I’m in love with the Thanksgiving season of my imagination, the one with families and friends gathered cozily around a table overflowing with the season’s bounty, children with mittens fastened to their cuffs jumping into piles of leaves. The holiday shopping hustle, cheesy movies in which people fall in love over steaming mugs of cocoa. It’s a prototype, a manufactured template for traditions that doesn’t mirror anyone’s reality exactly, but on which, I think, we all riff in one way or another, creating our own versions of a meaningful season.
What makes the holidays special are the rituals particular only to us, those household- or individual-specific things we do every year that will never be memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting. They’re personal, idiosyncratic, maybe even a bit boring.
Perhaps for you it’s screaming at the TV while watching football on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s taking a long walk with your whole family in the 4:30 p.m. twilight or spending an afternoon volunteering. One friend told me that her most steadfast seasonal tradition is cleaning her garden, getting rid of all the dead leaves before the first snow arrives.
In 2016, Frank Bruni wrote in The Times about a family whose holiday yardwork results in a vase full of branches to which they affix leaf-shaped pieces of paper with messages of gratitude, creating a Thankful Tree. Frank recognized his own family in this very specific tradition: “While the rituals vary, the attachment to them doesn’t,” he wrote.
Holiday rituals change, depending on circumstance. At the height of the pandemic, we shrank our gatherings, left hand sanitizer for Santa, conducted “What I’m Thankful for This Year” recitations via Zoom. Some of these changes stick, some revert.
What’s your weekend-after-Thanksgiving ritual? Does it involve trying at every meal to perfect the proportions of your ideal leftover sandwich? Do you, as I do, try to read as much as possible in your effort to average a book a week by the end of the year? Is there something you do each year that you think everyone else should adopt?
Tell me about your personal holiday rituals, the more specific the better. Include your full name, city and state and I’ll share some in an upcoming edition of The Morning.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (through Tuesday): I sometimes lament the stranglehold that the franchise/extended universe mind-set has on moviemaking. But then the screenwriter and director Rian Johnson says, “I think I shall make two sequels to my delightful murder mystery film ‘Knives Out,’” and, well, what am I to do? Once again starring Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, this sequel, the first of the two, is playing in movie theaters for a few days, before disappearing and reappearing on Netflix right before Christmas.
📺 “Slow Horses” (Friday): In this Apple TV+ series based on the spy novels by Mick Herron, Gary Oldman stars at Jackson Lamb, the rude and regularly sozzled MI5 agent who runs an office for incompetent and disgraced British operatives. Season one of this brisk and dryly funny show premiered earlier this year and runs only six episodes, so catching up is a relatively low lift.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Turkey Barley Soup
Good morning, do you hear that little tap-tap-tap from your kitchen cupboard? It’s your soup pot calling, asking you to turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into a velvety, lemon-spiked turkey barley soup. The recipe, from Cristiana N. de Carvalho, is straightforward in the best possible way — a gentle mix of barley, herbs and soup vegetables. Even if you can’t bear to think about another turkey meal at the moment, you should still make this soup. It freezes perfectly, and will be exactly what you want when the deep winter winds howl. Always listen to your soup pot.
Stalemate: The U.S. team held its own against the soccer heavyweight England, battling to a draw.
A stunner: Iran beat Wales, 2-0, scoring both goals in stoppage time after the Welsh goalkeeper had received a red card.
No more work: One migrant chased the promise of a job across Qatar’s capital.
Star power: The Athletic watched the world’s greatest players on soccer’s biggest stage. Here’s how they did.
Today’s matches: Hoping to bounce back from a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, Argentina faces Mexico. Follow all the matches.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State, college football: The stakes are always high when these rivals meet for their annual end-of-season game. This year, they’re as high as can be. Both teams are undefeated, for the first time since 2006, and the winner is sure to get one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. Michigan’s rushing game has been elite, while Ohio State has one of the country’s best quarterback-receiver combinations. By one measure, they have the two best defenses in the country. So who has the advantage? It may come down to nature. “If the weather’s bad,” one Big Ten coach told The Athletic, “that plays into Michigan’s hands in a big way.” Noon Eastern today on Fox.
Related: A century ago, the coach of Michigan schemed to get Ohio State’s quarterback disqualified for the season. These letters show how he did it.