I have a friend whose Thanksgiving tradition looks like this. The entire extended family, at least those who live in the area, gather together at the home of one of the relatives. I’m talking upwards of 40 people. The older cousins and uncles rally in the backyard for the annual Turkey Bowl–a rousing game of football, while two turkeys are carved with care inside.
Cakes, pies, and enough pastries to satisfy a king are artfully arranged in the dining room. A fire roars in the fireplace while the younger cousins reconnect and the grandparents tell stories. Most of the families will stay overnight playing cards, talking, singing, and making music through the night. Traditionally, the last card game is played when the sun comes up.
Talk about a party! I think that’s pretty neat. What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?
My memories of Thanksgiving as a child bring with them a mixed bag of emotions. While I looked forward to the celebration, we didn’t have much. And, when my parents got divorced, with mom working several jobs just to make ends meet, times were hard. My mom did her best to pull together enough stuff to make it special. Some years we had more, other years we had less. She did the best she could in the kitchen with what she had, sometimes cooking for hours trying to make it right.
Perhaps trying to make up for the divorce or the drinking, every big scoop of mashed potatoes was her way of saying she was sorry. The magnetic pull of Thanksgiving, bringing the family together–if only for a few short hours before we were back to “normal” life–was a joyful time in spite of our circumstances. While we didn’t play cards through the night, I made my own fun sticking large black olives on the ends of my fingers and then eating them one by one. It drove one of my siblings crazy–which just made me do it all the more!
I also don’t recall eating yams as a kid, which might explain why I love them now. Yams, and my sister Dee Dee’s mashed potatoes. There’s nothing better . . . but I digress. After Mom died, Thanksgiving celebrations were more sporadic and less predictable. Somehow, at a young age, I learned that my circumstances should not dictate my joy. Now that I’m older, I’m learning that life’s difficult events shouldn’t dictate my commitment to the Lord. As the Psalmist David wrote, “I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).
Jean and I have a tradition with our family and the friends who join us at our table. We go around and express what each of us are thankful for. This exchange is good not only for the individual to remember what they’re thankful for, but also for us as a group as we hear what each other has to say.
One of my deep desires is to nurture a spirit of unconditional thankfulness in the hearts of our two boys. If we have nothing, will we still be a thankful family? If my boys don’t get the presents they long for this Christmas, will they still be grateful for the good things they already enjoy? Counting our blessings as a family is so important.
After all, there are millions of people without families today–the forgotten orphans, widows and widowers. There are Christians stuck in prison for their faith. Many people have lost their homes in earthquakes and storms in Haiti, China, and Thailand. There are many more who are alone, bedridden or hospitalized. So, while we give thanks for our blessings, being mindful of, and praying for those less fortunate, is a wonderful way to maintain an attitude of thankfulness.
Yes, I will say with David, “He has been good to me.”