Yesterday I shared some of the First Thanksgiving myths I learned in elementary school. They all related to the celebration of Thanksgiving in America.
It all comes down to one word, tradition.
When we sit down to eat, we like to think we’re sitting down to a friendly feast and giving thanks for the blessings we have received, just like they did in 1621, and subsequent years. We feel a connection to the Pilgrims and Indians when we set the table and eat dishes similar to theirs.
But after research, we quickly realize that these connections that we’ve held on to, are actually based on myths. We’re not carrying on a Pilgrim and Indian tradition.
At first I was sad about this, but it’s actually freeing. See, without feeling like we have to keep up this almost 400 year ritual, we are able to celebrate Thanksgiving in ways that are meaningful to our own families.
So, if we’re not trying to recreate the First Thanksgiving, are traditions still important?
Maybe not the ones tied to 1691, but the customs that are important to your family.
What is a tradition?
Tradition is doing something over and over again with a particular group of people, in the same way and at the same time. It’s a ritual that grabs your attention and shakes up your day-to-day routine.
Some traditions are big, like extended family gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner every year, but some are much smaller, like having a special breakfast on the first day of school.
Why are traditions important to families?
By participating in a variety of traditions together, family bonds are strengthened.
Common activities connect us and give us new ways to relate to one another. How many of your conversations with relatives start with, “Remember when…,” especially while you’re participating in an annual event.
When families maintain rituals that are important to them, it gives its members a sense of identity.
You aren’t just an individual, you’re part of a family. It’s one way that family morals, cultural heritages and religious beliefs are passed down from generation to generation, further shaping one’s identity.
Traditions give us time to focus on those who are important to us.
Our lives are hectic and every year there seems to be less and less time to spend with those we love. Traditions give us a chance to stop, take a break from the chaos and focus our attention on who and what is around us.
They give us something to look forward to and break up the sameness that often fills our days.
My family’s Thanksgiving traditions
For most years of our marriage, my husband and I have not lived near our extended families. That meant that we either had to join the millions of other people traveling or do our own thing. We have often chosen to do our own thing.
Over the two decades we have been together, our traditions have changed and evolved, but one thing has never wavered, our immediate family (first the two of us & now four) spend the day together.
Since moving to Florida, on Thanksgiving, after we eat, we head to Disney for the evening. First, we head over to the Grand Floridian to see the Christmas decorations, listen to the live music, and the girls look for all of the hidden Mickeys on the life-size gingerbread house.
Then we go to Hollywood Studios, grab some hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies and walk along the Streets of America to see the amazing holiday light display. We like to say that we spend the day moving from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
The traditions we uphold during Thanksgiving may not be as related to the Pilgrims and Indians as we thought, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. In fact, I think that traditions that strengthen and build up your family are the most important ones of all, regardless of how they began.
More Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas
- One of our favorite traditions is creating crafts to decorate our house. We’ve made a bunch of these cute fabric pumpkins over the years.
- If you sit down for a formal meal as part of your tradition, encourage your tween to make some of these Thanksgiving table decorations.
This week we’ve been talking about Celebrating Thanksgiving with Teens. If you missed a day, just click over to catch up on the series.