Years ago my husband’s Aunt Mary was visiting us for Thanksgiving but had brought Christmas gifts with her as well. Since she was unable to be with us that Christmas she decided to combine the two holidays. When I asked if she wanted me to save the gifts and put them under the tree she replied in her usual perky, upbeat tone, “No, let’s just open them on Thanksgiving and create a new holiday. We’ll call it Thanksmas!”
And “Thanksmas” it was and has been ever since! For years my sister and I alternated hosting the Thanksmas festivities , each family taking turns making the ten hour drive separating us. And because we combined Thanksgiving and Christmas it made for a less stressful December, not having to plan yet another trip amid all of the holiday flurry.
“No, let’s just open them on Thanksgiving and create a new holiday. We’ll call it Thanksmas!”
I remember well the year her older daughter brought her new fiancé from Atlanta to share our Thanksmas tradition. I had scheduled a photographer for a family portrait the day after Thanksgiving and we jokingly asked the fiancé to sit on the outside so if the wedding were to be canceled we could easily remove him from the picture. Fortunately that didn’t happen and not only is Chris a wonderful addition to our family but that marriage has produced three beautiful offspring as well.
Another year my sister’s younger daughter had become engaged and the girls in the family had a special tea to celebrate the occasion while we were all together. As each of my children met and became serious about that special someone they were dating, one of the things they looked forward to was introducing them at the family gathering at Thanksmas which had become “THE official family holiday”.
One year at Thanksmas my sister and I planned a rose ceremony in honor of our mom. After dinner, we asked her to be seated on the couch and the grandchildren all entered the room single file, each carrying a long stemmed red rose. One by one they handed her roses accompanied by their words of love, honor and appreciation. Fulfilling the command found in Romans 13:7 to “Give honor to whom honor is due” was easy for them because of the respect they each felt for her. Now that she is no longer with us, I am especially grateful for every opportunity we took to honor her while she was here.
Baby announcements were made at Thanksmas. Job changes. Job losses. Health updates. House tours were given if someone had a new home. One year we even went to our lake house and celebrated there. There was always enough diversity to create excitement but enough sameness to establish tradition.
Baby announcements were made at Thanksmas. Job changes. Job losses. Health updates.
We would enjoy the usual abundant Thanksgiving meal following an afternoon of football watching, visiting, cooking and playing with younger children outdoors. Then that evening we would open our Christmas presents to each other but before that came the part that made our Thanksmas tradition truly special. . . our family Thanksmas service.
Usually we began by singing a few songs, often hymns or choruses chosen by our mother. Then that wonderful matriarch of our family would sometimes deliver a devotional with a scripture or two and offer a prayer on our behalf. We then each had an opportunity to express what it was we were the most thankful for that particular year. THIS was the highlight of our Thanksmas! Often there were tears, sometimes laughter but always raw, real emotion as we recounted our blessings and gave thanks to Our God for His goodness.
There was always a sense of the sacred during these gatherings and a true feeling of intimacy among us. Even the little ones seemed to recognize it. The babies would play quietly and young preschoolers would soak in the atmosphere as they lounged on pillows or snuggled in someone’s lap. There was a holiness and a reverence that permeated the room. And there was a bonding that took place that was something beyond what happened when we were sharing a conversation, a football game or even a meal. It was a bonding of our spirits, a blending of our hearts.
The last visit my mother made to Atlanta was for Thanksmas celebration a couple of years before she died. Already a resident of an assisted living facility, the trip for her was physically and logistically challenging. We decided it would be her last and that we would all come to her for any remaining holidays she was with us.
There was always a sense of the sacred during these gatherings and a true feeling of intimacy among us. Even the little ones seemed to recognize it.
I think we all knew Thanksmas would not be the same without her. She was the anchor point around which the rest of us circled, the hub of our family wheel.
Last year at our “Thanksmas service” someone suggested that in addition to saying what we were thankful for we should express a goal, a wish or an aspiration we have for the upcoming year. It seemed an appropriate way to keep us moving forward.
As our families evolve so will our traditions. We now have twelve children and fourteen adults among us, and think it may be a better plan to have our family gathering at the beach where the children can run and play and enjoy the outdoors all day.
I have come to feel that the time and place are not so much important as the fact that we continue to gather together, to meet on a regular basis, to intersect our lives, to tell our stories and to share our victories and our pain. For that is, in essence, the meaning of family. And that is one of the things for which I will be thankful again this year.
Happy Thanksmas to all.