Thanksgiving already? Time to dust off the traditions!

This is a repost from last year. I wasn’t going to post anything until after Thanksgiving, but while preparing for the big day tomorrow I’ve been thinking of my grandparents, and missing them very much. For me, the day is about celebrating my wonderful family, and honoring those who aren’t around the table, but they’re in my heart. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy your own family traditions. And if not, carry a little thanksgiving anyway!

Watching my grandfather carve the turkey was observing an artist.  Although he wasn’t a butcher by trade, he’d learned the skill working in his father’s meat market. The delicious aroma that came from my grandparent’s kitchen certainly made me impatient for the big meal, but Papa patiently waited for the bird to be just perfect, and then allowed it to rest long enough to avoid losing precious juices and then he’d get to it. With flourish and expertise he carefully separated the white meat from the dark, layering each piece beautifully on the plate, while sneaking a piece or two to my brother and me as we sniffed around like hungry pups.  Those few minutes watching him prepare the main event were as much a tradition as any other part of the Thanksgiving feast.

This is my grandfather, but i don’t remember this house. I love the formal setting. 

I think of him with love and remembrance every time the turkey comes from my oven. I have no doubt cooked at least three-dozen Thanksgiving turkeys at this point. And although I’m following a vegetarian diet, I can accept the need for a turkey. But maybe it’s because I have been reading entirely too many fantastic food blogs combined with the fact that I’m not the least bit sentimental about the other food traditions, I’d love to somehow change our patterns of predictability and maybe make our potluck family style dining a bit more formal for the occasion.

A simple personal preference! I have this inner dialogue for about two weeks every year, considering how we might make a few changes, but then I rightly conclude, it may be my house, but the Thanksgiving meal involves the whole village.  As I give up on my idea of a well-appointed multi-course meal I can almost hear Tevye singing “Tradition” and I acknowledge that if I mess with the goods I will ceremoniously be ushered out-of-town, or at least from my kitchen.

Two years ago my niece joined our table from France. My son positioned the laptop over the awaiting banquet, taunting his cousin with, “Here are Granni’s sweet potatoes, and here’s the stuffing, ambrosia, mashed potatoes…” Tradition! She played along, but I think it was a little cruel—except that without the wonderful smell it may have been a bit easier. The family is comfortable in this setting and doesn’t want a pumpkin soup first course followed by arugula, beet and goat cheese salad—and so on. I aimed for that one year.  I think that may also have been the year I noticed my nephew and brother throwing dinner rolls across the table to one another.

So tradition it is! I’ve already begun reconfiguring rooms to accommodate the fully extended dining room table while also scrounging for enough chairs to seat everyone. Every attempt is made to not completely overcrowd so that following the meal, according to another family tradition, there is room for a few rounds of competitive Scrabble and other favorite board games. Tradition also dictates a fair amount of time devoted to overindulging on pie and assorted sweets.

And that’s not all! It’s not just one big meal– it’s an event! We take the occasion seriously enough to do it again the following day. Yes, another family tradition—Thanksgiving Two! Originally instituted as a clever and amusing way to enjoy the leftovers we’ve been hosting this extension of the festivities for decades—probably in synch with the purchase of our first microwave. It was all about the leftovers.  But the family is now too large to rely upon leftovers, and new additions to the table including friends and family who are elsewhere on Thanksgiving One combine to too many guests for leftovers alone! So we will be cooking again! And they don’t know it yet, but on Friday, it’s my turn, and among other surprises, beets will be appearing in a salad!

I hope you all enjoy your own family traditions.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving One, and maybe even Two!  Debra

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44 thoughts on “Thanksgiving already? Time to dust off the traditions!

  1. This was a great re-post.. obviously I didn’t see it last year .. and it does give me a little more meaning into what you as Americans hold Dear to your hearts… a celebration I think that should be adopted throughout the world… maybe, just maybe, it might bring more peace to certain regions…

  2. This is great- I’ll enjoy thinking of all the family gathered round for 2 days worth of turkey, fun and games.
    Have a great few days, Debra. I’m thankful that we’ve ‘met’- I’ve learned so much from you :)

