A Bay Area Family’s Traditions
On Thanksgiving day, we were invited to the family dinner of a friend of mine. I’ll call her family the Greens. When I say that they rented a youth camp for their family dinner for Turkey Day, people go “What?” Yes, the Greens are a large family. Make it five siblings here, five cousins there, children, spouses, parents, uncles, aunts, handful of friends. Give or take 80 people present.
Aside from the anecdote, the real reason I want to write about the Greens is their incredible family traditions. Here are four generations of a family getting together three or four times a year, just for fun – not only for funerals. No matter how far people live, no matter how too-cool-for-school they are, they all get together and enjoy the moment.
Halloween Pumpkin Carving Party
It all starts in October with a pdf flyer emailed to a long list of Greenses. One of the cousins throws a pumpkin carving party in San Francisco. On the face of it, it sounds pretty easy but you still need to find a space to get them all together with food, drinks and music. This year, it was a picnic area at the Golden Gate Park. I got there pumpkin in hand at 3pm. There were already dozens of Greeneses carving away, chatting, eating and drinking. Tables were set up with kids activities, Jack’o Lanterns pattern books, carving tools and bins for composting. It was only the middle of the afternoon but the party went strong into the night since the idea is to light the Jack’o Lanterns. Last year the Greens gave their own version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on pumpkins in a backyard. No harm was done for purposes other than to carve impressive designs.
As we’ve seen, Thanksgiving is a challenge: the 80-people sit-down dinner indoors. The youth camp option has a lot of pluses: professional kitchen with several ovens and twin-bed size fridges; outdoor space to run around; two outdoors fire pits, one fireplace inside; public restrooms outside; big parking lot; cabins in the hills for overnighters. Again, the shindig starts with a pdf invitation emailed to the Greens family. The invitation sets the mood right away: “When: Thanksgiving Day (duh!) – around noon (dinner starts at 2pm).” Leave your formal self at home please! It was a potluck Thanksgiving and as the invitation predicted, it worked out just great. Catch of the day: 3 turkeys, 2 hams, fireworks at nightfall. Even the teens and younguns didn’t leave right after dinner. That’s sayin’ a lot.
Christmas Tree Beach Bonfire
That’s the January Greens family Burning Man project. Everybody brings their dried-out pine trees to Ocean Beach in the evening. It’s pitch dark, kind of cold. Kids play in the sand. One of the Greenses is in charge of cooking the cioppino, this San Franciscan seafood stew right on the beach. Others barbecue oysters. The rangers come occasionally to check that the Greenses have their bonfire permit – which they do. Flames go up high in the sky and it feels warmer. We gravitate around the fire depending on the winds, like everybody else. It’s a great night to be out on the beach across from the Beach Chalet.
When the Greens are in great shape, they also organize a July 4th camping weekend in the sierras. As you can see, these guys sure know how to throw a party. How’s that for traditions? (by the way, the photos are blurred because I intend to get re-invited. It’s not because my camera’s autofocus is kaputt.)