Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of them all, hands down.
For one, Thanksgiving seems to be the imaginary starting line for the rest of the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or just the season of giving and receiving, you can't deny that Thanksgiving usually gets the ball rolling. And no, I don't think Black Friday has any true part in the season.
For me, Thanksgiving represents home. For years, we have had Thanksgiving dinner at our house (when I say that, I really mean my parents house but it's still home to me). My mom and dad cook everything. My dad has his turkey buckets to brine the birds (this year we had 2 20-pound turkeys - yikes!). We have homemade baked beans. Homemade stuffing (I never even had StoveTop until I went to college). Pies. The works, really. Everyone comes over, we eat, we talk, and then everyone leaves and we have leftovers. For days.
But Thanksgiving is more than just being at my house and food. Thanksgiving is about family. 100 percent. Maybe it's not for some people, but where some families all get together for Christmas, we gather at Thanksgiving. It's almost like a guarantee. I have only missed it one year, and I'm not sure I could ever do it again. This is where I need to be on Thanksgiving, if only for the company of people I truly enjoy.
I get excited to put up my Christmas stuff each year, because I love what it represents. The holiday season has always meant family and a little bit of hope. Anything can happen around the holidays, if you believe.
When I was five, my mom had heart surgery. I can't say I remember much of what happened at that time, but I do remember that on that Thanksgiving, back when it was just my mom, dad and brother at home, there was a knock on the window. It was Santa, and he was there to tell my then three-year-old brother and me to behave so our mom could get better. He brought puzzles, and told us about the elves, and pointed out the reindeer in the yard - you couldn't really see any of them but there was Rudolph's red nose and their sleigh bells.
I know what you're thinking - Santa isn't real. But to me, he is. My parents didn't know at the time who it was that stopped at our house and knocked on our window that night. And Santa knew exactly the right things to say. Maybe years later they found out the man's true identity, but even if he is not really Santa Claus, the spirit he shared that November day is just what people need to remember around the holidays. It's not necessarily about getting the best deal or getting lots of stuff, but about being together and believing in something.
You don't have to believe the same things I do, but I hope that today, as the holiday season really begins, you remember to give thanks and to appreciate what you have. Share some joy and believe in great things. Holidays can be a hard time for a lot of people, but it's not about money or stuff - it's about who you are with and the memories you make.