Early last week I awoke to just the tiniest spitting of snow, but it was enough to prompt me to update my Facebook status with the single word, SNOW! I had posts telling me how warm it was at just that moment in Florida, where, we assume, the poster was. But such news of 86 degrees and flip-flops is to miss the point.
I was not complaining, I was extolling.
It was the week before Thanksgiving, a week of preparation and anticipation of the holiday season, and snow is an important part of that. My Czech friends celebrate St. Martin’s Day, November 11th. It is a feast day celebrating not only the saint but also the harvest, and it is also mid-November when snow first begins to fall. They say that St. Martin often arrives on a white horse and legend tells us if it snows on St. Martin’s Day, it will also snow on Christmas.
So, yes, snow in mid-November is a hopeful harbinger of the season to come.
For the first time in a while I am in the Christmas spirit, so I am in the mood to think about early snows, and new wreaths for the doors, and even as I write, my eyes are stinging from particularly pungent holiday home fragrances, the ones I purchased in frenzied sprees all over town.
I thought I would give the plug-in warmers and go—several of them—and this evening the Winter Wonderland Fir Forest is arm wrestling with the Cinnamon Apple Crisp, while the Bayberry Christmas Baby battles with the Holly Snowflake Soufflé —who knew snow smells?—I have made myself quite ill from it.
My little home is so overwrought with olfactory sensation that I had to leave the Christmas scented pinecones in the car or risk being done in completely. I know the exact date and time that my Christmas tree purveyor will open for business, I have collected several versions of the traditional Czech Christmas cookie recipes—the ones that look like little crescent moons—and I have researched the proper flour with which to make them.
But first, we have to get through tomorrow.
Or perhaps, I should say that first, we get to enjoy tomorrow.
Thanksgiving is the gateway holiday for all the tinsel and lights and baking and overspending and late-night wrapping and general hoopla. It has as its mythical center the table, and those gathered around it, and the main event is not so extraordinary—it is just a meal, and we have those all the time.
But it is a special meal and we go to some trouble to take care with the menu, to prepare favorite food, to pore over crumbling and spattered recipe cards, to honor and properly serve up the past on new dishes. We are to be gracious hosts and charming guests—guests who show up on time, keep the conversation light, who behave and use the right fork. Guests who should help with the dishes and at a reasonable hour, go home.
It isn’t so much a serious holiday, as it is a proportional one. We expect to have something good to eat, to be with family and friends, to share some laughs. There will be pie. We hope it goes off without a hitch, but if it doesn’t, there is always next year.
Or next weekend.
If you just didn’t get enough turkey, or you didn’t like the dressing, you can have a do-over, just about anytime you want. And if the company disappointed, you can sit down with better company, or sit down by yourself and not have to fool with anyone, and all that dressing just for you.
I have done this. Made another turkey, baked another pie, whipped up the sweet potato casserole the way I remember it, the way I like it best.
Christmas, when it disappoints, disappoints for good and all. We ask so much of it. Ask of it magic, and delight, we ask of it resolution of all old hopes and hungers and hurts.
But Thanksgiving is the adult in the room.
It is about feeding each other, which we may do in a myriad of ways.
Thanksgiving is appreciative and transitional, as the celebration of harvest ushers in winter.
I am going to enjoy it in the moment.
And then I shall go get my tree. I hope it snows.