Thursday, November 26, 2020

Memories of Childhood Thanksgivings

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It's a national holiday and probably the biggest family holiday of the year. While the holiday is about being thankful, it is not a specific religious holiday.

If you aren't from the US, you might not know the history of the American Thanksgiving holiday. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn feast, which is thought of as the one of the first Thanksgiving dinners in the American colonies. For more than 200 years after that, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.  Finally in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving holiday to be held each year in November.  At some point in history, it became commericialized as the lead in to Christmas shopping.  The day after Thanksgiving became Black Friday shopping day, but I'm getting sidetracked. 

As a child, my family spent the holiday at the home of my father's parents with the large extended family. My grandmother made the turkey and all of the other family members brought the other food. I don't remember specifically what other family members made, but my mother made pies, many pies, the day before.  She made the best crusts. If there was dough leftover, she sprinkled the rolled out dough with cinnamon and sugar, rolled it up, sliced it and baked it into cookies.  The other thing she made every year was called Jello Mold. I don't know why it was called mold because it was made in a large green crock bowl. It was lime jello, cottage cheese, crushed pineapple, and nuts. Maybe it had other things too.  I've never eaten it anywhere else and there was never a written recipe for it that I saw. 

We spent the entire day at my grandparents. I think our holiday was very traditional for that time. The children watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television or played outside. From what I remember, the women talked and got the food ready in the kitchen. The men sat out on the porch that wrapped around the front of the house, maybe smoking and talking, but not helping with the dinner.

The food was laid out on the kitchen table, the dining room sideboards, and ironing boards around the dining room. My grandparents had a huge set of matching green and white dishes that took up one wall of cabinets in the kitchen. We walked around and filled our green and white plates.  I remember my great grandmother, who lived across the street from my grandparents, asking my mother who made each item every year. The adults ate at the large dining room table.  The children and younger unmarried adults ate on card tables in the TV room and the living room. There was a lot of talking and laughing. All of the families lived nearby and saw each other often but we didn't all get together at the same time so much, so this was special. 

After the meal, the girls washed and dried  the dishes.  We weren't a football family, but that is a part of many families' holiday now.  The children played, the adults talked, and we ate pie for the rest of the day. When it was time to go home, everyone pulled out their Tupperware containers and took home leftovers. 

Now I live in Japan, where there are many national holidays. Some American holiday traditions are creeping into Japan, but American Thanksgiving is not one of them. It seems like Japanese holidays are for being thankful for everything - the children, the sea, the mountains, the elderly people, eveything. I'm thankful for childhood memories and thankful I now live in Japan.


Vireya said...

Happy Thanksgiving. Your memories of childhood Thanksgivings sound wonderful. Christmas was the only big celebration in my childhood, and it always involved heaps of tension and stress and there were sure to be angry words exchanged at some point!

kiwikid said...

Interesting post Pamela, coming from NZ we didn't have Thanksgiving, our big family gathering time was ar Christmas. It sounds like your family thanksgiving was a great day. It seems a lot of holidays are becoming very commercialised types days.

SUWA said...

It′s sweet memories for you. Thank you telling it for me.
And I′m glad to know your happiness living in Japan.

Queeniepatch said...

Thanks for sharing your memories with us. In my childhood family gatherings similar to yours took place at Christmas. I think fewer people gather like this nowadays or they take turns which grandparents to visit.
Like you I am thankful that I live in Japan.

jacaranda said...

Happy Thanksgiving Pamela. We had 2 occasions for family get togethers, Easter and Christmas. Wonderful memories for you of your Thanksgiving day.

Kentucky Lady said...

Oh my, I also remember the lime green jello salad!! My mom only made it on special occasions.
I have fond memories of sitting at the "kid table". I think we had more fun than the adults.
My family now is scattered and with COVID Thanksgiving is different this year. My son is his family live in Kagoshima. I've been explaining the holiday to my 6yr gson.
Happy Memories and Happy Thanksgiving from Kentucky.

Leonore Winterer said...

What wonderful childhood memories! I hope you still spent a pleasant day, even if it's not really Thanksgiving in Japan.