Thanksgiving has come and gone already. That means it's just a hop, skip and jump to Sundance. Oh, and Christmas is in there, too. Home Depot had the Christmas decorations up at Halloween, and they have been advertising the tickets to get tickets to get a place in line to buy tickets for Sundance for a couple of months. This year, Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Hanukah. Both are holidays that move around the calendar instead of having a nice, fixed date you can count on. The convergence of the two is very unusual. I read somewhere that said it won't happen again for about 75,000 years. I guess I'll miss it.
There has been lots of outrage directed at the big retailers who stayed open on Thanksgiving Day to try to get a jump on the traditional Black Friday riots. There was a lot of discussion about how their employees should be able to spend the holiday at home with their families instead of working for their greedy corporate overlords and the crazy bargain hunters who would rather shop on Thanksgiving Day than spend time with their families. I agree, for the most part, that we should not ignore a very reflective (if gluttonous and football-laden) holiday to get a head start on Christmas. But it seems odd to me that nobody is demanding that the people who work in restaurants should also have the day off.
Going out to dinner on Thanksgiving is becoming more popular, and the cooks and wait staff of the gourmet restaurants are away from families and working just as much as the retail sales people. Nobody seems to give them a second thought. Locally, even on Christmas Day, we expect to have the lifts turning and the slopes manicured. So let's not be too hard on the big box retailers. The most realistic comment on the whole topic I've heard was that we are a country where there are people who have holidays, and people who work to provide holidays to the people who get them. That's maybe not a great situation, but at least we can be appreciative of the folks who are working on holidays.
Thanksgiving is a different kind of holiday. There are no big observances. There aren't official church services. There aren't fireworks, and other than New York, no parades. There is a lot of football (and a lot of peanut venders forced to work on the holiday, just like Walmart). It's a day when we sit down with extended family and friends and enjoy a meal of once-a-year dishes. There are traditions, but they are usually traditions that are centered around those people, and our shared history. What happens in my family is going to be different from what happens in your family, or from other families. The dinner this year was not a lot different from the dinners my Grandmother put on up in Idaho where she cooked most of it on a wood-burning stove. Nobody's pies were better than hers. We somehow managed to stuff 20 or 30 cousins, aunts and uncles into their tiny house, with one bathroom and a kind of sketchy septic system.
Things change as different menu items get farmed out to in-laws who have cherished traditions of their own. They are, of course, wrong and heretical traditions, but they still cling to them. There are some who make yams without marshmallows. We try to love them anyway, and can forgive their marshmallow-free yams in the spirit of the holiday. Not so much with the dressing one year that had oysters or some other mysterious rubbery stuff in it. I don't really like them -- I mean yams -- anyway, marshmallows or not.
My family celebrated at the old family house on the ranch. We've had Thanksgiving dinner around that table for close to 50 years now, since we quit going to Idaho. The family has grown to the point that we can't all fit, so the two sisters who inherited that house alternate years. It was still nearly 30, making me especially thankful to be able to walk across the bridge to my own house where there were just the dogs. I'm dog sitting for another relative, and the addition of a third to the mix has them all behaving like the mayor of Toronto, but it beats a house full of two-year-olds.
One of our traditions is making little cornucopias out of ice cream cones. My kindergarten teacher had us all make one, many, many, years ago. They get steamed over a raging tea kettle to make them soft enough to bend the pointy end, and filled with candy corn and M&Ms. We still do it, though it is becoming very difficult to find ice cream cones with the pointy ends these days. Somebody burns their hand every year. Traditions are important.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.