November 25, 2010

The Pilgrims would have preferred steak...

Year by year, some holidays look exactly the same as the previous ones from start to finish.  Thanksgiving was that way when I was growing up.  We spent the early morning with my dad’s side of the family having breakfast together and going on a long hike.  Afternoon came and my parents, my older brother and I would head over to the home of very special friends of the family and sit down to a traditional meal of turkey and all the usual tasty side dishes followed by the guys watching football, the two moms sitting in a different room chatting, and young Laura finding a quiet spot to read a book while listening in on the two ladies.  This was the pattern for years, and was our tradition.

Audra helps her grandma
last Thanksgiving
Traditions change when you get married.  Couples have to figure out how to mesh two established sets of them into one new one, a process that evolves over time as children are added, families move, and so on.  Our experience has been no different.  We have developed our own traditions in the sixteen years we’ve been married.  Some were by recycling ones from each of our childhoods; most just fit who we are as a family.  We're not people who do things just because we've always done them that way; we like to consider carefully what we do and why we do it, and change it when necessary.  Thanksgiving dinner is no exception.

We generally spend Thanksgiving with my parents, who live close by.  Sometimes my mom cooks, sometimes I do.  Though the participants are the same year to year, the menu is what is unpredictable.  Many years ago we all realized over a fairly traditional meal that turkey was something we tolerated, not something we looked forward to.  We determined then and there to break with this somewhat dry and tasteless component of Thanksgiving and try something new the next time.
We began with baby steps, switching the next year to a chicken dish that was a family favorite, but keeping all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.  That became the new tradition for a short time, but eventually we came to the point of choosing year by year what we are in the mood to eat.  We boldly rewrite history each year, imagining that the Pilgrims and Native Americans had enjoyed lasagna together, or steaks on the grill, or even had abandoned a big meal in favor of an all-dessert celebration.  I don’t think they would mind.  Besides, I’m pretty sure they never had green bean casserole.

Daniel and Audra enjoy the ramp
their grandpa set up for them last year
What doesn’t change year to year is that it’s a nice time to spend with each other.  The kids play, the grown-ups talk, and we enjoy a time away from the usual day-to-day routine.  Just like most of you, it is not the only day of the year that we’re thankful.  We’re grateful to our Heavenly Father for the abundant blessings He’s given us: a loving family, our health, a home, employment for Joe, seeing us through hard times, and most of all, we are thankful that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and that He rose from the dead, accomplishing salvation for those who trust in Him like we do.  But we certainly don’t need a holiday to tell us to be thankful for these things.  Every day He’s good to us.  Our gratitude should happen with the same frequency.
That doesn’t mean we can’t also enjoy Thanksgiving, which to our family is a day to have a great meal, whatever it may be, and have fun playing and spending time together.  That’s a tradition worth keeping.  And as for me, today I am especially thankful to not be eating turkey.
Paper airplanes: a new tradition in the making?

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