Our stories, our traditions make us who we are.
Now that the busy holiday season is in full swing, we thought it would be a perfect time to reflect on the traditions, memories and moments that make holiday get-togethers so special for each of us. A few members of our team share theirs below.
Growing up, although I was loved, I missed belonging to a large family. My friends had large extended families nearby and had big Sunday dinners. My nearby family was small, but everything changed on Thanksgiving! My older sisters came home with their families in tow, my Uncle and Grandmother came from New York and stayed for the weekend. We sat at one large table, feasted on my Mother’s wonderful turkey dinner and teased her about her famous burnt dinner rolls and shared dessert, hugs, kisses, games, dreams of Christmas. All was right with the world, and we were all blessed with the wonderful sense of secure belonging that only family can bring.
One year, we had “I am thankful for” place cards at the table. Each one had an arrow pointing to the person next to you and you had to say why you were thankful for them. It was a fun way for us to connect with each other.
Thanksgiving is always one of my favorite holidays! I’m very lucky to have my whole family close by, and we all get together for Thanksgiving dinner. Many years ago, we started a traditional Hand Turkey competition. Everyone created a fun, unique hand turkey – starting with a trace of your hand – and may the best turkey win! The creativity was flowing, and the competition was ON! The themes varied each year, and the submissions never ceased to impress. Lots of laughs and tons of fun were had by all!
We always take a walk on a local trail after the Thanksgiving meal. After all that food, it’s nice to get outside and move a bit! We pile our family and any guests into several cars and caravan to a favorite walking path along a river and just enjoy the outdoors. We often take a family photo while on our walk and use it for our Christmas card.
We hold hands before the meal and say what we are grateful for this year. Sharing our difficult, challenging times as well as our happy and successful moments that we encountered along the way reminds us how blessed we are.
In the last several years, my brother has woven drumming into the grace we say before dinner as a way to pay tribute to Native Americans and in particular the Wampanoag, without whom the Pilgrims would not have celebrated their first Thanksgiving. He uses a large frame drum, traditional to Native American ceremonies and rituals, and then we say grace, inviting everyone present to share something they’re grateful for.
We have an old Thanksgiving tradition in my family…when it was time for dessert, we would turn on the Christmas music for the first time. Mitch Miller was always a family favorite. We still hold to this, even today!
My parents always made the holidays feel so special, and Thanksgiving was a time of warmth in our household. I remember being surrounded by homemade goodies, football games on the television, good music and groups in deep conversation or laughter. All were invited – family, friends and neighbors. Overall, there was feeling of comfort, acceptance and happiness!
For many years, we had Thanksgiving at my childhood home, but eventually, my mom downsized, sold the family home and moved to a senior community. So last year for the very first time, our family actually spent our Thanksgiving at a restaurant. Mom had always been resistant to the idea, insisting that “Thanksgiving should be held at home.” However, the food was amazing, and more importantly, we all had time to enjoy each other’s company – with no preparation and no cleanup! So now for Thanksgiving, instead of making a dinner, we make reservations.