Happy Vax-giving

Rachel Levy Lesser
5 min readNov 21, 2021

I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I am calling it Vax-giving. I did not make that term up. I read about it in The New York Times Daily morning email last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then. I love a good play on words, and I really love a good made up holiday. Think Festivus (for the rest of us.)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My mother used to call it the “All-American holiday” noting that it was the one we celebrated that didn’t involve rushing to/home from services at the synagogue like we did for all the Jewish holidays. As one of the few Jewish kids at my school, I liked that Thanksgiving was a day I could celebrate just like everyone else in my class. I didn’t feel left out like I did in early January when all the kids came back to school after break with stories of dreamy Christmas mornings and the gifts Santa had brought them.

I also liked Thanksgiving because it was my grandfather’s birthday ­– every year. According to family legend, my grandfather was born on Thanksgiving day. I suppose someone could have looked up the date of Thanksgiving in 1908 but no one ever did. My mother hosted Thanksgiving for most of my childhood. A self-proclaimed terrible cook, she was good at making two things — a Jell-O mold and a turkey. Year after year we gathered around her beautifully set table in coat and tie dress code enjoying the one main dish my mother couldn’t mess up with side dishes and desserts made by other family members.

I took over hosting Thanksgiving 18 years ago, the year I became a mom, which was also the year we lost my mom. Armed with recipes from a family friend, I faithfully followed them to the letter with mild confidence in my cooking skills. That first year I almost cooked the turkey with the bag of giblets still in it until my husband got involved and violated (his word) the bird, making sure to fully clear out the cavity. That year also began the ongoing debates of gravy vs. cranberry (I am a cranberry gal), place cards vs. everyone pick your own seat and proper turkey cooking oven temperature, plus cook time per pound of the bird.

Us at one of earlier Thanksgivings with the fully cooked bird.

I suspect these sometimes heated conversations will unfold again this year in my kitchen as I prepare my usual dishes. This year will not be our biggest Thanksgiving, but also not our smallest.