Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Traditions

Written by Karen Fleming, OblSB

The first Harvest in the New World, also called Thanksgiving, was in October of 1621. It was attended by 90 Wampanoag people and 53 Pilgrims and lasted three days. The Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean to seek religious freedom in the New World. The arrival of the Pilgrims was actually one year before but due to the 66-day, cross-Atlantic trip, they were weak, starving and many were ill.

For several years after the Pilgrims arrived, their Wampanoag neighbors taught them how to hunt local game, gather shellfish, and grow corn, beans, and squash. There are only two first-hand written accounts of the feast, so very little is actually known.

My family used to go to New Prague, Minnesota, each October for the celebration of Harvest, what the Czechs there call “Dozinky.” We set up our chairs very early to guarantee a good spot to watch the Parade. The streets are lined with vendors selling brats, kolaches, and lovely items like jewelry and dolls imported from the Czech Republic.

When I was a child, our family celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents, grandma, uncle, and my three siblings. We cleared the dining room table of school books, put a leaf in it, and covered it with the freshly-laundered, white tablecloth used only for special events. The china dishes (purchased at the grocery store with coupons) had to be brought down from the highest kitchen cupboard and washed.

Our family said Grace before the meal, this being one of the few times we prayed before a meal. After my parents passed away (1973 and 1990), I climbed the attic stairway to find the old wicker basket that harbored these dishes, covered by a dusty tea towel, and brought them back to my Minnesota home. They now reside in my china closet, faded with age.

For the past few years, my second son and his wife have hosted our 20-member family Thanksgiving at their home. The sterling silver my daughter-in-law sets the table with, I gave to her a few years ago. This silverware set and the chest it resides in were purchased with Betty Crocker coupons I saved in the early years of my marriage. I get warm and fuzzy feelings when I see it being used by our family today. We also say Grace, but in addition each person says what they are thankful for.

I am grateful to God for His gift of family each day, and that makes everyday a Thanksgiving.