Once upon a time we all headed to Grandma’s house for the holidays. And then Grandma and Grandpa were gone, and the next generation stepped up to the task of preparing holiday meals. Most of the time there were lots of noises, kids running around, tantalizing smells coming from the kitchen, and men setting around watching sports or parades or whatever men watch when they are banished from the kitchen. (Oh, there are those trips to the store or the barn for supplies for their “better halves.”)
As a young family’s children grow older, the location of the meals spread out, as well as days change. Johnny is working on Christmas day, so we will have Christmas on Christmas Eve. Jo Lynn has Thanksgiving with her new husband’s family, so we will have Thanksgiving on another day near to the calendar date. Grandma is not as strong as she once was, so we will have the meal at an aunt or sibling’s house (large enough to accommodate everyone.)
The last couple of years the holiday tradition at my house has shifted. My son and his wife are establishing their residence as the new Grandma’s House this year; and my grandson is away in the military. Last year my husband and I went to a local college’s holiday celebration for those who are without a place to go. It was much appreciated, but the family traditions I so remember were missing. This shift in holidays makes me a little sad, but I instinctively know it is time, unless it is a pot luck meal where everyone brings something to my house. I remember three years ago, I was so tired I had to have others carry the food to the table, as I was unable to do so.
But these shifts take some flexibility. Not everyone is going make the stuffing like Grandma did, and they might even use whole cranberries in a sauce instead of jelled cranberries. Some use heavier spices, or gibble fruits and vegetables into a thousand little pieces. Why can’t we just have masked potatoes and gravy?
I remember one year when my siblings came to my house. I used tablecloths, cloth napkins, and decorated the tables (and had a grand time doing it). However, I found that none of the napkins were used, and everyone meticulously kept crumbs from the table. They almost looked miserable; they were used to a much more casual table arrangement. I didn’t do that again.
I find that holidays are much like cultures. They don’t stay the same, even though they involve the same people or generations of people. We must strive to honor our heritage and traditions, but allow for them to shift and change. We can even mix in a few new recipes and faces. This year we are going to my son and daughter-in-law’s new Grandma’s House. As long as she doesn’t add chili pepper to the stuffing I think I will be fine.