Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Wake for a Bird

The Holidays. Several weeks of worrying about travel, embarrassing relatives, forced conversations with people with whom you have nothing to talk about. Sure, there's some quality eating to be done, but after your end-of-year "vacation," you're looking forward to getting back to work, right?

OK, I get along great with my family, but this is the kind of lament that, if you haven't experienced it yourself, you know people who have, and do year after year. Wouldn't it be nice to have the good part of the holidays (that is, the food) without the obligations of family?

I propose a new annual tradition. Every year, friends should gather and have a huge meal. Thanksgiving turkey-with-all-the-trimmings minus the "Thanksgiving" part. Because every tradition needs something more than "that day we all stuff ourselves silly," my proposal is to hold a good old-fashioned wake. The guest of honor? Why, the deceased, of course. The reason we're all assembled. The turkey.

The organization of a wake is a personal thing, of course, but if I might make one suggestion, it would be for each diner to say a few words in the departed's honor. If each eulogy is accompanied by, say, a shot of whiskey, I certainly would not disparage. The whole idea is for everyone to enjoy the occassion, so have fun with it. Give the turkey a name, make up a back-story, share personal anecdotes. And don't worry if different people's stories are inconsistent.

So, when should this new holiday be held? Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas (or your solstice-adjacent holiday of choice or custom) would perhaps be ideal, as a lighthearted break from holidays steeped with long-held traditions of no real immediate relevance. That might not be practical, however, depending on your and your friends' travel plans. Besides, after Thanksgiving everyone is sort of burned out on turkey. A few weeks beforehand, however, and you can justify it as a Thanksgiving dress rehearsal. You might even get some interesting ideas for new dishes to add to your family's Thanksgiving, if you're willing to brave the silent or vocal scorn of your relatives, for whom it's just not Thanksgiving without the same menu as the last century of Thanksgivings. And that's almost reason enough to hold a Turkey Wake—new side dishes, a new kind of gravy, stuffing made with cornbread instead of regular bread; the possibilities are endless!

I hope that this year you'll hold a Turkey Wake, with as many friends as you can. And spread the word. Next year, I want to see a line of Hallmark Turkey Wake cards, tacky cardboard decorations in all the supermarkets, and Turkey-Wake-themed songs on the radio. The following year, I want to hear people complain, "It's not even Halloween, and already they're putting up the Turkey Wake decorations!" This thing is going to be huge.

Feel free to leave your own ideas, including for a better name than "Turkey Wake," in the comments.


Isaac Ji Kuo said...

"Autumnal Turkey Meet"

Julie said...

Funny! I actually do host a Fall Dinner every year, right before Thanksgiving before we go visit my parents for the actual Thanksgiving holiday. It's my biggest dinner party. I'm looking at smoked turkey this year now that I have a smoker. I should ask some of my funnier friends who like to ham it up if they want to "roast the bird." ;)

Michael Marsh said...

@Isaac: Not "Intersolsticial"?

@Julie: Cool! If you do have a roast for the smoked bird, take pictures. I haven't decided whether I want to push for semi-formal attire (I don't personally like getting dressed up in general), since it adds a sense of weight to the proceedings.

Isaac Ji Kuo said...

I started with "Turkey Meet", or "Autumn Turkey Meet", but they sounded too much like hunting events. "Autumnal" seemed to strike the right implication without being too obtuse.

"Intersolsticial"? Do you want this thing to catch on or not? Besides, that isn't specific enough for an annual event.

Ivy said...

At least you said that you like your family... And I think you were being too kind. Some of the more distant ones are "dread-worthy" at holiday time. I should know.
This is a great idea - don't be surprised if you receive an invite to one at our house right after Halloween. We could call it "Big Bird's Big Day" and really upset the kids by making them think we're eating Big Bird.

Michael Marsh said...

I hardly ever have to see the more distant relatives, fortunately, and never at Thanksgiving or Channukah.

Regarding Big Bird, that's just cruel. If I didn't think it'd traumatize the girls, I'd say it's a fantastic idea. I think the CS crowd is on board with this, and I'd probably do a dinner-and-gaming version (Marco will insist on sweet potato casserole), so I may be in for a lot of turkey. Of course, I'm not complaining.