Hey everyone, we have a winner! Well, actually, I should say winners. Thank you so much for all of you who participated in this contest. We had so much fun reading about your traditions. After much agonizing, we were able to narrow it down to three women. Enjoy…
As for our tradition, let me provide a little background to my family dynamics which may help you appreciate my mother’s effort a bit more. When I was 12, (I am now 29) my father died from a malignant brain tumor. My mother had 4 children at the time. In the same year that my father passed away, a gentleman named Galen lost his wife in a hit and run car accident. She was walking with a friend alongside a country road and was hit by a car and killed instantly. Galen had three boys at the time. My mom was “fixed up” on a blind date with this gentleman, and about four months later, married him. My mom and her four children, myself included, moved an hour from where we grew up, changed churches, schools, friendships, everything to begin a new life altogether as a new family of 9. This all took place within a year’s time of my father’s death and Galen’s wife’s death. My mom now was at home with 7 children ranging in age from 2 to 15!
Needless to say, the transition was anything but smooth. In the world’s estimation, there was no way this was going to or should have worked. But, I believe despite all the many difficult bumps in the road, God gave abundant grace to both of my parents to hem us together as one family. I believe one pivotal way God used to bring this unity as a family about was in creating “new traditions.” Both sets of families came together having their own traditions. My mom had a very difficult task in paving the path for new traditions to emerge. Initially, my older sister and I in particular were resistant to yet more changes, but I am grateful now my mom did not give up. I can say today, 17 years later, that these traditions hold such a cherished place in my heart.
So, here are a few:
1. The day after Thanksgiving, while the rest of America shops, we stay home and bake all our Christmas cookies. Because most of my sisters are out of the house now and some of us with children, we each bring two cookie dough recipes all made up and just bake them all day to “simplify” things. My mom has an Amish made table that extends about 13 feet ( a much needed item for a family of 9) and the table is FULL of cookies by the end of the day. We bring our own Christmas tins and pick an assortment of cookies to take home with us for the holiday season.
2. My mom initiated a “memory box” for our Christmas celebration. Each of the kids and now the ones who married into the family, all have to write one or several favorite memories from the year that is ending. We all put them into the “memory box” and then as a family we read them before we open our gifts. Each year we laugh and cry and are reminded of how good and faithful God has been to us in the last year.
Each year at Thanksgiving we get together with my mom’s sister and her family, as well as my grandma (mom’s mom) and her husband. For years, when this time rolled around, the most important job for older children (me and my sister, who are 6+ years older than most of the younglings of the family) was keeping the little ones occupied while the adults chatted/watched football and prepared the meal.
Consequently, every Thanksgiving took a lot of preparation on my part to come up with something fun and interesting that the little guys (3 boys 4 girls) would enjoy. The problem was the age range—it went from 4 to 9—and I could never quite find something that they all enjoyed, until one year when I came across something in a magazine.
It’s really just a simple, easily constructed treat to make with your kids around Thanksgiving.
Ingredients: (per child)
- 1 large red apple
- orange slices
- any other kind of candy that can be speared onto blunt toothpicks
- blunt toothpicks
- construction paper (orange, red, and brown)
The first step is giving the child a pen/pencil and paper and asking them to draw a turkey head and turkey feet. (I’ve heard of this being modified where people use a large marshamallow for the head and draw a face on it) Needless to say, the results vary and are quite amusing. We cut these out and tape them to toothpicks, inserting the feet horizontally (so the apple can still rest on it’s base/core) and the “head” in the middle/side area. The fun part is the next step. Each child spears the candy in creative patterns (like shishkabobs or however you spell that) onto the toothpicks and inserts them (all over the opposite end of the apple from the head) upright like a turkey’s tail. After proudly displaying the creations to the adults, the “turkeys” are placed on the mantlepiece where they rest (so cute!) while we eat our dinner. Then, when the adults are still eating/talking and the kids get restless, they are allowed to go and begin devouring their respective works of art.
It has kept them occupied every year, and even now that they are older, we still enjoy this little tradition!
p.s. we always wind up with a lot of leftover apples, which we like to cut up and saturate in apple-pie ingredients like cinnamon, sugar, lemon, etc. and roll in tiny pieces of lightly buttered leftover apple-pie crust and bake. mmmm!
One of the traditions we have that makes the day more fun and less overwhelming is that we all share the work.
A basket goes around with “before dinner jobs” written on little pieces of paper: peel potatoes, set the table with china, silverware; fold napkins, take beverage orders, put ice in glasses, make relish tray, put food in serving dishes, make the gravy, carve the turkey, mash the potatoes etc.
Then, when everyone is stuffed, the “after dinner” basket goes around: scrape plates, put silverware in dishwasher, pick the turkey carcass, put leftovers in plasticware, wash pots and pans, wash serving dishes, serve coffee/tea, take orders for pie etc.
There is always a lot of laughing and trading of jobs, and of course if a young child gets “carve the turkey,” the person who got “fold the napkins” will graciously trade. There is always one slip of paper among the “after dinner” jobs that says “crawl under the table and take a nap,” so everyone hopes for that one!
Weren’t those great? Thanks so much for the ideas, ladies! Be sure to check back in tomorrow as our “Thanksgiving Countdown” continues.