Thankful for…tradition

Today, Thanksgiving Day in the US, is a day of traditions. Throughout the US, family’s of all shapes and sizes will engage in a lot of holiday-esque activities, eating, making merry, giving thanks in myriad ways, and keeping a dizzying array of traditions alive.

This day is a big day of small traditions for my family. My family is small and we’ve always been more focused on Christmas and New Year’s Day, over Thanksgiving. But we do still have a few traditions that we try to keep alive.

My favorite is the actual giving of thanks. We have a practice of starting the Thanksgiving meal with a prayer of gratitude, followed by a recitation of the one thing each person gathered there is most thankful for. Holding the hand of the person next to you during prayer connects us all together. Focusing, at least for that few minutes of solemn gratitude, on the gifts in our lives is a powerful means of bringing perspective to lives that sometimes get so routine that the blessings get lost in the stress. And letting each person speak uninterrupted, listening to each person’s confession of blessedness, is often quite moving.

Another tradition my family kept all through my childhood is the delivery of meals to the less fortunate in our church and neighborhood. Often, we found ourselves at a nursing home or hospital, shaking hands, giving meals and singing to those who had no family to bring them holiday cheer. I’ve let that slip away in recent years, I’m ashamed to say. I need to get back into that habit. That tradition has a purpose beyond the giver’s blessing and it’s a great boon to those who receive.

The holiday meal itself, is a tradition. The turkey or ham, potatoes or stuffing, green bean casserole or salad, and pies or cakes…all of it has a special significance for each family. Growing up, my family rarely had turkey on Thanksgiving. Instead we either had a ham and all the side dishes, if my mom prepared the meal, or a steak and potato meal from my dad. Today, we’re having a turkey cooked in a rotisserie, stuffing and gravy, and cranberry sauce–very American traditional.

Then there’s the entertainment. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, playing cards and board games and, most important, the football! Friendly (or not so friendly?) competition between siblings and cousins in the silliest imaginable games has always been a part of my family’s holiday tradition. The flag football, an American staple, isn’t such a big deal for my clan. But cribbage? That’s a hotly contested event for us. And watch out for sneak canasta tournament take-overs!!

All in, this holiday has always been about family. These traditions get perpetuated and expanded or contracted, depending on the year’s attendance. But always, there is a familiar atmosphere of festivity, excitement and gratefulness to be together.

I’m thankful today for all the countless blessings in my life, including the tradition of giving thanks, recounting blessedness, and gathering with loved ones.

May your Thanksgiving Day bring you blessings.

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