What we love about Thanksgiving

Food, family and football.  What’s not to love about Thanksgiving?!  This quieter, humbler holiday is beloved in its own right, and not just as a kick-off to its highly celebrated neighbor, Christmas.  In fact, many people prefer this holiday, rooted in the tradition of giving thanks. We’re not going to say we don’t enjoy Christmas (we do!), but we think Thanksgiving easily ranks among the best of American holidays. 

 

What we love best

Maybe your list of The Best Things About Thanksgiving (if you had one) looks a little like ours.

 

It’s the food, baby!  Turkey (that aroma when it’s roasting!), mashed potatoes and gravy (GRAVY!), pumpkin pie (silky smooth and sweet!).  These traditional classics are comfort food at its best.

It’s all about the gathering.   Thanksgiving calls us home to family, old friends and new friends.  It’s a time to connect, laugh at Uncle Harry’s familiar old jokes, and bond over food (and football).

And, of course, there’s football.  Enough said.

Remembering our roots.  We like dusting off the original Thanksgiving story and taking a moment to reflect on our American heritage. Today, living in a time and place of such abundance, where there’s a supermarket on every corner (and now online), it sparks our own gratitude to remember the scarcity that prompted that first Thanksgiving celebration in 1623.  The Plymouth colonists (Pilgrims) were so profoundly grateful for surviving a brutal winter and producing a bountiful harvest, they decided to celebrate with a feast of thanksgiving, and invited their Native American allies, the Wampanoags, to share it with them.

We love the focus on gratitude.  Psychologists say acknowledging the good in our lives plays a powerful role in our overall well-being.  If we make thankfulness a way of life, choosing minute-by-minute to look for the good, we’ll be happier, more optimistic and healthier.  We’ll sleep better, our relationships will be stronger, we’ll be more generous, we’ll have fewer aches and pains and we’ll achieve more of our personal goals. 

 

Our own personal reflections

We all have different things we enjoy and remember about Thanksgiving.  We thought we’d share some of our own Thanksgiving experiences with you.

A lesson learned – Mike

We moved to the Puget Sound area from the east coast when I was 11.   One of the benefits of the move was being closer to my dad’s sister and her family, who lived about 45 minutes away.  Upon our arrival to the Great Pacific Northwest, we were invited to their family holiday events. Thanksgiving was one of these.  It was far and away one of their biggest celebrations.  My aunt’s in-laws (Ralph and Margarite) lived next door to my aunt, and they were especially fond of big get-togethers at Thanksgiving. 

Each Thanksgiving, Ralph and Margarite (who hosted the celebration) would invite five or six families, with all their kids, ranging from ages near-zero, to early 20s.  Probably 35-40 people total.  Understand that their home was rather small and decorated with all sorts of fascinating (and sometimes breakable) knickknacks and artifacts.  Magnets to young, curious kids like me. 

The tenor of these Thanksgiving gatherings was, quite simply, chaos.  Kids were running and screaming throughout the beautiful bungalow, while their parents valiantly attempted to speak over the racket and carry on adult conversations.  Meanwhile, Ralph and Margarite remained calm and unruffled, never batting an eye at the din and clunks that pervaded their home.  They just happily soaked up time with their extended family. 

Reflecting on these memories, I now more fully appreciate how incredibly tolerant Ralph and Margarite were.  I am convinced that they must have hit that stage of being truly “wise,” knowing that life isn’t forever, and to savor every moment you can with family and friends.  While I have not yet reached their level of wisdom (don’t ask if I could handle the kind of chaos we kids inflicted on them … not a chance!), Ralph and Margarite, unknowingly perhaps, taught me the value of family, friends, and tradition.

 

A growing family – Charissa

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is gathering our entire family together and seeing all the different faces of parents, siblings, nephews, nieces and in-laws.  Because it hasn’t always been like that.  Before I was born, my parents relocated to Southern California from the Midwest.  That meant we had no extended family around when I was growing up.  Our Thanksgivings consisted of my mom and dad and their six children (still quite a table-full but not the crowd of relatives that I wanted).  My siblings and I have now all married and most of us have kids.  I love that my kids are growing up with so many aunts, uncles and cousins.  It’s noisy for sure, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.   Thanksgiving is a time for the whole crew to connect and enjoy each other with good food and a silly game or two. 

