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Editorial: Did someone say 'pies and sides'?

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Thanksgiving dinner

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. If a traditional meal is too much, try pies and sides.

Just some recently observed holiday oddities.

Christmas items already marked down in stores across the region.

Neighborhood Christmas lights shining.

Black Friday sales — that started popping up in October.

“Elf” is running on television, and we could swear we saw “A Christmas Story” while scrolling channels last week.

Let it rain holidays, we say; but this Thursday, don’t forget to take a breath.

The expansion of Halloween into a month-long celebration, and the rush to Christmas sales on the traditional Black Friday — the one after Turkey Day — once had people complaining that Thanksgiving was getting squeezed out.

Pardon us for saying, but Thanksgiving feels more like road kill these days than a holiday stop on the way to grandmother’s house.

We won’t pretend to know what it all means, or make any grand observations about what it says about society. Rather, we prefer to make the case for pausing this Thursday, if just for a bit, to share some time with family and friends.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that makes no real demands on people. True, the folks who cook the traditional meal are busy in the kitchen, but we suspect that most do it because they love preparing meals.

Cooking, after all, is as much as about being creative and expressing love for those around you as it is work. And cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or onerous.

A new tradition we just learned about is “pies and sides.” (We first thought we heard “pies and thighs,” which also makes sense, but pies and sides is better.)

Rather than cooking a feast that takes days, the family gets together to feast on pies and side dishes.

“My kitchen rule, when my kids were little, was … five ingredients and no chopping,” says M.C. Morris, Fredericksburg’s assistant director of tourism.

As her kids have gotten older she’s amended the rules, but the spirit of the event remains the same. Time with family, a bit of good-natured competition (five ingredients and no chopping requires some creativity), and letting everything else just fall away.

And that’s the beauty of Thanksgiving. As Martin E. Marty, the beloved historian of American religion at the University of Chicago, was fond of saying: Thanksgiving is the perfect blend of religion and civil society. As such, you can bend the day to fit your family’s history.

Whatever food your family gathers around — turkey and ham, tamales and flan, tofu and quinoa — no one’s going to question your motivations.

You won’t find a war-on-Christmas-type debate around Thanksgiving. The hottest discussion that’s likely to occur is a what-will-it-take-to-get-that-recipe-from-you conversation.

OK, an official’s bad call that takes 30 minutes to review during the Detroit Lions game may elevate some tempers, but by that time, everyone’s generally too stuffed to make much of a fuss.

We Americans don’t get much right when we try to hammer out something everyone can agree on. But in creating Thanksgiving, we did.

We’re free to be ourselves and celebrate. We borrow the best ideas from family and friends to make succeeding Thanksgivings more enjoyable. And no one seems to give a whit about how any of it comes off.

Burn the bird? Feed it to the dog and pass the mashed potatoes.

Not enough seats in the house? They need a few more bodies for the touch football game outside.

A postprandial nap in the La-Z-Boy? Try not to drool on the fabric.

This Thursday, take a break. We’ll be with our families, and we hope you enjoy being with yours.

And if you decide to try pies and thighs, we mean sides, let us know.

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