Leftover traditions


My grandmother was methodical. Habits, like list-making and stacking anything and everything, lingered from her school librarian years. Her careful planning always started with the end in mind. Holiday dinners and their leftovers were no different.

Except this year. This year has been different in every way.

My heart breaks to think of how many seats at the table or around the fire are vacant, and how many traditions have stopped cold. After I indulged in a little extra pumpkin roll, I must have embraced Nan’s old mannerisms. I stacked a leaning tower of Tupperware in the refrigerator and planned for how we’d use the leftovers. Turkey noodle soup. Turkey pot pie. Sandwiches. For. Days.

When this pandemic began, I never thought we’d still be dealing with all of this during the holidays. Here we are, firmly in the season of fa-la-la-la-la, and we are still supposed to be social distancing. Normally, my grandmother would have staked claim on the cranberry sauce as a jam-like spread for those endless sandwiches. Now, I’m staring at the untouched congealed berries with no idea why we even made it. Except, tradition. I hope my grandmother’s nursing home served it Thursday, but I’m not sure.

 If 2020 has taught us anything—and hard lessons abound—it’s that nothing should be taken for granted. 2020 is different. In a lot of ways, it’s downright awful. Each day is also an opportunity to fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith. Cling to what is good, and toss out the old and tired conventions of conflict, complaining, and silent treatments like it’s moldy leftovers.

As the Tupperware moves from the fridge to the dishwasher, Nan (and tradition) would’ve insisted on making lasagna to mix up the menu. Since my pantry is less prepared for Italian and more ready for zombies, I’ll just call in a pizza.

New tradition: support small businesses and stack up memories.

Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, and beekeeper. She is the author of the newly available The Bird and the Bees, a Christian contemporary romance. Visit her at


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