Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

Now that Thanksgiving is just behind us, we’ve reached the official start of the Christmas season. Some may argue that, by the looks of the store shelves and sales flyers, the Christmas season actually started the day after Halloween. Even my Holiday Hits music station went from “The Monster Mash” directly to “Santa Baby” without missing a beat. It always baffles me why retailers and the world in general seem to be in such a rush to pass by one of the best holidays of the year.

For my family, days don’t get much better than the fourth Thursday in November. It begins with my husband and me mashing potatoes, prepping the sausage dip and making green bean casserole while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade plays on TV. Our dog’s job is to stare at the kitchen floor and wait patiently for something — anything! — to drop.

Over the years, the kids have figured out that, if they sleep in long enough and time their showers just right, they’ll come downstairs in time to grab a light breakfast and watch the parade a bit before we head to my husband’s parents’ home.

The Thanksgiving meal at my in-law’s includes all of the traditional elements: turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies — if you’ve seen it in a Butterball ad, it’s on their table. They also include lefse as a nod to my father-in-law’s Norwegian heritage and a Filipino favorite, lumpia, to remind my mother-in-law of her home. That’s one of the many great things about Thanksgiving — you can personalize the meal and the festivities to make it extra-special for your family.

When I think about Thanksgiving, I think about games. One constant of Thanksgiving is the game of football. It always seems to be playing in the background throughout our festivities on Thanksgiving Day and at my side of the family’s gathering on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Risk and Mahjong are often played at our Thanksgiving Day get-together and our Saturday games have ranged from Bingo to Outburst to Pass the Pig. No matter what game we play, there is always plenty of laughter and memories being made.

One of the primary reasons why I’m so drawn to Thanksgiving is because it’s all about family. There are no gifts exchanges or egg hunts to distract us from what really matters. Family doesn’t need to just be immediate family, either. You can catch the most holiday joy by throwing out the family net far and wide. Invite the cousins, the in-laws, the friends that you love like family. The more the merrier isn’t just a saying, it’s a fact! After needing to make our celebrations smaller last year, being able to spend time with all of our loved ones is the reason we should all give thanks.

That leads me to what makes this holiday truly exceptional — gratitude. Over the last several years, the world has become so skilled at giving us exactly what we want exactly when we want it that we’ve started to expect it in all things. When anything less than perfection leads to disappointment, you know it’s time for a re-set. Thanksgiving reminds us to stop for a moment, look at all we’ve been given, and give thanks for those blessings. Viewing the world with grateful eyes is a life skill that I believe should be taught at a young age and relearned regularly.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates family, food, fun and games and, most importantly, gives us the opportunity to show appreciation for all of these gifts. While the disease of entitlement seems to be spreading around us like wildfire, we can quell those flames with two magic words: thank you.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter.