21 Nov

For as long as I can remember, my father’s family has celebrated Thanksgiving not on Thursday, but on the Saturday after the official holiday. I’ve never asked why, but I assume, my grandparents being the people they are, they just wanted to make sure as many family members as possible could sit around the table. By making it a tradition, they eliminated that every-other-year-with-the-spouse’s-family issue with their kids. This one simple accommodation on their part got almost everyone to show up almost every year.

When I was growing up, this big Saturday family meal was what I thought of as Thanksgiving. I knew Thanksgiving was really on Thursday, but still, I remember being horribly confused the first Thanksgiving I couldn’t make it home as an adult. I was sitting around the T.V. with my fellow Thanksgiving-orphan friends, waiting for the turkey to cook, and wondering why in the world we weren’t watching college football. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that my Thanksgiving tradition, watching college ball with the smell of baking rolls filling the house, was not a tradition anyone I was with shared. College teams don’t play on the third Thursday in November but they do play on the third Saturday.

I’m feeling especially nostalgic this year. My grandparents are increasingly fragile. This will probably be the last time we celebrate the third Saturday in November at the house they’ve lived in for over 40 years. Of my six cousins, only one will be able to make it. Time passes. Old family ties weaken, new families form, and celebrating on a different day is no longer enough to ensure everyone you love will eat at the same table. But no matter where or how I celebrate Thanksgiving in the years to come, it will always feel wrong not to spend a significant chunk of the day watching college football.

Does your family have any quirky holiday traditions? When creating characters, do you try to imagine what their holidays were like and how they might have differed from the norm? Holidays and traditions are important building blocks in our lives, and their presence (or absence) can make a fictional family feel real.


7 responses to “Traditions

  1. Judith Keim

    November 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I agree, those little family traditions and quirks make a character’s family real. We are a Thursday Thanksgiving family. Each years adds to the memories of Thanksgiving present and past.

  2. maryvine

    November 21, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I only put a holiday in my first manuscript, and it’s under my bed. Interesting I haven’t added one since.Maybe because I love spring and summer seasons. I’m sad that the holiday is changing for you. I remember the Xmas after my mother died. My dad was home sick that day and I looked around my group of relatives and thought of the UNWELCOME change. It’s forever changed, my sisters and I (and spouses) are the oldest ones in the group now that my dad is gone now, too.

  3. Janis

    November 21, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    The married siblings in my family do the every other thing w. families. My kids sometimes cannot make it home for Thanksgiving. This year, I’m going rogue and not having one. My son & DIL are in town, but we’re going a movie since they have the other side of the family turkey coming. We’ll see how it goes. Even if I miss having turkey this time, next year, it’s the whole group again.

  4. Meredith Allen Conner

    November 21, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    I love character quirks!! Holiday traditions or otherwise. This year we are having Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. It’s going to be a different group and I can’t wait. I love these guys!!!

  5. marsharwest

    November 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, even when I was younger. It’s just so much simpler than the Christmas thing with gifts and all. It’s a simple meal. For us that’s always been turkey,dressing, cranberries and a few other assorted items. When my husband and I married, we asked both sides to our apartment that first year and that became the tradition. Christmas we split with others hosting, but Thanksgiving was ours. Only in recent years with kids grown and spouses an extended families have we had to make changes. (Not something I’m particularly fond of.) We’ve had years without one daughter or the other. And the dreaded one after my mother died, when both daughters were out of town with spouses families. We drove to Dallas to take my husband’s aunt to her favorite cafeteria. The food was quite good and it was special to be with her. We returned to stop at friends who had most of their kids & spouses present.
    As to holidays in books? Almost all of them have something. And yes, Corinn. In Texas Thanksgiving is football. For many years it was the battle between UT and Texas A & M. Conferences come and go and this year it was UT and TCU. TCU won! 🙂 I’ve used restraint. This could’ve been a two page post. LOL

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    November 26, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    What a lovely tradition. I have learned a lot from watching my siblings as they married and started their own traditions. One SIL’s family does it like yours–they celebrate after the date so everyone can be there.

    Another sister usually goes to 3 different dinners on Thanksgiving Day. Somehow this year all of them were unexpectedly cancelled and she ended up having no Thanksgiving dinner at all. Her husband cooked her a special turkey dinner after they got back to their hometown. There’s material for a romance short story in there somewhere!

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

  7. Lynn Mapp

    November 26, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Oh, Thanksgiving. This year my husband, youngest son, Andrew, and I spent the day at my oldest son, Adam, and daughter-in-laws house. After dinner, Adam said, “I’ll be Russell and start the argument.”
    Russell was my middle son, the one who died almost four years ago. He was the one to start the argument.
    The family laughed and in a way, Russell is still with us.


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