    • Our first Thanksgiving went well, Fiona. We enjoyed the time together, but I’m moving a lot slower today! :-) I will have to get moving soon to prepare for the next group moving in. Fortunately we mostly use leftovers for the meal! I appreciate your comment more than you know. The joy of blogging friendships is that we do learn from one another. My whole world has expanded and I so appreciate the perspectives you share with me! I have a fantasy that we will one day meet. Never say never! :-)

  3. Happy Thanksgiving. I wish we celebrated it here! I love the photo of your grandfather and the ceremony that looks like it’s about to take place in the carving of that enormous turkey xx

    • Wasn’t that a huge turkey in the photo, Charlie? I don’t think I could even purchase one this size today! We had a lovely day yesterday and now today I prepare for another group arriving later this afternoon. I make a lot of noise about the work, but once it’s behind me I always look back with satisfaction! :-)

    • It’s always a little chaotic, but at least we are together, and I enjoy that. My two granddaughters weren’t with us this year, but a new baby niece. We all focused on little Grace quite a bit, and celebrated a new life in the family circle. It was a very nice day. I have a lot of clean up to do today, though! :-) Thank you for sharing a bit of my day with me! oxo

    • Hope you had a nice day yesterday, Nancy. I suspect that you and I had the “warmest” Thanksgivings in the country! We ate outside picnic style! I didn’t share a lot about that…it almost feels unkind to highlight how warm and sunny it was! :-)

    • Thank you so much, Barbara. We had a lovely day. It was more like organized chaos than the formality and calm I remember about my grandparents’ house. But everyone has fun, and the celebration is about being together, and with that, it was a tremendous success! I do think the photo is a treasure, though. It’s such a snapshot of life as it probably once was in many homes mid-century! Thanks for sharing a little Thanksgiving with me! :-)

    • I slept in this morning for the first time in days, maybe weeks. And feel like a truck hit me, but also very satisfied. Everything was lovely yesterday and all the effort seemed to be appreciated! I never turned on my computer yesterday so this morning I’m surfing through seeing what everyone else did yesterday! I am going to see what’s happening in Helsinki in just a minute! :-) oxo

  4. Great photo. I agree I don’t care for potlocks. I think you can still do the formal traditional style but have a chef and a few sous chefs helping out so the burden isn’t on one person. Also, assign every family member with a little tasks–that’s the potlock I prefer!

    • I have a little saying with my family when it comes to eliciting help…”It’s like herding cats!” They try…it just doesn’t go very far. And my efforts to give us a bit more formal direction seems to stress others out. Yesterday was hilarious…I requested that everyone arrive early. I gave directions…The turkey was done 45 minutes before they arrived. The thing is that it finally hit me that this IS our family tradition. My expectations are quite low at the moment. LOL! It all worked out…and the rest of the day was lovely.

    • We aren’t nearly that formal any more either! We tend to put the food out on a buffet table and everyone takes care to fill the plates high…and return for more! LOL! But I do remember meals with my grandparents had a little more ceremony. Of course, the family was smaller, too, and that made it a bit easier. My adult son carved the turkey yesterday, in the kitchen, not at the table, and I did take photos! Thank you for visiting! :-)

    • I know my great-grandfather was a butcher, and I believe my grandfather worked with him at one point as well. I don’t know if their background gave them access to larger turkeys or back in those days larger turkeys were more plentiful. I have never seen one nearly this large. I’d be afraid to cook it. Our turkey yesterday was 21 pounds and was large enough….Every year I worry that I won’t cook it well, but it turned out to be a nice one! :-)

    • We would just love to have you come down for Thanksgiving! Why we haven’t been proactive in that I just don’t know! I think it’s because every year I feel like the date sneaks up on me! LOL! Maybe next year? We can circle the date on our calendars and I won’t be shocked. Ha!

  5. Touching memories and a great photo… Even that turkey looks majestic!
    ¸.•*¨*•.♪♫♫♪Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you! .♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ♥
    ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜”

    • I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, Eliz. We had a very full day and I’m sitting here trying to gear up to do it all again later today! Ha! But I have much to be thankful for. The photo of my grandfather amazes me, too, when I see the size of that bird! I don’t think you could even buy one that size today. And my oven wouldn’t be large enough to cook it! :-) oxo

  6. I’m so glad you reposted this from last year Debra. It was so very touching. As you know, I was thinking of my grandparents too. They are such special people and they give us such special memories. It’s so wonderful to know that there are two little granddaughters out there that get to enjoy you in the same way! :) I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving 1 and 2. :)

    • I wasn’t going to post at all, Kristy. Then I read your post about your grandparents and the selling of their home, and I got so wistful! After realizing that at least a couple more people mentioned their grandparents I realized that Thanksgiving will always be the one holiday I completely associated with my paternal grandparents. I had to dust off the previous post. You started it! LOL!

