February 2, 2023

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Holiday Rituals – The New York Times

I’m in love with the Thanksgiving season of my imagination, the one with families and friends cozily gathered around a table crowded with the season’s harvest, children with mittens on their cuffs jumping into piles of leaves. Christmas shopping, cheesy movies where people fall in love over steaming cups of cocoa. It’s a prototype, a fabricated template for traditions that doesn’t accurately reflect anyone’s reality, but which I think we all riff on in one way or another and create our own versions of a meaningful season.

What makes the holidays special are the rituals reserved only for us, those household or person-specific things we do each year that are never captured in a Norman Rockwell painting. They are personal, idiosyncratic, maybe even a bit boring.

Maybe it’s screaming in front of the TV while watching football on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for you. Maybe it’s a long walk with the whole family at dusk at 4:30pm or an afternoon volunteering. A friend told me that her most enduring seasonal tradition is to clean her garden and get rid of any dead leaves before the first snow comes.

In 2016, Frank Bruni wrote in The Times about a family whose holiday gardening results in a vase full of branches onto which they glue leaf-shaped pieces of paper with words of gratitude, creating a grateful tree. Frank recognized his own family in this very specific tradition: “The rituals vary, but the bond with them does not,” he wrote.

Holiday rituals change depending on the circumstances. At the height of the pandemic, we scaled down our gatherings, left hand sanitizer for Santa and conducted “What I’m grateful for this year” recitations over Zoom. Some of these changes remain, while others are undone.

What’s your ritual the weekend after Thanksgiving? Does it involve trying to perfect the proportions of your ideal leftover sandwich at every meal? Like me, are you trying to read as much as possible to average a book a week by the end of the year? Is there something you do every 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 feature some of them in an upcoming issue of The Morning.

🍿 Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (until Tuesday): I sometimes lament the stranglehold that the franchise/expanded universe mentality has on filmmaking. But then writer-director Rian Johnson says, “I think I’m going to do two sequels to my lovely crime film Knives Out,” and what should I do? Again starring Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, this sequel, the first of the two, runs in theaters for a few days before disappearing and reappearing on Netflix just before Christmas.

📺 Slow Horses (Friday): In this Apple TV+ series based on the spy novels by Mick Herron, Gary Oldman stars as Jackson Lamb, the rude and regularly drunk MI5 agent who runs an office for incompetent and disgraced British agents directs. The first season of this feisty and wryly funny show premiered earlier this year and only runs six episodes, so the catch-up is relatively small.

Good morning, do you hear that little tap-tap-tap coming from your kitchen cupboard? It’s your soup pot that begs you to turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into velvety turkey barley soup with lemon. Cristiana N. de Carvalho’s recipe is very simple – a gentle blend of barley, herbs and soup vegetables. Even if you can’t think of another turkey dish right now, you should still make this soup. It freezes perfectly and is just what you want when the low winter winds are howling. Always listen to your soup pot.

Stalemate: The US team held their own against football heavyweights England and fought their way to a draw.

A stunner: Iran beat Wales 2-0, scoring both goals in added time after the Welsh goalkeeper was shown a red card.

No more work: A migrant chased the promise of a job across Qatar’s capital.

Star Power: The Athletic saw the world’s best players on football’s biggest stage. That’s how they did it.

Today’s games: Argentina take on Mexico in hopes of recovering from a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia earlier in the week. Follow all games.

Michigan No. 3 and Ohio State No. 2 college football: When these rivals meet for their annual season-ending game, there’s always a lot at stake. This year they are as high as possible. Both teams are unbeaten for the first time since 2006, and the winner secures one of four berths in the College Football Playoffs. Michigan’s fast play has been elite, while Ohio State has one of the best quarterback/receiver combinations in the country. By a measure, they have the two best defenses in the country. So who has the advantage? It may be due to nature. “When the weather is bad,” a Big Ten coach told The Athletic, “Michigan plays into their hands very much.” Eastern on Fox this afternoon.

See also: A century ago, the Michigan coach planned to disqualify the Ohio State quarterback for the season. These letters show how he did it.