Thanksgiving is an American holiday my family loves. We love the traditions and we love to eat. I come from a large family. When we sit around Grandma Bev's table it is usually four tables pushed together and a little over 40 in the immediate family. The food is wonderful, and so is the company.
Imagine the culture shock when I dragged my husband and six children halfway across the country, and we found ourselves alone for the holidays. Not only were we far away, but our first Thanksgiving meal in our new home was slim pickings compared to Grandma Bev's cooking.
All alone, we tried to continue Grandma Bev's traditions, but missed her good cooking and family. We sat down to our Thanksgiving meal of turkey, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes and green beans. I thought my children were going to cry.
In that very moment, a new tradition began when I refused to serve anyone until we went around the table and each said one thing for which we were thankful. "Please tell me one thing you are thankful for," I asked. They all looked blankly at me. I set the example, "I am thankful for our new house."
Then, one by one, they came up with something. Soon, we were making a second turn around the table as they listed more. Finally, after the traditional Thanksgiving prayer of gratitude I was serving food and the whole atmosphere in the room was happier.
Just by looking at our blessings, our empty house became full of gratitude. Our quiet holiday meal became fun and festive. Now each year I watch with a smile as they carry on the tradition.
Traditions are the glue that holds families together. It is little things, like Grandma Bev's rolls that bring my children home year after year.
No matter where you live good food and another year as a family is always a reason to celebrate.
Here are a few ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving American style with a gratitude twist
Cooking together is a wonderful tradition
A traditional Thanksgiving meal usually includes a turkey, stuffing and much more. If you decide to make something new for your meal, try the recipe out ahead of time. Practice makes perfect.
Here is an easy roll recipe our family has made every year for almost 50 years.
Grandma Bev's Secret Roll Recipe (A gift from Bev)
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl put 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees), 3 tablespoons yeast and a 1/4 cup sugar. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons oil, 2 eggs, 2 cups warm milk and 1 more cup warm water.
In another bowl mix 8 cups flour and 1 tablespoon salt.
Cup by cup stir the flour into the large bowl until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Cover it with a damp dish towel and place it in a warm space. When it rises double make rolls. We like to roll it out and cut out large circles. We brush them with butter, fold them in half and brush them with more butter.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Brush with more butter when out of the oven.
What is served is as important as who sits at the table. Here are Deseret News recipes for Thanksgiving.
Begin your Thanksgiving feast with prayer
Put someone in charge of beginning your meal with a prayer. Make it a prayer of gratitude and include any big events from the previous year. Did you have a new baby or a prosperous year? Whatever your blessings include them. Some people hold hands and some people traditionally fold their arms. Even if prayer is not a part of your normal home life, give it a try.
A Simple Thanksgiving Prayer
Opening: Dear _ (We like the term, Heavenly Father)
List what you are thankful for.
Ask, "Please bless" and list special needs your friends or family have. For example, "We ask that you bless grandmother's health."
If you are nervous or it is your first prayer it is OK to plan your prayer, but remember a simple prayer from the heart is special.
Make a gratitude list
Take turns going around the table saying things you are thankful for. Anything goes. You might want to record the things your children are grateful for in a journal.
Make a Thankful tree. Pin up a bare tree. Put a basket of paper leaves nearby. Let children write what they are grateful for on leaves and tape them to the tree. Here is a link for the tree.
Service for Thanksgiving
. My friend's family spends their holiday serving Thanksgiving dinner in a homeless shelter. The entire family goes and helps out. If you wish to do this you need to pre-arrange your service with the shelter. Be sure to only include children who are old enough to be safe in a kitchen and understand the concept of service.
Secret Turkey Dinner
. Be a part of delivering food to a family in need. Look for opportunities in your community. Donate to an established group or sneak a box of canned and frozen food on to the porch of someone in need.
Start a new family tradition. Even if you don't live in America, choose a day to be thankful for all the blessings you have. Nothing is better than a meal shared by a family that loves one another. Celebrate and remember to teach your children to be grateful every day.
Shannon Symonds worked 14 years as an Advocate for families experiencing Domestic or Sexual abuse while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to laugh, write, run, paint and most of all play with her family and friends.