My friend Joe recently wrote a blog about a holiday tradition he remembers fondly. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Joe's family would gather at his parents' house and enjoy leftovers and each other's company. I can easily picture the scene because assembling and eating is pretty much what Italians do on every holiday. Joe mentioned the difficulty of maintaining these traditions over the years, and that is very true for a number of reasons.
First, it is a lot of work. The family hosting the gathering prepares for the day by cleaning, shopping, cooking and cleaning again. Second, families are no longer concentrated in one area like they used to be, so travel is involved. Anyone who travels around the holidays knows what a deterrent this can be, especially with gas and toll prices going through the roof. Then there is the in-law issue. When children marry, it is natural for them to want to spend the holidays with their families following the traditions they grew up with. This last problem can be worked out if everybody gives a little, but we know families who don't speak to each other because somebody couldn't give.
If families want to maintain these holiday traditions badly enough. then sacrifices have to be made here and there. Find a fair way to divide the days up so no family get short-changed. Don't let a few people handle the entire load; as kids get older they should step up and do more of the work. It's unreasonable to expect your kids to spend every holiday with you, so don't hassle them. Some families use these gatherings as an excuse for mini-vacations somewhere that all can travel to; this is more expensive but eliminates all of the work associated with the gathering.
We have managed to keep traditions going in our family, although there have been changes over the years. Our family is more spread around geographically than they used to be, and some family members work jobs that require them to go in on holidays. We have just become resigned to not having everyone present all the time. It's only natural to want to continue the holiday celebrations the way we remember them. In some strange way this reassures us that things are as they always were, when in fact, they really are not. Nobody wants to admit their children are all grown or that the face in the mirror looks a lot older than it used to.
One of my favorite TV shows is "Blue Bloods" a great cop show starring Tom Selleck. It's the story of the Reagan family, three generations of police officers who are based in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The family often gathers for dinners together making it one of the few shows on TV that celebrates family values. My friend Joe's recollection of those "Friday after Thanksgiving" get-togethers is a celebration of family, and for us old Brooklyn boys, that is priority one.
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