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Why I Didn’t Celebrate Thanksgiving This Year

I skipped Thanksgiving this year.

Sure, I gave thanks in my own way, but my Thursday was spent huddled on the couch, eating pizza and watching episodes of “The West Wing.”

Adam Avitable's Thanksgiving dinner

This hurt my mother’s feelings. I know this, and I deeply regret it, but I couldn’t do it. The idea of traveling even those forty-five miles to the family homestead to sit at a long table and eat turkey and mashed potatoes with the fifteen or so family members that would be present was a smothering one. A family of regular attendees to one of my comedy shows invited me to their home, but I couldn’t do it. My next-door neighbor welcomed me to his home to join his family for their feast, but even those twenty steps from my door to his was too much. I mumbled a thanks and told him I’d think about it, and I’m sure when the pizza guy showed up in my driveway, he knew my answer.

I don’t know how I’m going to make it to Christmas this year. It may be selfish to avoid family and friends and remain alone on the holidays, but when every fiber of my being is screaming and telling me to leave, to just fly somewhere for a few days, to escape and hide until the holidays are over, I have to listen. If it’s being selfish to make sure that my sanity and emotional security remain intact, so be it.

My problems with the holidays, along with organized religion and political dogma and people who say “well, you just should” and the reason I question everything boils down to a distrust of tradition. I don’t like rituals or things that just happen because that’s how they’ve always been done. Many people find comfort in the mindless ritualized nature of much of our society, but I don’t.

We had created our own traditions, ones that we were slowly building over the twelve years we were together. The ornament once a year, the presents getting opened a week early, the cookie baking – all traditions familiar to everyone, but they were done in our own way. And I murdered those traditions in one surprisingly quick and easy divorce.

What’s the point of building new traditions by myself? I won’t be single forever, and I derive absolutely zero pleasure from celebrating something alone. It’s not a matter of depression – I just don’t see the point in celebrating without someone around to celebrate with you.

Why participate in the old traditions? That’s not who I am anymore. I’ve been affected in several, measurable ways since I became single. I’m not the person that my family knows anymore. I don’t want to be that person, and I need to move on from it.

Maybe I’ll get there. This will only be my third Christmas and Thanksgiving since the end of the world, and with every holiday, I’ll figure out who I want to be on Christmas. Who I want to be with on Thanksgiving. And if it turns out to be “a guy sitting on a beach in Mexico by himself,” that’s a tradition I could probably get behind.

43 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Celebrate Thanksgiving This Year”

  1. I get it, I really do, and sometimes I want to run away as well. But then I think about Gregory and my dad, and what I would give to spend one more second sitting at a table with them. That’s when I know that if I’m not with my family and friends, I’ll really regret it when the day comes that I’m truly and completely alone in this world.

  2. In a perfect world I would completely skip Christmas, but I have a husband and kids who won’t let that happen. We skipped Thanksgiving this year and spent the day at Disney and then got food at Ale House.

    My Mom and my sister were both diagnosed with cancer the week before Thanksgiving. Can you imagine the dinner conversations? I’m on the phone with them every day because they are 1000 miles away.

    I don’t like the pressure to “do” and “be” and all the other stuff that comes with a holiday. Pretending can be exhausting.
    Your holidays right now are what’s right for you. Maybe, someday that will change and you’ll be ready for it.

  3. As long as you’re happy. But I do hope you realize you don’t need a significant other in your life to enjoy the “traditions” of holidays with your family, and your friends, and with people who love and care about you, even though that was what you were used to before. 🙂

  4. I understand and you know I do …but agree with Kim. This could have been Papa’s last Thanksgiving and you just couldn’t be there. Mom’s feelings weren’t hurt …she doesn’t really care anymore except for the fact that Papa is your last grandparent and you can’t make time to see him just to socialize even during the holidays.

    1. And how does sitting at a table with him while we eat food have any significance beyond a purely superficial one? Gramps knew I loved him even if I hadn’t seen him for two years before he died.

