Apologies in advance to all you tender vegans and lettuce eaters out there, as well as all other sensible folk. But the holidays, as my grandma just reminded us yesterday, are about feeling terrible. What I have observed from my perch here in the west/midwest is Very American. First you spend several days stressing out about whether the green-bean casserole is just like it has been for the past 75 thousand years and the red jello dessert thingie sets. Then you stress about family management. Who sits where; acceptable and banned conversation topics. Then it's time for some nonspecific, freeform stress. Soon comes The Day of the Great Devouring, and everyone gathers around a leafed-out table with extra chairs crammed in and a card table next to it for anyone under 60. Everyone eats as quickly and as much as possible. There are three kinds of meat, four counting the organs in the gravy. Turkey makes you sleepy. You watch football and doze off. You eat again. Have coffee. Eat dessert. Go home. Eat leftover dessert. Go to bed. Next day, at five a.m., the Shops in America open! It's time for Christmas. Buy stuff! It's on sale! People line up seven deep all the way around the Target building twice. (I've heard this from a reliable source; I was not there, shopping scares me.) The line to pay for your bargain all-purpose holiday gift items reaches the back of the store and takes more than an hour to get through. But you saved a lot of money! And now you have stuff to appease the expectations of the Christmas people. You have behaved correctly. You are an American! Eat some leftovers. We are proud.
Damn, this is fun! We should do it every year.
p.s. I should clarify that it's always fun to hang out with my particular family once the hanging out actually happens. They're pretty cool (although a little crazy), and I'm not just saying that because they're my primary blog audience. (Hi guys!) It's just the prelude to the hanging out that astounds me, and I think that's probably universal.