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.