Is it feeling like the holidays yet?

Is the weather where you are starting to cool off? Can you drink a cup of hot cocoa without feeling foolish? Does your chimney need cleaning (no, that’s not a euphemism)?

I just took a sweet potato pie out of the oven. It’s the first time I’ve made this recipe and I’m testing it on my friends tonight before I bake it for my dad. That’s what he wants for Thanksgiving. He’s always loved sweet potato pie, and it’s gotten so hard to find a ready made one any more. And now that Patti LaBelle’s pie has gone viral, it’s even worse. So, I took the sweet potatoes I was going to use to make a virtuous, fat-free, vegan stew, and mixed them up with a bunch of butter, sugar, eggs, and milk to make a pie. My family probably thinks that’s a better use of sweet potatoes anyway, so it’s feeling festive for them!

For me the holidays have lost some of their thrill. Thanksgiving was always my favorite because I loved planning the meal and getting up early to prep the turkey and cook and drink wine and boss everyone around. But now the day is just my dad, brother, husband and me. All the food comes from Trader Joe’s and I stick it in the oven to warm up. I still drink wine, though. And my husband, brother, and I hang out in my brother’s kitchen eating cheese until they go to the assisted living facility to pick up my dad and bring him back. Afterwards, maybe we’ll watch a movie or something, but it’s just not the same. Rinse and repeat for Christmas.

New Year’s Eve we traditionally spend with friends, at someone’s house, and we dress up and bring fancy food and it’s a lot of fun. That’s my idea of festive – gathering with people and sharing the day with food and laughter.

My old traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas just aren’t working anymore. I’m feeling frustrated because I’m ready to start new traditions with my husband, centered around our own home and city rather than requiring us to drive halfway across Texas. Or maybe traveling to experience the Christmas traditions of another culture. I’d love to have a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house, with friends who linger and spend the day and pick at the turkey until it’s time to eat again. We’ll all drink too much and play games and no one will want to watch the Cowboys game.

We’d be able to go to all of our friends’ holiday parties, even the one on Christmas Eve, because we wouldn’t have to leave town. We could sleep late on Christmas day and have lasagna for dinner, or go to Chinatown for dim sum, or wear our pajamas all day while we watch movies and drink mulled wine and eat cheese and crackers. In other words, we could just do whatever we damn well want.

I could decorate the house, and I wouldn’t stress because we’d be leaving for days. Instead of planning a portable menu, making hotel reservations, and getting the car checked out for the drive, I could bake cookies, go Christmas shopping, wrap gifts, and knit a pair of socks for my husband.

Anyone else stressing about the holidays? Are you imagining your ideal season? Or are you already enjoying your dream?