pre-posting some things for you here, but will also simply assume that you, too, are looking forward to a break.

I also want to personally thank my Patheos Editor Elizabeth Scalia for this gift of this little patch of the blogosphere to call my own. It’s been a blessing to me!

If you’re stressed out anticipating the holiday, I invite you to re-prioritize a bit and to realize that in the end, it’s the memories that matter more than what gravy recipe you used. I invite you to ponder your blessings with true thanks and to also think about how you might share a few of those with others.

I am thankful for each of you who stop by my blog for a visit, and for the good you do for those you love. I’m thankful for my faith and the opportunity to share it with others.

What are you thankful for this year? Does your family have special Thanksgiving traditions?


About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com and connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

  • http://jeffhite.com Jeff Hite

    First thanks for posting this. It really does kind of “hit the spot” so to speak.

    We all have a lot going on during this season, but this is one of those things that you don’t have to stress about. a few years ago I started working for a company that paid me extra if I worked the holidays, so I picked all the holidays that it didn’t really matter if we celebrated them another day or not and I worked those days. Thanksgiving was one of those days. We usually had a big thanks giving dinner on Saturday or Sunday of that week. On Thursday my wife and kids would celebrate in there own way, and just have kind of a snack day, all the favorite snacks that we don’t get the rest of the year, (yes this includes spray cheese.)

    This year through a twist of schedules I actually have Thanksgiving off. (quick note, in our family men always do the cooking on the holiday. This works out great for me. I mean I love to cook and I don’t get a chance to be “fancy” all that often so I really enjoy it.) I was going to make a holiday meal on thanksgiving, but I realized that I would be changing, what for a lot of my kids was the holiday meal. So this year, we are doing the same thing. We will probably all stay in our PJ’s most of the day, and just have snacks. We might make a turkey later in the year, but for now I just want to enjoy my family and give thanks that I am given the time to be with them. Oh and that I will be home before all the spray cheese is gone.

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