True Traditions: Thanksgiving

Traditions absolutely warm my heart. There’s so much pride and meaning that goes into them, even if it’s the goofiest tradition in the world. In fact, I almost want to contest that statement. A tradition can’t be silly if it means enough to you to be repeated.

I wanted to start a new series here on my little Internet diary, and traditions were at the top of my list since most everyone I know can relate to them. Additionally, I’m at an interesting point in my life where I’ve had time to set and develop some of my own, one of which I’m sharing with you now.

Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays when I was a kid, though you wouldn’t believe me now. When I was little, I think I ate black olives and white rolls, and maybe a scoop of my grandma’s Jell-O salad, and it was still the best meal of the year. As I got less picky I started liking only the white meat on the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and then when I became vegetarian, Thanksgiving dinner became a lot of squash and sweet potatoes, risottos, vegetarian stuffing (which my mom calls dressing…what does your family call it?), and of course, still plenty of rolls. And pie. Pie is life now.

But as my diet changed so much over the years, so did my attitude toward Thanksgiving. It’s cliché, but when I was a kid, I didn’t have much to care about. Thanksgiving meant seeing my favorite cousins and eating rolls (beginning to see how my need and love for carbs came about) and not much else. Then, it became a lot of concerned “Well, what’s Chelsea going to eat?” because feeding vegetarians was oh so challenging and everything was such a big deal and avoiding attention at dinner made things easier for me. Nobody eats vegetable Jell-O, Grandma.

Until now, the tradition was Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. These days, we rotate the responsibility between G&G’s, or my aunt and uncle’s thirty minutes outside the city, or my family’s home. Whoever is hosting is usually in charge of the turkey, but my other aunt and uncle always bring something of a backup turkey every year just because they love the task. We got in a routine. My older sister would return from college for the occasion, and we’d all drink way too much sparkling apple cider than could be good for us.

I do remember a couple years when the routine was thrown, like going to church for a Thanksgiving meal or when we moved away and some welcoming family invited us to spend Thanksgiving at their house. When I moved to Minneapolis myself, I spent a couple years up north with my sister’s in-laws for the holiday. While I can’t thank them enough for the generous invitation, being with someone else’s family on such a day made me miss my family even more.

This year, it’s new again. My older sister is going up to her husband’s northern Minnesota family for Thanksgiving, and I’m headed back to Seattle, although to a much different meal. My aunt and uncle are in Hawaii, and my other aunt and uncle are hosting the grandparents an hour away, so the table this year is going to be my parents, not quite all my siblings, and me.

I guess this post comes down to the fact that despite being such a deeply historic holiday, my family has no real Thanksgiving tradition, beyond Mom baking like four pies just to make sure each of us kids has our favorite kind (I’m pumpkin all the way). Something is new every year, whether it’s the food that is served or the location that we’re eating it, but here’s a real cliché for you: this is why it’s important to recognize the significance of the day. Be thankful. I’m not one to preach, but training myself to think gratefully on the one day each year Americans have designated to do exactly that has been critically important to making the Thanksgiving holiday a happy one.

Since I’ve left home, it’s been fun to figure out what’s truly important to me; traditions I can keep or new ones to brainstorm and adopt. I can’t wait to share more with you over the holiday season! I’d be happy to read comments or emails if you guys want to share your thoughts on tradition, or even some special ones that your family has in place.

*Full disclosure, Grandma never tried to feed me vegetable Jell-O. I think I saw that in a movie.