Thanksgiving is one of those “up for grabs” holidays in our family. Meaning, we don't have it at a regular location. There's no "understood" plan in place for alternating who hosts year after year. We simply have no consistent tradition regarding where we gather and celebrate this feast. It's a wonder we manage to get fed at all.
Christmas, on the other hand, is always at our home. Why? For one, my husband is a Pastor. Christmas, is, well, kind of one of those important Christian holidays. He sort of has to be there.
Secondly, I grew up traveling to Brooklyn every year for Christmas. I had a love/hate relationship with that tradition. I remember hating the drive, for I was the car-sick kid that everyone wanted to sit beside. NOT. And yet I loved the festivities which we shared with like a million people at my Grandparent's house. Always lingering, however, was the desire to be like other kids who got to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning and run downstairs to see what Santa had left under the tree.
Thankfully, I married someone who actually has to work on Christmas Eve. Clever, huh?
But Thanksgiving? No real blueprint. We've had it at my in-laws. I've hosted it. Last year we drove to my parent's place. There was the Thanksgiving of 2008 when we hosted 20 of our friends, for we knew we'd be moving to Pittsburgh come June and wanted to have a special evening with all of them - even though they had no idea of our plans. This year, my sister has opened up her home. It's a juggled holiday for us. Which works out fine, as my family is a bit of a circus act anyway.
I like traditions. Albeit tiny ones. I don't like the overboard, "Don't change a thing or the whole holiday will be a disaster" type of tradition, nor do I agree with tradition soley for tradition sake. But I do see the value in consistency and enjoy the familiararity that certain traditions create (for example, our use of Advent boxes at Christmas). However, up until a few years ago, we didn't have any specific Thanksgiving traditions. Other than pie. And naps.
So, we started one.
Maybe it's just me, but have you ever felt awkward when it's your turn during the "let's share what we're thankful for" moment? There you are, quickly trying to come up with some profound statement, surrounded by a table of people anxiously waiting for you to finish so the smorgasbord of food doesn't get cold. There's just nothing like the aroma of that obligatory "I had better come up with something deep, meaningful, and brief" dish.
Yeah. We don't serve that at our Thanksgiving table.
Instead, we make individual place cards for each guest out of folded card stock. My children assist by writing the names, or, as was the case a few years ago when Zane couldn't yet write, apply Thanksgivingy stickers to the card. Inside? A quote about thankfulness. Quotes from authors, historical figures, scholars, musicians, even Marcie from Charlie Brown made the cut. Then, rather than breaking out into hives when pressed to share something for which each guest is thankful, they simply read their card aloud.
We are making these for my sister's Thanksgiving table this year. It's a tradition that can be packed up and taken with us - wherever we may be dining. Sure, we'll also be sharing with one another those things for which we are grateful, but those discussions won't be relegated to a pre-dinner ice-breaker while everyone sits salivating over the turkey and stuffing laid out on the table. There will be no pressuring of the guests into quickly arriving at and sharing a witty, or poignant thought in front of a hungry mob.
"In ordinary life we hardly realize we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life." Robert Louis Stevenson
"I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks." William Shakespeare
What are your Thanksgiving traditions?
Joline Pinto Atkins is a former actress who now uses the web as her world-wide stage and can be founding writing at www.thecuppajo.blogspot.com, www.fithwithjo.com, and www.pittsburghmom.com as the Soccer Mommy Blogger. Joline is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 9 and 5, who are both named after authors. Addicted to fitness, she sweats out any daily angst by running (not with sharp objects) and weightlifting, and longs for good books, vats of coffee, and an endless supply of buffalo wings - which she will not share with you. So, please, do not ask.