Thankful, Schmankful: Why Thanksgiving Is the Absolute Worst

As the main provider of Thanksgiving in my family, I should probably not admit this, but I cannot wait for Thanksgiving to be over.

The actual idea behind Thanksgiving itself—being forced to be thankful—has never sat right with me, but my disdain for forced thankfulness got a whole lot bigger when I somehow ended up being the host of Thanksgiving dinner for not just one (mine) but two (also my husband’s) families each and every year. I love a good family function, and I actually love hosting family get-togethers, but there is something about Thanksgiving that puts me on edge and makes me dread the second week of October.

Maybe it’s that Thanksgiving is really a non-holiday that has never felt sacred to me. In Canada, it falls early in October when most of us are not ready for a holiday yet, and it really is the result of three traditions that Canadians mixed together and called Thanksgiving.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that it is the first major holiday after the kids go back to school and the first (really, only) major holiday that all my immediate and extended family members gather together in one place.

Or maybe—and this is most likely—it has to do with the pressure I put on myself year after year to somehow reinvent the boring wheel that is Thanksgiving dinner. How a seemingly simple turkey dinner for thirty of our closest family members became my yearly nemesis I will never know, but it has. Year after year, no matter how much I prepare and plan, something always goes wrong.

In our families—who are full of lovely, lovely people, by the way—we are blessed with a vegan, a few vegetarians, some no-wheat/no-dairy dieters (by choice), ultra low-carbers (by choice), and everything else in between…and that’s just the adults. We also have kids whose food can’t touch, kids whose food HAS to touch, gravy-lovers, pickle-haters, and everything else in between. And I have to come up with a menu that everyone can indulge in and enjoy year after year.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: have a potluck and call it a day. But in our families we don’t, and we never have, and we probably won’t ever start a potluck tradition. We take turns hosting and, for better or worse, the holiday of Thanksgiving is mine to host for life.

Lest you think I only complain, I do try to make the best of it. I have taken it upon myself to learn from my many, many failures and mistakes. Like the mistake of buying two sacks of potatoes and not opening them until the day of our Thanksgiving dinner, only to find they were all moldy (a very sad, potato-less year for our families). That same year, I learned that Tofurkey cannot masquerade as actual turkey no matter how much gravy you ladle on it.

I have learned to check the size of my roasting pan and the maximum weight my oven can hold BEFORE I thaw a thirty-five pound turkey. It was the first (and hopefully last) time I broke an oven.

I have learned that beer-can turkey and deep-fried turkey are not to be tried for the first time when you’re expecting thirty guests (those poor low-carbers) and that my sister’s allergy to shrimp is a real thing (I’m so sorry, Lizzy!).

Listen, in the end I GET what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s about being with the ones you love, sharing your time and attention, and re-connecting as a family through simultaneously eating, gaining ten pounds, and discussing how ham and fish are really not acceptable substitutes for turkey (I don’t know WHAT I was thinking that year).

But for me, Thanksgiving is none of that.

It’s about months of menu and décor planning that end in some type of cooking disaster I never could have seen coming, rounds and rounds and rounds of dishes (where do they all come from?), exhaustion, and leftovers that I just can’t give away.

I love my family, I love that we have an abundance of things to be thankful for, I love that they can laugh at me, and I LOVE that I get to have so much warmth and connection in my own home.

I am thankful—I swear. I just don’t like Thanksgiving.

image: Getty/Jodi Jacobsen

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