Linda Merlino

In the land of Christmas customs resides a lesser-known festivity called

Thanksmas. Born in the late nineties after a phone call from my first born confessing he

wanted to spend Christmas in North Carolina with his girlfriend’s family. Eyes wide open

I could see the future, two more children almost grown making the request to spend

Christmas with a special someone’s family. I understood and began by breaking the

calendar’s traditions. I pulled a page from “going-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” and merged

two holidays into one.

Out came the Christmas dishes in November. The tree stand appeared a month

early. We bought a Douglas fir two days before Thanksgiving, wrapped her in lights and

ornaments, stepped back and grinned. We mailed invitations to family and friends

explaining that our annual Christmas Eve party had been tweaked and fast-forwarded.

The usual guests responded with glee and those that once declined because of Christmas

commitments said they would be there for Thanksmas Eve.

A menu evolved. The pick of the pick topped the list. Rule one was a no hassle holiday. Skip the crowded

stores and markets. No standing in line or stressing over gifts. The stockings would be hung but

Santa would not be coming down the chimney. Improvising at every turn we would make

our celebration a perfect blend of two favorites. Magic may have played a role and

believing that the date did not matter as long as we were with people we loved.

The kitchen hummed. Leftover turkey found a spot in the back of the fridge. The

dining room table, where we served our sit-down Christmas Eve dinners, had a fresh

tablecloth and was transformed into a buffet. Serve yourself was the only rule. Hot loaves

of Italian sausage bread were paired with platters of antipasto and baked clams. Shrimp

scampi, eggplant, chicken cutlets and pasta shells stuffed with ricotta teamed together for

a feast. All of these selections once reserved for the night before Christmas morphed into

a free-range kaleidoscope of crowd-pleasers. We added a table of just desserts, chocolate

mousse, tiramisu, mocha chocolate chip cheesecake, apple pie, and platters of homemade

cookies and fudge to name just a few.

There were candles in the windows, and along the path to the freshly hung wreath on the front door.

The atmosphere grew thick with Christmas music played throughout the house. Snow fell on our first

Thanksmas Eve, and on several that followed, the powdered crystals frosted the landscape as white as

any holiday greeting card.

Our unique celebration has become a family favorite. For many years we

alternated with the real Christmas, but now since I live in North Carolina we circle a date

on the calendar every year, sometimes in November and more often in December. The

family has grown with more faces at the table to love and more gingerbread hands to

carve and bake. Our recipes are much the same as our first Thanksmas, truth be told, we

may modify the date, and monkey with the name, but prefer not to change the menu.

Blessings to all and to all a good night.