What was Thanksgiving like when you were a kid? For most of the older generation, it was a major family event. Travel plans were made and everyone got out their favorite or traditional family holiday recipes and cooked up a feast. It seems like for a few years there was a trend away from large gatherings as families became more mobile, spread across the country, or sadly, simply more dysfunctional. In the last few years, I’ve seen indications that might be changing and the COVID effect might be helping to bring us back to an understanding of why it’s really important to get together as a family. When families were isolated, the value of being together became very clear.
This year, if you’re able to gather with family and friends, make it a point to share your memories about past Thanksgivings. Why? Because you will ground and root young family members in their family history. Your memories shared help connect them to the greater circle of family. It gives them a sense of belonging and maybe even wonder.
Why wonder? Kids are full of imagination and questions. When you share memories with them it sparks curiosity, triggers questions, and sets them thinking about who they are in relation to the larger circle of family. It can also inspire them if you have unusual or creative events to tell about.
What Was Thanksgiving Like When I Was a Kid?
In my family, not only did we gather as a group but there were great cooks in both my mother’s and father’s families. We split time at their homes as they lived in different towns and each home had its own style and flavor of holiday cooking. My dad’s family came from Hungary and cabbage rolls were always a part of holiday meals. My mom’s family was more traditional turkey and trimmings. Both sides prepared more food than we could eat and leftovers were abundant. Aside from the food though, what message was sent at these gatherings? Love and hospitality. Everyone was welcome, everyone was provided for, and we were taught to be thankful for the abundance with which we were blessed.
As my sisters and I became adults, we carried on both the traditions of family holiday meals and some of the recipes we had grown up with. Now, we see our own adult children and grandchildren enjoying the same along with new favorites and styles of gatherings. The youngest family members are still feeling the wonder of getting together with a mass of people who love them and share generously their bountiful blessings.
Focus on People and Love
Maybe that sounds idyllic and some would doubt it’s possible in a modern troubled age. But here’s a bit of wisdom. It is possible if we lead the way with good choices. Choose to set aside family conflict for holiday gatherings. Don’t encourage family strife. Make accommodation for multiple families and gatherings by scheduling accordingly. Be generous with what you have. Share the love and happy memories and don’t dwell in the troubles we all face on occasion.
My family was not wealthy as I grew up but I had no understanding of that. I saw abundance and love. My parents and grandparents made great holidays that I remember fondly. Those memories shaped how I did holidays with my children. My children’s memories are shaping how they do holidays with their children. When we celebrate together and make beautiful memories, people and love are the focus. All the other trimmings are simply the backdrop.
What was Thanksgiving like when you were a kid? We would love to hear about your unique family memories in the comment section below!
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