It started off as jealousy. As an only child living with a single parent in Las Vegas, there was an unspoken rule about holidays: if we weren't invited somewhere, there was really no reason to cook a huge meal, and we'd end up in a hotel buffet line. On the years we were invited into someone's house, I would revel in the whole togetherness of it all. The idea of a large family coming together, complete with quirky relatives, kids running amok, and sometimes burnt food, but always smiles and love, was amazing to me. I always felt sad by the end of the night, because I knew there was no promise I'd be back the next year.
Maybe because I'd seen such a wide variety of holiday get-togethers, I was born with a deep love of hosting parties, and as I got older I was fortunate enough to be allowed to cook Thanksgiving dinner at other people's houses. But I still felt like an alien invader, or at the very least, Special Guest Cook.
When I moved up to the Pacific Northwest eleven years ago, I found myself scanning the local papers for the closest Thanksgiving buffet, and I realized that if I didn't make a change, I was committing myself to the role of Holiday Nomad.
My first job in Portland was overnight stocking for a big box retailer. It wasn't long before I started meeting more transplants like me, who couldn't get the time off to fly home for the holidays, or just plain had nowhere to go. I wanted to invite everyone over, but there was also the nagging fact that while we did get Thanksgiving Day off, most of us would have to be at work before sunrise the day after Thanksgiving. Since we were all night owls anyhow, I offered to have everyone over on the Wednesday night before the holiday. And so the idea of Midnight Thanksgiving was born.
A decade later we've all moved on to other jobs, and some of us have moved away, but our Midnight Thanksgiving is still happening!
We do what makes us happy, what makes us laugh together, and by the end of the night I feel like I've celebrated Thanksgiving in the best way possible: being thankful with my friends.
There is something magical about coming home from work and transforming my living room to hold 8-12 people, and by the time the clock rolls over to Thanksgiving, we're all sitting down together to eat a meal together. It doesn't matter that none of us are blood related; we're family, and we always have a place to go.
Because Midnight Thanksgiving is our tradition, we've been able to make it anything we want, and bring in new and silly customs. We eat on fancy plates, with a fully decorated table, but I encourage guests to arrive in their pajamas, or at least dressed as comfortable as possible. For the past few years following the feast, we've each donned costumes and posed for a ridiculous "family portrait." Instead of watching a football game afterward, we've taken to watching Riff Trax dubbed versions of movies we'd never see otherwise. We do what makes us happy, what makes us laugh together, and by the end of the night I feel like I've celebrated Thanksgiving in the best way possible: being thankful with my friends.
The next morning I'll wake up early and turn on the parade. Eventually my husband will join me and we'll heat up some leftovers and watch the National dog show. Later we'll call our families and hear the clanging of pots and pans and the chaos of their impending celebrations, but I won't feel jealous anymore. I finally have my own holiday tradition.