I am big on tradition.
Part of what makes the Holidays special to me is a sense of carrying on and passing down family customs and rituals from year to year. Whether it is having a special meal including scalloped potatoes on Christmas Eve, making "Grandma's Bunny Cookies" on Easter, or decorating my parents' mountain home to the hilt for the 4th of July celebrations, there is a feeling of connection to the past as well as to the future in all of these traditions.
You would think that since I am a "Mayflower" girl - my lineage is traced back to Stephan Hopkins who signed the Mayflower Compact, I would follow the same Thanksgiving traditions from year to year. You'd think that every year, I would relish in customs passed down from my forefathers and foremothers that "officiated" and prepared the family's Thanksgiving celebrations.
Well, this is one holiday celebration in that I have broken the tradition of "tradition".
Now, don't get me wrong, I would love to have a set routine every November. It might make this particular holiday a little easier to plan for. But as I have grown older, life has allowed me opportunities to swerve from a predictable celebration each year. I'd like to tell you about a few of them
The first Thanksgiving that I broke the ranks of ritual came when I was just a teenager. I had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. I was blessed by being welcomed into the home of a very dear friend and an amazing family. It was my first experience of food other than the Thanksgiving "fare" that I was accustomed to. To my surprise, in addition to the turkey, potatoes and green bean casserole, there was an Italian fare of pasta and sea food as well. The cold weather of the east cost was very different than the warm California weather I was used to.
As I grew into adulthood, for many years I took on the job of cooking the meal. The first year that I was married to my husband, I decided to go all out. I made stuffing from scratch, pies from my Halloween pumpkins, fresh apple pies, and a huge turkey. I wanted to honor his Italian heritage, so in addition to the entire traditional menu, I prepared a lasagna. I cooked for what seemed like days, to prepare a meal for twenty of my family members in the small kitchen of our first home. I carried that tradition for the first few years of our marriage.
But as my husband's career advanced, we were required to relocate. We found ourselves in Texas, a state where we didn't know anyone, at least not at the time of our first Thanksgiving there. Eventually, we found other "orphan" families who were also there without friends and family, and we became each other's adopted families. Since by that time we had three small children, traveling back to be with our families was both too expensive and too difficult. So we began sharing our Thanksgiving meal with our Texas family. Each brought a new dish or variation of a dish to the meal. This tradition lasted for the five years that we lived there.
Since moving to Arizona, there hasn't been any true tradition of how we spend the Holiday. Some years we have traveled to my home state to be with my family. Some years we have stayed in Arizona with my husband's family. I have not prepared the meal for the last seven years. Since my day is not spent in the kitchen anymore, my husband and I have started our own tradition for the two of us. Regardless of which state we are in, we have participated in charity walks or runs on Thanksgiving morning. This year it is a 10 mile charity run in Arizona.
So, even though tradition is important to me, I would never change the fact that my Thanksgiving traditions change from year to year. No matter what I have done, or where I have been, I have been surrounded by people that I love and am thankful for.
Isn't that a big part of what the day is about?