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.