As we turn the corner into the last half of November, we will soon be gearing up for another season of holidays and traditions. This is my favorite time of the year.
I love it all. The lights, decorating, delicious dinners, family events, stockings, baking, snow, celebration of faith, giving gifts, expressing gratitude, music, and taking time to help others. I always look forward to the beginning and I am always sad to see it end.
The arrival of the chilly weather of late October and early November usually coincides with the expansive roll-out of Christmas items as far as the eye can see in the world of retail. The stores begin to look festive and people everywhere begin murmuring about the tendency to forget about Thanksgiving in the rush to cash in on the Christmas traditions. Must each holiday be distinct from the other?
Thanksgiving as a celebrated holiday has had various traditions associated with it in multiple countries, with numerous dates. In the United States it officially became the fourth Thursday of the month of November by presidential declaration of Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Christmas memorializes the birth of Christ, but it may surprise us to know that the exact date of this historic occasion is a mystery. We do not know the day or the month, but it was likely in the fall of the year, and the calendar system in common use today was not even invented until 525 A.D.
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was hundreds of years after Christ’s life, in 336AD, in the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December.
Most things we have embraced as a part of the holiday season have come from culture, tradition, and individual taste, including when we choose to celebrate.
There is nothing magical about the dates that have been chosen for the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the meaning is found in what these holidays represent. For those who respect and celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, the festivity is everything from a great meal with family and friends to a sacred tradition.
But the rest is just details, including the custom of drawing an imaginary line between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
No two ideas could be more comfortably interwoven. Thanksgiving and gratitude can be expressed in the commemoration of anything we hold dear, and Christmas can be a great cause for thanksgiving. The two celebrations should complement each other beautifully. Their ideals certainly can be honored simultaneously.
If you have not already begun dreaming and planning your holiday season, let me offer you a gift from some of our traditions. Here is my tried and true recipe for Fudge Truffles. They are delicious, easy to prepare, and in festive wrapping they make fabulous gifts.
8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips (I use tollhouse)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of (salted) real butter
1 tablespoon of flavoring (vanilla, orange, almond, or anything you like)
Place the chocolate in a bowl. Combine cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, pour hot mixture over chocolate, let sit for a couple minutes, add flavoring, and mix until completely creamy and combined. Refrigerate until solid. Scoop out with a teaspoon and roll into 1” round truffles. Roll in any coating you enjoy, such as cocoa, powdered sugar, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, etc.
Whether it is making sweet treats, hanging decorations, singing carols, or gathering around a table of roast turkey and all the trimmings, the focus is not on any specific dates or limits on when we can honor what is important to us. Tis the season for decoration, let’s decorate our hearts with kindness. Less time being critical means more time living the ideals we commemorate with holidays. Overlap and timing won’t matter as much, if we allow people to see Christmas and Thanksgiving in our hearts all year.
I hope you enjoy the truffles and your holidays!