Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Family Traditions: Thanksgiving

Growing up, Thanksgiving was full of ritual-- the same foods every year, pretty much, the table set with the nicest dishes (usually china), and the family wearing our best clothes. We also had guests over many times, which was nice because it kept everyone on their best behavior. (Usually.) As a kid, I remember loving Thanksgiving the most out of every holiday, even birthdays; or maybe that's because my birthday was right around Thanksgiving, and every few years fell right on it. Either way, I loved the smell of the food cooking, the bustling around the kitchen, the chatter of guests and the dressing up and using our "special" dishes and table settings... We had turkey, stuffing, jellied cranberry sauce, olives (for the fingertips, of course), corn, mashed potatoes with my mom's famous gravy, dinner rolls, candied sweet potatoes-- the kind with the marshmallow topping-- and of course, dessert. We had pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, and sometimes apple pie. It was a crazy huge feast, and we would have leftovers for days, which was probably the best part of the meal. :)

For our family, I think I'd like to keep the formality of Thanksgiving dinner, but change up the meal a bit every year. Maybe we can keep the turkey the same, but I really have this driving need to have different dishes each Thanksgiving. For instance, I can't stand pumpkin pie-- but I love pumpkin cheesecake and other pumpkin-related dishes. The last few years, I've made pumpkin cheesecake in a gingerbread crust, pumpkin squares, pumpkin cake, and so on. I think I'll keep that tradition going; a new pumpkin-related dessert every year. Or maybe not even pumpkin-related; I'm getting all crazy in here! I also like to try new stuffings every year, and make homemade cranberry sauce-- it's more of a chutney, actually-- and I think I'll stick with that as well. I did find this unbelievably delicious green bean dish that is to die for, and I think that might be a staple for the next several years... is that how this tradition thing gets started?

I'd also like to add some meaningful rituals to our Thanksgiving, to really get the most out of the special day. There were two great ideas in the book. One was the "Thankful Box": Make a cardboard box with a slit in it the week before Thanksgiving; everyone writes down things they're thankful for, then people take turns reading them aloud during the feast. Another idea was "Thank-You Notes": The week before, have everyone write a note or two for special people who won't be joining you for dinner (anyone from Coach to Grandma); at Thanksgiving, have everyone say a few words about who they thanked, and why. I think it's really important that our family remembers to have gratitude and to practice showing it and telling each other how thankful we are for each other. And besides, it feels good-- to hear it, and to say it.

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