Thanksgiving. If you think about that word for even a few seconds, your mind will quickly fill with memories of past holidays - the food, the conversations, the drama and planning, and then probably more food!
Thanksgiving stands apart from Christmas because of its focus - people. We are still focused on people at Christmas, but not in the same way. The meal is the main focus of Thanksgiving, and it’s not really so much about the food itself, but rather, what that meal represents - unity. So many differences get pushed to the side, even if temporarily, just so we can sit down at the same table and eat together. We stop caring about all the other stuff going on in our lives and we focus on that day, that meal, and those who are eating that meal with us. And it is that meal that has created all of the particular traditions that we continue to hold dear for this holiday.
Thanksgiving traditions didn’t come pre-set with the holiday. Unlike Christmas, we crafted the meaning of the day and the meal to be unique to us and our family. And even more amazing is that those traditions are all centered around being thankful and gracious, and passing that gratitude on to others - family, friends, even strangers. Especially strangers. (The best parts of Thanksgiving traditions are the aspects that involve helping others.)
I have a large extended family and (5) kids, so it all depends on who is hosting! It has always been in Lake Tahoe or Portland. This year, I am hosting in our new home - all our children, (even my son in college) my parents, and brother will be with us! We are very traditional in our Thanksgiving feasts - this means turkey and all the trimmings. One thing to note: my mother makes Tomato Aspic, and although we all gag every year, we still asked her to make it this holiday. Our must-haves on Thanksgiving are pumpkin and apple pie, the Thanksgiving Parade, and a football game! We always have scotch on hand as well, along with board games, puzzles, and a required family holiday walk!!! (This year with 3 dogs!)!
Our Thanksgiving is lovingly spent with family and friends, and of course, a football game in the background. I am grateful to have my sister living close by; I’m also grateful that she opens her home to our extended family. The main part of our meal has to be Turkey and the fixings, but we coordinate the remainder of the menu on the phone a few weeks ahead. I have fun searching for and sharing a new recipe, or twist on an old standard if I have the time. We are not blessed to have our parents with us anymore, but we still think of them throughout the day and share stories of past Thanksgiving's when we were all together - it’s our way of keeping them with us.
Helping others is one way to honor our loved ones, and is also a powerful way to show gratitude for our own blessings. We know that many families are in need of help during this time of the year. Even though we aren’t all able to volunteer our time, we can still support local charities that are helping those less fortunate through donating food or buying meals. This has become another fulfilling tradition from both our families as a way to give back.