I Will *Never* Cook Turkey on Thanksgiving — Plus, 8 More Holiday Rules I Proudly Break

published Nov 18, 2023
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thanksgiving table with menu of dishes: some sliced quick bread on cutting board, a nice green salad, a bowl of garnished mushroom soup, a stuffed roasted pumpkin, sliced open, gold servingware and flatware, and glasses of wine
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

I don’t fly on holidays, because I prefer to see my family when it doesn’t cost the equivalent of a mortgage payment to enjoy their company. Besides saving money, this also means that on most holidays, the only person I have to please is myself. I love eating homemade apple pie, creating goofy holiday cards, stuffing stockings, and decorating the tree. Over the years, my little family of four has slowly dropped every tradition and expectation that doesn’t bring us joy (I’m looking at you, Elf on the Shelf). Here are a few holiday “rules” and customs we break — with zero regret. 

1. I never cook turkey. 

I don’t confine the turkey ban to Thanksgiving — I absolutely never spend money on the driest of dry birds. We usually eat short ribs instead because they’re easy to prepare in the slow cooker and red meat is an infrequent treat at our house. When I tell people this, they look at me the same way they do when I say we never did the Santa thing. Yes, it’s true.

2. I celebrate Christmas, but I never pretended Santa was real. 

My kids have still had a magical childhood, I promise. In fact, they once set out treats to test the Santa hypothesis and were delighted when the cookies he didn’t eat were still available to them in the morning (they generously left the carrots for the grown-ups to enjoy). 

3. I never make anyone say what they’re grateful for. 

I quickly learned that nothing makes my children feel less thankful than having to announce their gratitude to the table.

4. I never have fresh flowers on my tablescape. 

Cut flowers are a slimy hassle, and I’d much rather enjoy candlelight

5. I never cook anything on the actual holiday. 

If I can’t make it ahead, it’s not a holiday food. 

6. I don’t dress up for the holiday meal. 

At our house, we treat holidays like the very best Sundays, when all plans are canceled and we can wear pajamas all day, eat pie for breakfast, read by the fire until our necks hurt, and then binge-watch Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. We do eat at the table, but we wear whatever we want. 

7. I don’t do any *extra* cleaning. 

I can’t enjoy the holiday if the house isn’t tidy, but I’m definitely not cleaning guest bathrooms or scrubbing baseboards

8. I never wake up early on holidays. 

We have nowhere to be, so there’s no rush. (And my kids are adolescents, so they don’t barge into the bedroom at dawn on Christmas morning anymore.)

9. I never host a party. 

I’m always tempted. “Wouldn’t it be great if we hosted a friendsgiving this year?” I say. But then I remember I would have to wear real clothes and actually clean my bathrooms, so I backtrack. We usually host a casual party with close friends in the weeks leading up to the big day, but the actual holidays are reserved for our own beloved eccentricities. 

What holiday “rules” do you break? Let us know in the comments below!