      1. I disagree with the premise “…knew I loved them even though we hadn’t seen each other in…” To me love is an action word and part of the action is showing up, being present … etc. I think the love word is thrown around too casually and in reality should conotate action. It’s easy to think fondly how much we emotionally care for someone in our mind now in then. Real love is effort. My opinion.

  5. We all have to balance out our family obligations with our own lives and what is the HEALTHIEST choice for us. For example, I’d rather shoot myself than sit through a Thanksgiving with my inlaws, and I don’t care if one of them were dying or whatnot. You have to ask what is derived from it and for whom.

    If you have relatives you should visit, and want to, then you can do that on another weekend. If you don’t, and it’s literally about everyone else but you and for you it’s miserable, hopefully your family will understand that to hurt you for their benefit isn’t in anyone’s interest in the long run.

    Traditions can be made on your own. They’re not about other people in your life, they’re about enjoying your life. If you don’t want any? That’s OK. Are there traditions I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have a family? Yes. But there are a lot I would have regardless too. It’s all about enjoying the season how you want to enjoy it. I bristle at organized religion and being told what to do too. It isn’t an either or situation, and you can pick out the stuff that you like just for yourself. 🙂 Even if it’s on a beach.

  6. Most holidays are like most communal celebrations – the exist to benefit others more than the honoree. Funerals are for mourners, birthday parties are for the guests, Christmas is about making your children (or parents) happy.

    Sometimes going hermit for the holidays is the right thing to do. (And I’ve done it, trust me.) But sometimes the right thing to do what will make someone else happy. Showing up for dinner, handing out turkeys at a shelter, or even getting someone else’s kid a toy they can’t afford can go a long way to making holidays happier.

    Either way, choose what you think will help you make it through this rough time of year. I just hope your choice is a healthy and fulfilling one.

    1. I give to charity and I give to people in need. I help out people who need it, and I give my time freely in that capacity. That, to me, has nothing to do with the idea of tradition and mandatory face-time with family.

      I need to do what makes me happy first. Doing something that makes me miserable for the sole reason that it makes someone else happy is not healthy, ever.

  7. Sometimes you have to just buck up and be a grown up, Adam. I feel like skipping holidays every once in awhile. They are stressful sometimes but I really enjoy every opportunity to get together with family. It’s not about the turkey. It’s about things, like Meagan said, being there for Papa. Take it from me, you don’t want to miss those moments.

    1. That’s kind of a bullshit reply, and exactly the type of response I rebel against actively. “Just because” or “it’s your family” or “that’s what adults do” is not a reason.

      Imagine if people actually worked towards being happy for the holidays and enjoying the season rather than laying guilt trips on everyone else – it would be amazing!

      I had a fantastic Thanksgiving, and I spent it completely alone. I’m not at all sad about that, nor do I regret that I did it.

      1. I don’t think it is a bullshit reply, I just thing we have different views on happiness. I wouldn’t consider being away from people who love me. Life is too short to sit in your underwear. But for you? It’s your bag. You go with it.

    1. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my post. My spirits were higher than they’ve been on Thanksgiving in a long time. I had a fantastic day that was relaxed and calming and exactly what I wanted from a holiday that is generally a stressful and anxiety-ridden day.

      I didn’t pull away from anyone that I loved. I chose not to spend a holiday with them. You may be reading more into this than you realize – I’ll spend time with my family anytime they want to come here to visit or if I’m in their area visiting.

  8. I get what you mean. I’ve tried for years to convince Tyler that a Christmas spent in Bonaire with just us and the kids would be perfect. But, he loves his family and needs them and, honestly, I love them all, too. They’re a great bunch of people (except for that one branch of the family who went rogue and became Southern Baptist). I wouldn’t need the Christmas tree or the presents or any of the traditional Christmas crap. I would be around them just because and for them, the holiday is a good excuse to get together.

