Thanksgiving is by far one of my most favorite holidays.
As our boys have gotten older and life looks differently than it used to, Thanksgiving day has remained mostly the same and that is one more thing I am thankful for.
Thanksgiving morning, we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Will my husband and boys groan as though they are in actual pain over this? Yes, yes they will. But will I watch it even though I know less and less about the “stars”? You had better believe it. And at the end of the day, I’ll know the name of the dog who wins the dog show as well.
My mom, who is a gourmet home cooking chef from years and years of feeding us all, makes Thanksgiving very easy on her children. I show up with mashed potatoes (since my husband grows about 400 potatoes a year, this seems a logical choice for us to bring), butternut squash (again, something my husband grows) and anything else I want to bring.
My brother and his wife bring something different every year, it seems. Sometimes it is pork wrapped in bacon. Sometimes it is green bean casserole or Snicker Salad. It is always worth looking forward to.
My sister and her family contribute spinach casserole. Do I know what is in it? Nope. I don’t even want to know because I eat so much of it. She also always brings applesauce and a variety of pie.
Sometimes we have other families join us as well, and it’s always fun to see what dishes are added to our meal.
My mom orders her turkey fresh, stuffs it with stuffing and cooks it slowly the night before. She makes sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, cornmeal rolls, lots of little sides like the cranberry sauce and so forth, and a pie for every single one of us there.
Yes, you read that correctly.
We have piles of pumpkin pies (we will all go home with one at the end of the night). We have apple pie, blueberry pie, homemade chocolate pie, dutch apple pie, and sometimes pecan pie. When Thanksgiving happens to be on my sister’s birthday as it often can be, we have birthday cake as well.
When we have feasted well on our Thanksgiving meal, my mom shreds up all the leftover turkey, adds the gravy and some more stuffing to it, and cooks it down for sandwiches on cornmeal rolls later on. I often don’t eat turkey at the dinner because I like this meat sandwich mix so much more.
After dinner we clear the table and pull out games. Bandu is my dad’s favorite and no one can beat him. We play the never ending game of Phase 10. Rumee is anyone’s game and it comes with all the bragging rights if you win.
We eat little slices of all the pies and cover the pumpkin pie in so much whipped cream you can’t even see the pie underneath. My sister has the youngest kids and this is probably the last year we’ll be able to fill up the youngest boy’s mouth with whipped cream from the can. This always make my sister freak and she sends us texts of how hyper her kids are later that night thanks to us. As her siblings, this is what we are supposed to do.
I take over as photographer and bark orders of where everyone is to stand and take everyone’s family photo that day. If they want to print them out for Christmas cards, so be it. But every year we have a new family photo of each family.
We eat so much food and we laugh too hard and we stay too long and it’s absolutely lovely.
The next day we all meet up again at Badger Country Christmas Trees. All of us meander around searching for the perfect Christmas tree. All trees must be approved by my sister in law who has already helped us all decide where in our house is the best place for our trees that year. My mom takes the longest to choose the most perfect tree while my dad approves every tree she finds. Once we load up the trees we have the very difficult task of picking out our Christmas wreaths at the Badger shop. We sip their hot cocoa and get loads of doughnuts which help greatly when you have to decide which Christmas ribbon you like best on which wreath.
This year, our family went out and picked out our tree early. Over the years, my husband and boys have begun working for Badger and so in order for us to pick out a tree together, we needed to pick it out early. We’ll still be a part of everyone else choosing their tree and now Eli will be the one shaking the tree and wrapping it while my husband will be the one driving us out to pick out the tree. They love working for Badger and now part of the traditional fun is hearing who they all got to see over the weekends and finding pictures of the boys on social media from friends who take selfies with them while they are out getting their trees.
After all our trees have been chosen, we gather back at my parents home to eat leftover turkey sandwiches, another sweet potato casserole my mom will have pulled out, leftovers from the day before and pie. Even though the kids will complain and my dad will mock it, my mom will put on The Walton’s Christmas and we all will begin quoting it as that movie has been played every year since mom first found it on VHS and didn’t’ have to watch for it to be on tv any more. At the end of the night, my mom sends us home with loads of leftovers in old washed and faded cottage cheese or other containers. We spend the rest of the weekend sending each other pictures of our trees up and homes decorated.
It’s lovely and one of my most favorite two days of the entire year.
All of our families are so busy throughout the year and there are only a handful of times a year we all get together which makes this gathering with its abundance and the timeline of not needing to rush off to the next thing all the more special.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?