There are two aspects of Thanksgiving that I remember. The first and most important thing my parents and the rest of my elders wanted was for us to understand the meaning of the word and the story of its beginnings.
The first celebration was with the Pilgrims and the local native Americans. The Pilgrims didn’t really know how to survive in the “New World,” and gratefully learned what the native Americans could teach them. After a successful harvest, the two groups got together and had a feast.
We were encouraged to spend some time thinking about what we were grateful for. When grace was said before the feast, some of those things might be mentioned. At home, we would do a “round robin” prayer, with each of us contributing.
The second aspect of Thanksgiving was (and still is) the food. By the time I was born, my mother’s two sisters had also married, and her oldest sister had four adult children. There were also plenty of great aunts and uncles and various other relatives it would take too long to describe.
Each woman had an area of specialty when it came to cooking. Mom was always in charge of the breads, while grandma made pies, cookies, candy and roasted whatever had been chosen. Most of the time it was turkey, but occasionally we’d try something new. The goose was particularly memorable because no one liked it.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only two times we kids got to choose what we would and would not eat at the dinner table. You may think that’s a small thing, but not in our family. Most of the adults sitting around the table remember the Great Depression and WWII. Food was not wasted.
After the dinner, all of the guys would congregate around grandma’s color television set. She had the only one in the family, and it had the biggest screen. Football became the centerpiece for the guys. The young kids were sent off to play, then the ladies began the cleanup. When you feed 23 people, there are a few dishes…
At the end of the day, we children would begin the long countdown for Christmas. It was one of the few holidays that didn’t feel like it was over, but just the beginning of many wonderful things to come.