      We did have a great time. Lots of new memories, and we welcomed a new baby niece to the first of our Thanksgivings. That was very special to me.

      Now let’s have a good weekend before Monday rolls around, right? oxo

  7. Oh, Debra, I somehow missed this post. I wasn’t on the computer much these past few days and am just getting back onto “the saddle”. This was an absolute joy to read.

    What a wonderful treasure your picture is; of your grandfather, the extended table, your grandfather. I love the tie and the apron. No one seems to dress up for Thanksgiving like that any more. There is a funny family story about my father cutting his tie one with the knife one holiday. I need to visit that soon, but, I’m off track here. Tradition. It is something to honor, and you do it so well. It isn’t the formality of times past that make it so, it is the gathering of family and the “breaking of bread” together.

    There were only six of us this year, two being kids, so I only roasted a 12 pounder. It was delicious, but, not as many leftovers. Now, I must stop writing or I will be a big bore. Enjoy the rest of this weekend, Debra, and thank you for a post worth reposting.

    • I’m always so glad to hear from you, Penny. I know what you mean about being away from the computer. I am just now coming up for air myself! We had a good time with everyone, and we are never formal like the photo from “days gone by,” but it takes me a few days to recover from being in such an overly active state! Ha! The house is quiet this morning and that feels nice, too!

      I’m sure your smaller gathering had qualities that I do miss! We get so large that I don’t really visit with anyone. There isn’t time for the hosts to enjoy conversation! But it is only once a year, and for now, I’m grateful that I have the stamina to host it at all! :-)

      I’d love to hear the story of your dad cutting his tie! That’s hilarious! We all have little snapshots we hold in our mind’s eye, don’t we? And the holidays really do emphasize how we miss others. That’s for sure! Hope you can recalibrate today…that’s my goal, too! :-) oxo

  8. Two moments stood out in this post for me: your father sneaking you both bits of chicken as he carved – my father would have done very much the same – and Thanksgiving Two. Why settle for just one, when it only comes round once a year? Lovely repost, full of warmth. Thank you, Debra.

  9. Love the reference of your grandfather and care of the turkey. Even though I didn’t see the original post, it’s very repost worthy! :) Because I’m trying to catch up from being on the road for a few days, I hope you had a bountiful Thanksgiving and the joys of your beets & salad on Friday!

  10. Thanks for re-posting, Debra. It seems to me this bringing together of families while having a turkey for Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition to sustain the family bond.
    I admire your grandfather for being able to carve the meat as perfectly with great patience. I can understand it made a lasting impression on you. I am mostly vegetarian too but I love the sight of perfectly cut meat. Uta

  11. I hadn’t found your blog last year, Debra, so this was new to me and I loved it. I think the traditions each family gathers round its big celebrations are so important and to be discarded only with much thought and care. Of course we don’t have Thanksgiving here, but our Christmas traditions are just as valued and almost sacrosanct. :-) One of the things our children loved was creating our own pattern of Christmas traditions, a mixture of those from both sides of the family with our own additions. Now DH and I enjoy watching them do the same with their families. :-)

    • What a lovely thing to note, Perpetua, the melding of your children’s new patterns for family Christmas tradition! I think as I age I’m even more convinced that it’s important to hold onto some of the traditions and patterns that were important to me as a young child, but of course to make room for new ones. I am grateful that my children, as well as my brother’s children, seem to be very invested in keeping some of the traditions in place. My son, 35, asked me on Thanksgiving if I’d teach him to make my grandmother’s shortbread for Christmas. I really had to smile at that. But the new will be the addition of making some tamales for the first time! I am so glad you shared, Perpetua.

  12. Dear Debra, this repost about your grandfather and the Thanksgiving traditions of your home was lovely. Traditions, I think, provide security for everyone, especially for children. And for us adults, tradition is replete with memory. So I’m all for keeping traditions and instigating new ones when someone especially responds to a new experience. I hope your two Thanksgiving were joy-filled. Peace.

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