When I was a little girl, my family would celebrate Thanksgiving Day twice on the same day. We would go and have lunch at my aunt's house, on my mom's side of the family, and later we would go and have dinner to one of my aunts' house on my dad's side of the family. Years later, when I lived by myself in NYC while I was in grad school, I had various experiences on a day like this; from going to the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and later celebrating with a potluck at some friends' house, to hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner in my dorm room apartment.
Throughout my life I've experienced different ways of celebrating Thanksgiving and they've all had their charm. In my beloved Puerto Rico, even though we follow the American tradition, the menu has its variations. So instead of having turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, green beans and pumpkin pie as the tradition stipulates, we would have turkey with gravy, but the stuffing would be made out of ground beef with raisins, we would have rice with pigeon peas, potato salad, and pumpkin flan. Although I should add a year where I celebrated at a friend's house who's family was of Cuban descent, in which we had congrI rice or rice with black beans, Cuban picadillo or ground beef with many yummy things, yucca in a garlic sauce, green salad, the turkey (of course) and even pernil or roast pork.
Last year was the first time that I celebrated it after getting married and while living in my own apartment in Laredo, Texas, with my husband and with my dog, which made it a very special occasion. Back then I spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I was going to cook, in how to decorate the table and even in which were the traditions on my husband's family (who's American), to try and come to a happy medium, in which both of us would feel comfortable and with which maybe we could start our own family traditions.
In terms of the menu, there was a plethora of elements present; some traditionally Puerto Rican and others traditionally American, like mashed potatoes, a fruit compote and the all-american apple pie. To decorate the table I chose neutral colored placemats with some bling, along with white linen napkins, which made the table look simple but elegant at the same time, while integrating some candles and even a magenta Cymbidium orchid in the center, breaking with any traditional colors like ocres and oranges.
This year, I feel a little more at ease in terms of the planning and I'm concentrating on simply enjoying the day with family and friends, without going crazy and worrying too much about taking care of everything while making everything perfect, but in being thankful for all the blessings we have received once more, since we're expecting our first baby in the spring of next year.
I agree in the fact that we all want our homes to look attractive and to be ready for when company arrives on such a special holiday, but we should not stress out in order to make it a success. Focus on the house being organized and clean. Include some traditional home fragrance, like apples or cinnamon, distribute some candles and decorate the table with a pretty centerpiece.
Ultimately, what this Thanksgiving day should be is a day of reflexion, joy and one of sincere gratefulness for all the blessings received till this moment and for those that are yet to come. Life is not always perfect, but we have definitely been blessed. This day should not be one in which we focus on the blowout sales we'll find on Black Friday, but on really sharing with family and enjoying those moments together.
Whichever tradition you follow, and wherever it is that you'll spend the day, make sure you are grateful and that you enjoy it with your loved ones, and that this day stands as the start of an extraordinary Holiday season!