 

The worst drive ever – Lori

With family living on both sides of the Cascade Mountains, we alternate spending Thanksgivings in Seattle and Spokane.  It’s always fun to have the wintery weather in Spokane (the snowy side) during the holidays. When it’s gray and wet in Seattle, there is often a snowy white blanket covering Spokane.  My kids love it!  

However, I do recall one particular drive many years ago with VERY snowy conditions.  We should have known we were destined for a hair-raising drive on the trip back home (probably should have turned around), because on the way to Spokane, in addition to stopping on the mountain pass and waiting while work crews conducted avalanche control, we had to repeatedly pull the car over to scrape ice off the windows. This is WITH the defrost fan on.  Sure enough, on our way back, what should have been a four-hour drive turned into a 13-hour, white-knuckle marathon.  Heavy snow had closed both the mountain passes we normally used and we were forced to traverse a pass much farther out of our way.

This year, I’m looking forward to spending a snow-free Thanksgiving with family close to home in Seattle.

 

A Thanksgiving resolution – Kathy

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, this year I’m making a Thanksgiving resolution. 

Recently, a friend shared something with me that changed her outlook on life.  It starts with a journal.  (Stick with me, now!)  At the end of each day, she looks back and writes down one thing that happened during the day for which she is thankful.  The key is, you can’t just think about it – you must write it down.  And it must be something different each day. 

Just knowing that she needed to identify and write down a new bit of cheer every day, caused her to start looking for good things (big or little) in her life.  After a year or two of doing this, she re-read the long list in her journal and realized just how blessed she is.  She’s been doing this so many years now that thankfulness comes easily, even apart from the help of a journal. 

I was impressed.  Here’s something that takes maybe five minutes a day and it has the power to change your perspective (and hence your life) for the better.  

I went and bought my own notebook. Now, before I go to bed, I think about the day, find something new that I’m grateful for and write it down.  And it feels good.

 

A time of grounding – Tarek

I think about a lot during the holidays, and as far as Thanksgiving goes, I typically reflect a bit on the past, and dream ahead to the future, planning for the next year.  I always try to get grounded before the materialistic side of the season kicks in, and remember to make time for what counts.  It’s a good opportunity to appreciate health and longtime friends I’ll get to reconnect with as they come back in town.  To me the holidays are more about memories than the “stuff” received.

 

The love language of food – Becky

As a child growing up, I spent most of Thanksgiving Day planted on a kitchen stool watching my mother cook.  My mother was the undisputed queen of our kitchen.  The rest of us dared not mess around in her domain.  And boy, could she cook!  Born and raised in the Midwest, her forte was comfort food – meat, potatoes, casseroles and pie.  Nobody made them better.

I would sit at the Formica kitchen counter and watch her roll out pie crust for pumpkin pie, like it was a matter of life and death.  Her lips would tighten and her brow would furrow as she slowly and painstakingly rolled out the dough in a circle, her small hands gripping the cherry red handles of the wooden rolling pin.  My own anxiety would mount as she carefully lifted the crust from the floured bread board to the waiting Pyrex pie plate.  Would the dough stick to the board?  Tear?  Crumble?  Because if it did, I knew it was all over and she’d have to start again from scratch.  Re-rolled pie crusts were tough pie crusts and my mother was too much of a perfectionist to serve pie with a tough crust.

My mother was passionate about cooking for her family.  Taking care of us was a calling that she took seriously.  It was bred into her and part of who she was.  While my father had an easy way with words and expressions of affection, my mother was more reserved.  She expressed her love by making sure we were scrubbed clean, the house neat and tidy and our table piled high with fabulous tasting, frequently unhealthy food (she did not scrimp on salt and butter). 

When we gathered to eat our Thanksgiving meal, the table would fairly groan under the weight of food.  So much food for just my father, mother, sister, two brothers and me. (All our relatives lived back in Minnesota.)  As we held hands, waiting for my father to pray and thank God for our blessings, I would glance over at my mother sitting at the end of the table.  Her body drooped with fatigue.  But her eyes shone with satisfaction.  She had loved us well.

My parents have been gone now for many years.  My own family spends most Thanksgivings with my husband’s family in Oregon, where we all bring food to the table, potluck style.  If I’m bringing the pumpkin pies, I make them with the same wooden rolling pin with the cherry red handles.  And every time I roll out the dough, I think of my mother (in between the tense moments) and am thankful for a woman who lived the truth that food can be a love language.


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