I enjoy hosting Thanksgiving.
Growing up in India, Thanksgiving wasn’t a significant holiday in my life. My sister and I would arrive home from boarding school on Thanksgiving. We’d have macaroni & cheese for lunch, roasted chicken and cinnamon rolls for dinner. While I was very grateful to be home and thankful for delicious home cooking, these meals felt more like a celebration that we were home than part of a larger cultural holiday.
It’s taken me a while to appreciate Thanksgiving here in the United States. Over the years I’ve experimented and established my traditions – including a vegetable pot pie, sweet & sour beets and coconut cream pie in addition to cranberry sauce and roasted turkey breast. Now, each year as the seasons turn, I look forward to hosting Thanksgiving.
I know it’s a holiday with a complicated and questionable history and, like any family gathering, can be a loaded event. But here’s what I enjoy about it: it’s a day at home devoted to cooking and sharing a meal with family and friends.
I’ve enjoyed cooking for others ever since I baked individual cakes in my Easy Bake oven. The pleasure was equal parts mixing the batter and pushing the little pans through the oven, and giving these cakes to my mother, father and sister. Cooking for family and friends is both a creative act and a way to express my love for them.
Food is an important part of most holidays, celebrations and gatherings, but on Thanksgiving the food is the celebration. The feast – not a historical or religious event or significant rite of passage – is the reason families gather. This is a day to nourish each other with food and connection.
Thanksgiving is a special occasion and I usually write about the importance of the everyday. But slowing down, paying attention to each other, eating good food together requires neither a feast, nor a full day, nor the extended family. It can happen on a smaller scale in an everyday way – like a family dinner on an ordinary Tuesday night.
I value sitting together around a table, eating nourishing food and sharing about our lives. It’s a time to pause, to turn off the TV, phone and computer and be present with one another. So often I feel like I swim against the tide with these values, but on Thanksgiving, I feel supported. I’ve embraced it as a holiday designed to honor gathering with loved ones over a delicious meal.
My invitation to you: What does Thanksgiving mean to you? How do you connect this holiday with your everyday life? I’d love to hear.
Oh, how I love your prompts! Thanksgiving was always a day for gathering with extended family and enjoying great food, but has come to mean much more to our family. On Thanksgiving of 2001, my dad turned 50. And for his birthday gift we gave him a card announcing to him that he would become a Grandpa in June of 2002! It was very exciting for all of us, especially my dad. In 2011 my dad passed away shortly after his 60th birthday (which we were able to celebrate with him!) and last year in 2012 his birthday again landed right on Thanksgiving. We got together with my mom and my sister’s family, but it was bittersweet. We were all feeling my dad’s loss in an extreme way, yet were happy to be together during the holiday. My grandmother used to always toast us at Thanksgiving and Christmas by saying, “And I hope we’re all here next year,” as she broke into tears. Some years we are, and some we aren’t ~ as we were not all back for the celebration last year. In 2013 I’m feeling optimistic that I won’t have such a heavy heart and that I’ll be able to appreciate my immediate and extended families in an open and comfortable way on Thanksgiving. I love the holiday of Thanksgiving for the food, family, after dinner walk, and festivities around the bonfire. And I love the holiday for the fond memories of my dad that it holds. Thank you, Marilyn, for asking this question!!
Marilyn Webster says
Thank you for responding, Jessica. I remember that Thanksgiving when you invited lots of people to share the announcement of your pregnancy! I’ll be thinking of you this year, wishing you the openness & comfort you desire as you gather with your family.
Deb Davis says
Marilyn, I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts. I’m looking forward to a family Thanksgiving this year. We’ll be gathering at my sister’s house along the Columbia River. There used to be large extended family gatherings hosted by my maternal grandparents. They are gone now, and our celebrations have grown into times when my mom, her three kids and their kids get together. We all pitch in to make the meal (if I don’t show up with my famous dinner rolls, I will be in trouble). After the feast, my brother and I used to take the kids and go chanterelle hunting in the woods. Now we go for a long meander along the river and look for perfect skipping stones. This year one of my nieces wants to remember relatives who are gone, so I’m considering scanning some old family photos for us to look at together. Our traditions keep evolving, but what stays the same is the food and connection, as you point out in your essay. It really is a sweet time for gratitude. Thanks for swimming against the tide and standing for being present with each other. Blessings,
Marilyn Webster says
Thanks for your thoughtful sharing, Deb! I’m so enjoying reading about other people’s celebrations — the food & the ways they connect. May your famous dinner rolls be as delicious as ever this year and may the day also be a wonderful time of remembering those who no longer gather around the table.
Kelly Gast says
My birthday periodically falls on Thanksgiving so it is a magical time of year for me. I love the light and the colors of nature. I especially love cooking for my family—for my mom, husband and four daughters. My oldest is the best kitchen helper ever! Not a complaint as she washes dish after dish, pot after pot. Nine years ago we found out that out three younger daughters have Celiac Sprue and require a gluten free diet. We also happen to be vegetarian. Our Thanksgiving meal is unique to say the least. But we have embraced our limitations, and I strive each year to give my family a meal that warms their hearts and souls while meeting all of our dietary needs. (My mom has even mastered a mean gluten free pumpkin pie!) Each day and each Thanksgiving I continue to be ever grateful for the gift I have been given – my family.
Marilyn Webster says
I love the light and colors too, Kelly. For me, they add to that feeling of turning inward, being cozy inside with good food and family. From your description, it does indeed sounds like a wonderful and unique celebration at your home. (The vegetable pot pie that I look forward to each Thanksgiving dates from the years I was a vegetarian.)