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Thanksgiving and Traditions

November 22, 2011

A hand made Oven mitt is a great Christmas present.

“Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say, ‘Hey, man, I love you this many dollars worth.'”

You may recall this quote from a holiday episode from a few years ago on the hit television show, “The Office,” after Michael Scott, the former Dunder Mifflin regional manager, bought an iPod for a gift exchange to impress an employee.


I laugh whenever I think about that quote because, sadly, it seems that our society believes holidays are about buying things to show people how much we care about them.

Retailers want to perpetuate this idea. Some are trying to get a jump on the competition by opening up at midnight this Black Friday instead of their regular 4 a.m. to get a piece of the approximately $45 billion that will be spent on Black Friday, and another $1 billion spent on Cyber Monday.

This year, I want you to put down your pocketbook and take back the simple joys of the holidays. They are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, not the most expensive time of the year. My challenge to you is to invent or reinforce a holiday tradition.

My family started a white elephant gift exchange several years ago, with more unique gifts becoming the norm. My grandfather received an Ozzy Osbourne talking bobble head doll the first year of the exchange. Even though he has since died, Ozzy continues to resurface every year of the exchange.

We continue to spend Christmas — either before or after the actual holiday sometimes — with both sides of my wife’s family. Her dad’s brothers and sister and their families get together for prime rib, which always is my favorite, along with a gift exchange game where people can steal one other’s gifts. The exchange can get pretty intense, but the game always makes for memorable moments (even if some family members aren’t speaking afterward).

On the other side of the family, Kerri’s grandma spoils us with treats that she bakes weeks in advance, from apple pie to fudge. After church we gorge ourselves while playing some highly competitive card games.

Recently I read about a family who used a plastic tablecloth for the Thanksgiving dinner on which everyone wrote what they are thankful for. The family continues to use that tablecloth every year. They are reminded of their blessings from years past as they continue to add to them each Thanksgiving.

I honestly cannot remember too many Christmas presents I have received over the years, but I have such fond memories of the holiday traditions with my family. I want my two children to have special memories of the holidays and know that the best things in life do not come in a shiny box with a bow on top.

It is becoming more difficult to have holiday traditions in recent times. As people become more mobile, families often are spread farther apart. Increasing technology sometimes comes with less personal forms of communication, from talking face-to-face to over the phone to e-mailing and texting.

Do not let time or distance separate you and your family this holiday season. What tradition is special to you? If the tradition has ceased recently, bring it back. If you do not have a tradition, create one this year. Make special memories that will last for years to come, unlike all those gifts you bought that no doubt were soon forgotten.

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