Thanksgiving has taken on new meaning for me since my brain surgery. Near-death experiences tend to change your perspective.

My experience of American Thanksgiving before the pandemic revolved, like many celebrations do, around food.

I only had one “normal” Thanksgiving after my surgery, which was spent with my husband’s family and a huge buffet of Thanksgiving dishes. In the beforetimes, I enjoyed spending Thanksgiving elsewhere. Growing up, we always traveled for Thanksgiving, so I was never involved in the meal preparation aspect of the holiday. My experience was seeing family I rarely saw otherwise and eating food prepared by others. There’s pretty standard fare at American Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie…

When we visited my dad’s family (of Spanish heritage), there was also lasagna (which I grew up thinking was a Spanish dish) and Caldo Gallego (which actually is a Spanish dish). When we visited my mom’s family (of Irish heritage), there were lots of interesting vegetable sides (and lots of adult beverages).

So, as an adult, my idea of the perfect Thanksgiving was going somewhere else to eat food made by other people.

But when the pandemic hit (with no signs of ending by the holidays last year), we knew we’d be home. Alone. Just my husband and me (our daughter was with her biological father). So, we reevaluated Thanksgiving dinner. As it turns out, we both craved simplicity. I decided to focus on making a couple of key things from scratch: my mom’s pumpkin pie recipe and my grandmother’s Caldo Gallego. We’re not huge fans of turkey, so we got smoked turkey legs instead that just needed reheating. Stuffing and gravy are musts, but those were easily made from a box and a jar. Mashed potatoes were optional and available on-demand thanks to a package. Per my husband’s request, I also made a simple candied yams recipe (because that’s his memory food).

We enjoyed each other’s company, watched movies, and relaxed. We reflected on the many blessings in our lives. We learned to value the little things—the simple joys.

And thus, a new tradition was born.

That is my preferred celebration of Thanksgiving now—the literal giving of thanks. It’s about gratitude for those simple joys and the many blessings in our lives.

One of the things I’m grateful for is having a job that I love. And I’m grateful for all of our readers who support the books we create.

So, whether you celebrate American Thanksgiving or some other holiday this time of year, thank you for your support. I am truly grateful.

And as an expression of that thanks, click here to read one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories—“Snow Day” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch—for free this week.

And because the day after American Thanksgiving is when some of us in the States turn our thoughts immediately to Christmas, let me take a moment to remind you that the WMG Holiday Spectacular Calendar of Stories makes a great gift (and actually starts on Thanksgiving Day!)

Click here to go to the Calendar of Stories sign-up page and read more about it.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, safe holiday season full of joy and love.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.