As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across an article on Food52 about how to make next year’s Thanksgiving even more wonderful. I’m the type who gets a few bites into the meal and starts strategizing how to make next year’s meal even better – what dishes to keep, which ones to scrap. So I read on.
The author acknowledges a phenomenon that can plague everyone this time of year: Empty Celebration Syndrome. That sense that you’ve done all this prep, planning, shopping, talking, cooking, and decorating, only to feel like, okay, we ate, now it’s over.
The sense of, that was it?
I don’t personally suffer from ECS, but I understand where that feeling comes from. By having traditions that happen every year, the same dishes and the same rituals, it can start to feel redundant. Less than special. It can all become a fuzzy memory.
One of the stories of Thanksgiving past that lives on in our family is when my Grandma broke her wrist by showing us how to do the electric slide in the kitchen. Her body turned, her foot did not, and she ate her dinner – at her own request – with her wrist cradled in her lap, only letting my parents take her to the hospital once the meal was over.
This is why, to this day, my mother does not allow dancing in the kitchen, particularly on Thanksgiving.
I remember this because a trip to the hospital is something you don’t forget (neither is your Grandma line dancing, come to think of it). But it’s easy to see a lifetime of Thanksgivings blending into a blur of turkey and gravy.
So I love the Food52 author’s suggestion. Her mother sits down, every year, on the morning after Thanksgiving, and records the holiday. What was cooked, how big the turkey was, who was present. Was the turkey big enough to feed the group? What did everyone else bring? What was their feedback on the food? And what else happened?
By recording each year’s Thanksgiving feast and surrounding activities, the holiday doesn’t disappear when the leftovers are gone. The family, the festivities, the food – it all lives on in memory and on paper. And while one hopes that Thanksgiving doesn’t involve trips to the hospital, it’d be nice to remember all the other things too.
I’ll be getting my Thanksgiving notebook and beginning my record – the green beans that, though nice, were way too garlicky; the sweet potato casserole that ended up being AWESOME; the best turkey we have ever made. Gus in his little Thanksgiving outfit. Being too exhausted to put up the tree.
It may not be earth-shattering, but I’d rather remember it, keep it close, take it with me into Thanksgivings to come.