In spite of the fact that Thanksgiving is not a Venezuelan or a Spanish holiday, I have always loved this day. I remember it clearly from my New Yorker days and I’ve always loved the idea of putting all our focus on the things we’re grateful for. Of course ideally we should be doing this daily, but it’s so nice to have a day to really let these feelings wash over you. This year, I was working late on Thanksgiving, but my blissful moment full of gratitude came a few days later when I was putting up our Christmas tree. Those of you who know me know perfectly well that I simply love Christmas. I have my mamma to thank for that. She always went the extra mile to make it special for me. Although great presents were always a sweet part of the deal, she focused our holiday season on some pretty cool traditions. We would always put up the tree on December 1st, we would watch Home Alone while our Christmas food was cooking, we made angel shaped cookies that were hand painted with icing to give to our friends and neighbors. We bought toys and wrapped them up to take to the poor neighborhoods in town, we made and wrote Christmas cards, we sang carols on my mom’s old piano, and mastered The Twelve Days of Christmas with overlapping voices. We ate yummy food, made Christmas ornaments with tons of glitter (which would still be around in the Summer!), and spent time with each other. Long after she was gone, I continued as many of these as I could, making her favorite recipes and of course putting up that beautiful tree with the ornaments we had once chosen together. Of course I’m going to show you this years’ tree and tell you about my little moment of giving thanks, but before I do, I want to show you the original trees, I’m talking old school baby pictures here! These are some of the ridiculously strange Christmas trees my mom used to improvise when we didn’t get a real one. Feel free to laugh out loud!
Here’s crazy looking tree number 1! We didn’t have a traditional tree that year so my mom improvised, found some branches and somehow this was the result. I was clearly amused… and look at all those presents!
Crazy looking tree number 2! I have since named this one the Dr. Seuss Tree, and it’s clearly my favorite! Less presents that year but boy do I remember it as one of the best Christmases.
Then my mom decided to go a bit more classic and got us this beautiful white tree which we had for years and years. We also got new ornaments that year, angels and music was the theme.
Crazy looking tree number 3! Possibly the craziest one of all. Made out of a hoola hoop and ribbons! That’s right! We were spending Christmas at the beach and didn’t have a tree, so my mom got some scissors and made this strange concoction. It was the most fun we ever spent decorating a tree. There were twinkle lights behind the ribbons which filled the room with their colors at night.
Crazy looking tree number 4! This was one of the last Christmases my mom and I spent together. Although it might look like an ordinary tree, trust me, it wasn’t! My mom had been in the hospital earlier that month, and we hadn’t had time to pick out a tree. By the time we did, all that was left were two scrawny looking trees with hardly any branches left on them (and the rest fell off on the way home!), so we went back to see if the guy had any leftover branches. He filled a bag for us, we went back home, and my mom, my now hubby (then new beau) and I created this woodsy creature. Cindy, our old little pomeranian rescue loved sleeping under it, and our Nala was just a puppy and decided that this Christmas present was for her to open right then and there.
On this December 1st, while my hubby watched a football match, and Nala was sleeping next to him, I decorated the tree. I put some carols on like my mom used to do. I felt my heart getting tiny and filling my chest at the same time. I put up the twinkle lights and thought of how lucky I’ve been, of how grateful I am for this little family of three that I have. I felt thankful for the friends that have been my family and for my husband’s family who have taken me in like I had always belonged there. I felt grateful for my students, for living in this incredible city, for having delicious vegan food on the table every day, for being healthy. I looked over at my hubby and Nala on the couch and felt my heart jump. I felt grateful for having had possibly the best year of my life, of now being vegan, of the new friends I’ve made, of finally surrendering and accepting that what I have is simply perfect, that things could stay still and I would be happy. Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” came through my earphones as I placed ornaments on the tree. I thought of my mother and let a few little tears fly. I placed her favorite ornament on the tree last like we did every year, a rickety old wooden unicorn with little roses in his hair she had had since she was a girl.
There I was, in the middle of Christmas songs and surrounded by twinkle lights, celebrating Thanksgiving.
This officially means we’re kickstarting the holiday season today, with whatever that may mean to you. I’ll be sharing stories, photos, giving helpful tips for new veggies, I’ll be sharing my family’s Christmas recipes (in their vegan version of course!), and so much more. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are getting ready to be festive and joyful this season. We’ll be right here celebrating with you!