Holidays create some of the most profound imprints on our memory and recalling those memories with all of our senses brings certain feelings bubbling to the surface. We may not remember the details of our past, but for anyone fortunate enough to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holiday) in a loving home, we remember how the holidays felt. Sights or sounds or smells can draw out a sense of love and togetherness and happiness.
Living a life far away from those experiences, even when we try to recreate the holidays, can feel like something just isn’t quite right, and can put a damper on your holiday spirit.
I remember my first Christmas in Florida, with palm trees, no snow and flip flops. This was normal for the natives, but for me, a Michigan transplant, it just didn’t “feel” like Christmas. Over the years, I grew to understand it and get into the holiday groove. But whenever I went home and felt that cold northern air, my spirits lifted ten fold.
I love my life in Switzerland, but with the holiday season in full swing, I found, in my preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, something was off.
It wasn’t the turkey dinner. While whole gobblers just aren’t a staple of Swiss cuisine, we were able to order a whole turkey breast from the butcher. I was even surprised that, while standing in line to retrieve it, lo and behold, we saw two whole, small birds — for 113 Swiss francs. Yikes! Nevertheless, there they were. Whole turkeys. Maybe next year?
I was even excited about the preparations. I found a recipe for a delicious cranberry sauce that included port and cinnamon, an easy traditional stuffing, good old green bean casserole with trusty ingredients like condensed mushroom soup and fried onions I ordered ages ago from the online American food store and a super cheesy, new-to-me roll to serve called gougères. No, dinner was not the thing that had me feeling off.
And it wasn’t football. We would have great luck this year with the football games. We subscribe to a channel that offers American sports, which usually shows one NFL game (at a reasonable hour) each Sunday, the day of our Thanksgiving dinner. The game being shown was Dom’s favorite, the Miami Dolphins, (who won!). To top it off, on Thursday, they showed the traditional Thanksgiving game, my hometown Detroit Lions (who destroyed the Green Bay Packers. Woot!)
The thing missing, the thing that didn’t seem right, was the Thanksgiving Day parade. In the days leading up to Thursday, I searched for any indication that one of the parades would be streaming live online. They hadn’t been the year before, but you never know what could change. But no, there would be no Thanksgiving Day parade from New York City or Detroit on Thursday. I’m not sure why they don’t do this. I would imagine the advertisers might appreciate a broader online audience. Nevertheless, no parades. It felt like someone took a pin to my balloon of holiday joy and let the air out in a slow leak. I love the parade. I can’t remember a year without it. It’s the one thing that shouts from the rooftops, this is a day to celebrate.
So without the parade, Thursday, aside from some good football, would be just another day. So I used it to decorate for Christmas. I put in one of my favorite movies while the girls napped, The Holiday, and did a little baking.
Then I remembered YouTube.
Some wonderful person out there uploaded the entire 2012 Macy’s parade. Hooray! It would be a little dated, but who cares. There would be marching bands and the Rockettes and Snoopy and Santa Claus. And miracle of miracles, that same angel did it again. This year’s parade was available by the time our Sunday Thanksgiving dinner came around.
Suddenly, I was an excited little girl. I couldn’t wait to fill the apartment with the sound of drum lines and trumpets. It may seem a little exaggerated to call a parade a miracle. But I say someone who does something to lift another’s spirits, is miraculous. There were quite a few people who gave this YouTube person huge praises for bringing a little feeling of home to those who live around the globe. And I said my own thanks.
Sunday came and everything went perfectly. The family came over in the early evening and we all watched the Bern soccer team tie Basel, a better team who had just beaten, for the second time, one of England’s powerhouse teams, Chelsea. It was a great game. Everyone took turns playing with the girls. Dinner was done on time and edible with the parade playing, through the TV hooked up to our computer, in the background. It played to my, and the rest of my family’s delight (Sophie kept dancing around saying “I love marching bands!”). After dinner, we watched the Miami Dolphins beat the jets and snacked on coffee and a pumpkin roll that came out successful and yummy after having eluded me for years. Aside from the rest of our family being across the ocean instead of in our living room, and some too-crispy green beans, it was a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
The day would still have been nice had we not had the parade, but with the festive American sights and sounds, it felt, to me at least, like more than just a nice dinner. It felt like a holiday, a celebration, it felt like home, like maybe I was helping to create a special memory for my girls, it felt like I was a kid again surrounded by love and the special things that make the young and young-at-heart jump up and down at the sight of giant balloons and marching bands.