My Family Doesn’t Celebrate Thanksgiving

It’s not what you think. We’re not the super-woke family that boycotts the holiday as a form of resistance against colonialism, although colonialism absolutely does suck. I just got tired of eating off styrofoam plates and plastic containers.

Growing up, Thanksgiving gave my mom the opportunity to serve an elegant meal, cooked in all the fancy Rena-Ware pots, and served on all the delicate Princess House plates she slowly but thoughtfully collected through years and years of demonstration parties. You weren’t allowed to sit at the Thanksgiving table if you weren’t dressed properly. The men and children ate first, followed by the moms, who then lingered at the table for hours and hours of chisme.

Then I got married and the inevitable need to split holidays began. Let’s just say, Thanksgiving worked very differently at my in-laws’ house. Dinner happened at a long table so everyone could eat at the same time (cool!) and food was served on styrofoam plates (not cool). One year, everyone just got plain lazy and we didn’t even bother cooking dinner. Seriously. We ordered a full meal from Marie Callender’s and just popped that sucker in the oven. When it came time to serve, we didn’t even bother disguising our store-bought meal and just served ourselves straight out of the plastic take out containers. That was the last straw. This wasn’t even Thanksgiving anymore.

“We can do better,” I told both sides of the family. I made my case, noting that with the money we had spent on that lame Marie Callender’s dinner, we could feed the 60 men who lived at the Boyle Heights homeless shelter my friend managed. And that’s what we’ve done ever since.

Every year, we ask the residents what they’d like to eat on Thanksgiving. Some years they ask for a traditional turkey and gravy dinner. Other times, perhaps longing for a bit of their homeland, they’ve asked for tamales, pozole, and even barbacoa or birria. One year they asked for carne asada. We always oblige. It never costs us more than $300 to feed everyone.

It’s become a beautiful tradition that more and more relatives have joined in on as the years have passed. We cook dinner in the shelter’s kitchen, we serve it, we say grace, and we join the residents at their tables. The kids move up from roll duty, to entree duty, to drink duty as they grow. There are no cameras. No celebrities. Just a humble dinner and the joy of giving more.

As the residents leave the dining room to retreat to their quarters, they stop and thank us. “May God give you more,” they say.

“God already has,” I respond.

What do you think?

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