    Make your own tradition. But, speaking as a mother, knowing her son is by himself and possibly sad, was probably a bit too much to bear. Just saying.

    1. No, the divorce didn’t leave me heartbroken. It was just the end of a world with which I was very comfortable, and it was a big shock.

      Some people get strength from their families. I’m not one of those people – my family is my family, but they’re not a source of support or unconditional love or strength. They’re a place that every decision gets judged and criticized and nothing is ever good enough, and I’ve decided that I’m the one who controls if I want to be a part of that or not.

      I see families that do unconditionally love each other and I think it’s fantastic. I don’t have that, and I never will, and that’s okay. I’ve figured out my own path.

      1. I respect that; thank you for the thoughtful reply to my reply. I would simply caution about too much selfish thinking… they say suicide is also a very selfish act.

        1. There’s a distinct difference between taking care of one’s self first and being too selfish. I have to make sure that I’m happy and healthy before I can take care of anyone else. If everyone did that, we’d be a better world.

      2. I hope you do find a connection with at least one person that offers that kind of unconditional support and love – put together your own “family” to support you. And sooner rather than later, because you’re too sociable and connected to other people to spend a lot of holidays alone. I wouldn’t want the solitary holidays to shift from empowering and enjoyable to lonely and bitter.

  9. I love being alone. I love my family, and spending time with them, but I truly love my few and far between times of solitary. I think if you prefer to spend those familial times alone then make up for it in other ways at other times to strike the balance of not being a selfish prick and be happy.

    Now as far as traditions go, fuck waiting. Form your own traditions that mean something to you and look forward to the day when you get to let someone new in on them.

    1. I think it’s the insistence that I participate in the traditions that makes me want to hide, not the holidays themselves.

      Did you read the explanation in HuffPo by the CEO of Papa John’s? He explained how his words were taken out of context by a reporter who was pretending to be a student.

  10. This was an interesting post. I have a close friend who has said similar about the holidays, and it has always kind of hurt my feelings that she didn’t want to spend the holidays together, even though we are both living many thousands of miles from our families. I’ve always put gentle pressure on her to spend the day with my husband and me, but I won’t anymore. Thanks for putting it in a way that helped me understand – this will make the holidays better for both of us.
    I’m glad you spent the day in a way that made you happy. xoxo

  11. I get it. I really do. There are all these expectations put on the holidays for no other reason than, as you put it, “just because” and I think that’s ridiculous. For me, Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday because it is just a time to get together with the people you love (family, friends or both) and just eat good food and spend some time catching up before you all pass the fuck out on the couch. But that’s what I do with those people normally. We just add a turkey on this one particular day.

    Traditions for one are kind of pointless, especially holiday ones. Those are the things that you share with someone you love. My question is this… can YOU not be that person you love? And maybe that Thanksgiving (insert word similar to tradition here) is simply loving yourself ENOUGH to not force yourself to do something you aren’t going to enjoy. Eat shitty pizza (although I do have a secret love for their garlic sauce left over from my stoner days…). Watch something good on TV. Love…ahem…yourself. I’m not faulting you for any of that.

    My only suggestion is this… you say that your family no longer knows you, that you are a different person. Have you given them a chance to know and like that person? Because he’s kind of awesome… And yes, saying you have to spend time with them just because it’s a holiday is bullshit. Spending time with the people I love makes me happy, whether they are family or friends. On top of which, I genuinely ENJOY spending time with my family and that’s not the case for most people, I know. Just remember…you won’t be by yourself forever. Try not to let the part of you that LIKES spending time with the people you love get lost.

  12. I spent the day eating bacon and waffles and watching movies. It was absolute bliss. Holidays aren’t mandatory! I also resent the whole “calendar says X so we must do Y” way of thinking. Total nonsense.

  13. You’re going to suck as a Freemason. Those fuckers thrive on tradition and rituals. Nice to finally find your site again. I met you at Blissdom Canada, and maybe had a few drinks, but I thought you told me a different name. Wait. Were you trying to avoid me?

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