As a child in the early 70s, we had very traditional Thanksgivings at my grandparent's home. My sisters and I would be dressed in homemade matching dresses, in the loudest fabric the decade could provide. My brother wore a suit, as did all the other men, and of course all the women were in dresses and hose.
The table was decorated with horns of plenty spilling gourds and corn. While little turkeys and pilgrims held our place cards. The children's table was set up at a reasonable distance from the adults, also decorated in a similar fashion.
It was a formal day that was topped by my grandfather's dinner grace. We would bow our heads, and he would thank the lord for our family, and new babies, graduations, and jobs. Then we would eat the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie everyone else in the country was eating that day; and the grownups would talk, often argue politics, and the children would plan shows for after dinner. We could have been the stars of a Capra movie.
Cut to today: my grandparents have passed away and now we, all 25 of us, meet each Thanksgiving at my aunt's mountain cabin. The dress is casual, very casual. Jeans and sweaters are perfectly fine. I don't think I've seen a member of my family in a suit since the last cousin was married about seven years ago.
The table is still decorated but with fall leaves and pine cones. Pilgrims are decidedly absent. Seating is open, and children mix in with adults, though there is some self segregation among the generations. The adults still argue politics, and the children still plan shows for after dinner.
It isn't a formal day, but it remains topped by giving thanks for family, new babies, graduations, and jobs. Then we eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes. And that is where the menu changes. My family has become very diverse in the last few generations, and we've picked up a few cook books too. So the rest of the menu involves tamales, gourmet soups, actual fresh salads, and my favorite Thanksgiving treat: baklava.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that while our outward Thanksgiving traditions have changed. The core tradition of the holiday has remained. Every Thanksgiving we come together with our families (the ones we're born to or the ones we choose), and we are grateful for good lives, people who love us and we love, and then we eat. Even though there are no presents or costumes, and the holiday's origin is questionable, it is still my favorite holiday. Because there are far too few opportunities to just be thankful.
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