Sometimes I have wondered why two big family-oriented holidays should be so close on the calendar, but as I get older, I'm better able to see the wisdom of it. As a child I enjoyed the Thanksgiving traditions of food and family, but I wanted to hurry past it to get to the gift-giving season. Me-me-me. Gimme-gimme-gimme. (See my essay "Thanks But Gimme" in the archive.) Maturity has wiped out a lot of that bad attitude, and now I think that Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude, should extend all the way through Christmas. We are, after all, grateful for the Savior. We have Christmas so we can have Easter, which is the most important holiday of all. Gratitude should be the underpinning of all our celebrations.
This year our family is going to have a chance to make Christmas a gratitude occasion, too. Our New York kids are coming out to Utah at Thanksgiving and our whole family will be together for almost a week. Since they can't come back for Christmas, we decided to have ThanksMas. Thanksgiving and Christmas in one week should blend the two holidays together the way they ought to be. My goal, of course, as the Grandma/hostess is to make it memorable. With input from the others, menus and activities have been planned, and the plans continue to be tweaked. Some of the events during the week will be held at our house, and some at Daughter 2's house two streets away. Between the two houses we can sleep all 13 of us.
Thanksgiving includes a pie baking lesson from Grandma (the day before), and other cooperative feast preparation--everybody will have an assignment, from mashing potatoes to setting the table. Now that our five grandchildren are two teenagers, two preteens and one eight-year-old, they're all fairly independent and self-directed, and they like helping out, so getting dinner ready won't be that hard. And I have a few surprises I hope the kids will enjoy, including all the materials needed for them to put together a winter bird feeding station in my back yard.
For our Christmas celebration, we are blending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions. I had hoped for a theme of "The 12 Days of Christmas," which quickly became "12 Hours," until Daughter 1 had a better idea yet--"Why not make it the 12 Gifts of Christmas?" she asked. Perfect! With a different activity every hour, a different "gift" we can enjoy together, gifts of tradition, food, family, service and remembering the Savior, we'll continue the gratitude theme. From decorating Grandma's Christmas tree to making cookies and fudge, to a service project, and the "gift" of lunch at their favorite fast food place, we will laugh and have fun together. We'll end the day with hot chocolate and a Christmas program arranged by Only Son. And at the end we'll love each other even more.
And the more I think and refine the plans, the more I realize that this is how Thanksgiving and Christmas ought to be--one seamless celebration of family and the Savior who binds us together--and I am sure this will be the best ThanksMas ever.