Traditions of Thanksgiving

By Becky Schlofner

By the late 14th century, the meaning of “tradition” was solidified to mean “statement, belief, or practice handed down from generation to generation.” The holiday of Thanksgiving has changed over time from being more than just a day to honor the first dinner the Pilgrims celebrated with the Native Americans who had saved them; it has become a celebration of all the things we may be thankful for in our lives. We celebrate Thanksgiving not only with the traditions passed down to us through the generations in our own families, but also with new traditions we enjoy with our friends. Let’s see if we can guess some of yours!

At the beginning of the day, you can relax. So why not have a leisurely breakfast and sit back and gather up your game plan for the day by watching the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade. A little later take a peek at the National Dog Show to see if your favorite breed has won. Of course, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same if one didn’t try to catch a (football) Bowl Game to root for your favorite team.

Maybe television isn’t your cup of tea. Are you lacking family members nearby? Then celebrate what has also become Friendsgiving where you can get together with your best buds and hang out, eat, and joke around with each other. Whether with friends or family, raise a glass in a toast to those you love. If it’s a small enough group, why not have each of you take a turn in serving up a toast? Make it a quickie, give a small speech, whatever you feel is best.

Finally, it’s feast time! Harkening back to the first Thanksgiving, the meal is an offering to the Harvest. Traditions for the feast include turkey, cranberry sauce or salad, bread of choice, stuffing, potatoes (standard or sweet), maybe some green beans or corn, and pies. Pies of the pumpkin, cherry, apple, mincemeat, pecan variety to fill your tummy. There’s nothing written in stone that is the only meal you can have on the Holiday. Vegans and vegetarians are a larger portion of the population than they used to be. So don’t forget these people in your crowd by preparing vegetarian or vegan dishes as well. Tired of turkey (no pun intended)? Why not make some sort of international cuisine for Thanksgiving? There’s a plethora of foods out there to be eaten! Don’t feel like cooking any of them? Well, you could always go out on the town or host a potluck.

There are many traditions involving remembering, reminiscing about, and honoring those people and things you are thankful for. Share with everyone a favorite time or story passed down through the generations. It can be one of your own stories, one about someone still with you, or one about a loved one who has passed on. If you plan ahead enough maybe everyone could bring a photo or two to share as well. On the craftier side, you could get ahold of some tree branches that you can spray with gold, silver or copper paint. Plant these branches into jars or vases with rocks at the bottom and place some tags nearby. As your guests enter your home, they can write down their wishes on these tags, and later during dinner these can be shared with everyone. Want to really plan ahead? Following this year’s meal, start off Friday not with a trip to Black Friday deals but by writing down what you’re thankful for about each person you will see again next year. Do this year-round and place all of these notes into a gratitude jar that you can share with your guests before the feast next year.

Something that others like to do is to express their gratitude following a bountiful year by manning a soup kitchen, cooking for shut-ins, or looking after others. Maybe spending some time with a lonesome senior in a home somewhere. Your very presence to any of these people will fill them so full of love and thankfulness for you that there will be no need for words to express this.

The best tradition, ultimately, is the one that fills you with joy, love, and happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving to my Church family. Hugs all around.



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