In this post, I’ll use as my starting point David Nilsen’s Tips for surviving your next family holiday gathering. I have four items:
1. David says: “The perfect eggnog is the key to familial harmony. If you’re a teetotaler and you still attend family holidays, you have my respect. For the rest of you, pay attention because these next steps need to be followed very closely: 1. Mix 4 parts egg nog with 1 part bourbon in a vaguely snobbish glass. 2. Stir well and sprinkle with nutmeg. 3. Clink glasses with family member sitting closest to you. 4. Repeat until you like them more.”
I’m a teetotaler these days, but I can identify with alcohol being something that can promote comaraderie. I used to enjoy my cousin’s home-made wine, which he brought to Thanksgiving. The peach brandy also put me into a pretty good mood, and I missed it on the Thanksgivings when it was not there! But there were years in which alcohol actually hindered my enjoyment of the Thanksgiving holiday rather than enhanced it, since I came to Thanksgiving with a hang-over from my drinking the night before. Nowadays, as a teetotaler, I have to find other ways to enhance my comaraderie with others. Fortunately, I’m not the only one in my family who doesn’t drink. In many cases, during my drinking days, I was the main guy drinking on Thanksgiving!
2. David’s second tip is to select the movie that everyone will watch. Movies can definitely enhance one’s enjoyment of Thanksgiving. I fondly remember one Thanksgiving in which we watched True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. That was fun, even though American Movie Classics was editing some stuff out! Another Thanksgiving, I brought a movie, but nobody wanted to watch it. It was the movie that was based on Frank Peretti’s The Visitation, and I brought it because some people in my family had read and enjoyed that book. But, come to think of it, perhaps my family was right not to want to watch it, for the movie isn’t very good (unlike the book, which is fantastic).
3. David says: “Topics that must be avoided at all cost or you deserve to get a fruitcake thrown at your head: 1. Next year’s election 2. Last year’s election 3. Unconditional election 4. Anything else related to politics or tulips”
Politics can be a touchy subject, since my family is predominantly Republican, but there are a few Democrats. I like to discuss politics, for (to be honest) I have a hard time talking about much else. Politics is for me what sports are for a lot of males. But often, for the sake of family harmony, it’s better not to bring politics up.
4. David then talks about the prayer at Thanksgiving. He lists four types of prayers. The first three are the pompous one, the preachy one, and the flattering one. But I could identify with the fourth type of person who gives the prayer: “The one who has spent the last several years questioning and reconstructing their faith and no longer feels comfortable praying in public, and will at this point be trying to hide behind the microwave stand and dissolve into the wallpaper so the host won’t see them. There will be me.”
That happens to be me, too. I’m often asked to give the opening blessing at family gatherings, since I’m the student in religious studies. But I often don’t feel like giving the opening prayer. For one, I don’t know what to say. And, second, I’m one who is questioning and reconstructing my faith. But, come to think of it, I’d probably be resentful if I were not asked to give the opening prayer!