Three days. Three days until that joyous occasion, the day the nation of America celebrates as Thanksgiving. For most people it is an occasion for extended family to come together, sometimes in spite of the conflicts and arguments that will or have arisen in the past. A day of feasting, which usually means buying a pack of brown and serve rolls, a frozen turkey three days in advance, cranberry sauce, and a box of stuffing. The typical American Thanksgiving is largely sourced from grocery shelves in packaged boxes, afterwards a TV is brought up and all sit around watching the game. It’s a tradition to be sure, but it has surely lost what it originally meant to the Pilgrims. A day of giving thanks to God, voicing your Thanksgiving, a feast with friends, family, a joyous occasion.
In my family our Thanksgiving tradition is a bit more like the first one, to be sure. Almost everything is homemade, and that has just stemmed from the way we do things in our families. We’re more health conscience than most Americans. From the rolls to the green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s all homemade. Typically we have it at one of our Uncle’s houses and we all come to his house. He usually provides the space to sleep and the use of his kitchen, and usually provides the turkey (s) and ham. From there usually two weeks in advance we communicate via email about who will do what, we’ve been doing it long enough that everyone has the one food that they usually make, making it pretty simple. Someone makes the rolls, as well as sticky buns for Thursday breakfast, someone does green beans, pies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, the whole shebang. From the moment everyone arrives it is instantaneous fun.
We usually arrive Wednesday at some point, some of the cousins arriving in the morning and others in the evening. After the initial greetings and hugs we usually have a meal together Wednesday night, followed often with a game, some people going off into corners to talk, others playing tic tac to on the floor, the little kids sword fighting in the basement, someone showing others a hilarious youtube video, the adults talking in the kitchen around some chocolate and cheese, and maybe a cousin or two working on sticky buns for the following morning breakfast. Everywhere you turn is someone you love and care and can laugh with. You are full of energy because not only is Uncle Dan roasting and brewing fresh coffee all the time but the adrenaline is pumping you full of excitement! By midnight things have settled down, the more sensible ones have gone to bed, the teenagers and college age cousins are either talking or playing games, maybe even discussing where to sleep. The majority of the people there are night owls, and rightly so, for so much of the fun goes on at night. There happen to be a few people who are night owls and morning persons, which don’t combine very well, but when you’re running on coffee and adrenaline, it works, at least for this week. ; )
Either by an alarm or by sheer excitement of the day a few people are up quite early, 5:30am. Since I usually make the sticky buns, I’m usually up at that time to get them rising in the oven for a breakfast around 7:00am. The next one up if it’s not my older brother Isaiah is my Uncle Tim. Who, is very much an introvert, but you wouldn’t guess it just by being around him, as he has a very funny sense of humor and uses it all the time. He can be very extroverted if he’s had quiet time to himself, hence an early riser, like me. He can be found writing down something in a notebook by the light of the bulb in the oven in the kitchen. I usually take a short walk outside to see the sunrise (a beautiful moment each morning!), or reading my bible, just taking in all the quiet. I love Thanksgiving week because I can be myself very much, and I can also be a night owl and a morning person at the same time, which I can’t always do. I love the two extremes, during the day somewhat chaotic fun, from bocce ball outside, to a game of Catan at night, conversations about levity and flying machines, electricity from magnets and trees, to the quiet early mornings where it is just a few people. A little conversation about something that happened last night, something funny someone said, or just talking about God, and enjoy each others company with a fresh cup of joe. Around 7:00am people start to trickle in from the bedrooms, taking showers in the 3 bathrooms that we have (for 35+ people!). It is also a favorite time when people are slowly waking up, it’s a nice gentle way for everyone to greet the new day, make their presence known. More coffee is brewed, hugs are passed all around, maybe someone asking where a towel is because the bathroom no longer has one. The smell of sticky buns fills the house as it mingles with the smell of joe. Children are eating happily at the table, older cousins sitting down next to them, making them feel loved and noticed by the older ‘cool’ cousins. After breakfast people start work on what their making for the feast. Others might start a batch of coffee, because by 8am we’ve drunk up 3 full pots of coffee. A little later a game of bocce ball will start, which will include jokes and laughs to numerous to count. If you have a choice you’ll probably try to be part of Uncle Tim’s team. : ) Games and sports will continue until around 1:30pm when people will wash up and prepare for the feast. A total of around 6 tables will be put together in two lines food will be spread, candles lit, place cards written and hand decorated, and then the feast will begin. Usually the oldest person there is asked to say the blessing, it is said and then the line begins.
The food is bountiful and delicious. Fresh rolls, cranberry sauce, several kinds of chutney, broccoli and carrots, green beans, sweet potato casserole, candied yams, turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and we haven’t even gotten to dessert. The meal usually lasts 1-2 hours, depending on how slow people eat and hang around after the meal. Soon people are washing and cleaning up, preparing for dessert later in the evening. Some will take a walk outside, along the gravel driveway, or a more scenic route through the woods and over a creek. A guitar and flute might be produced and start some music on the front porch, people talking, playing games, generally enjoying themselves. Around 6:30-7pm depending on how hungry people are again we will have dessert. This is almost a whole meal in and of it’s self. Fresh coffee will be brewed, drinks including beer and wine, chocolate, a board of cheese, and then the pies. Half a dozen pumpkin and apple pies, a couple of pecan pies, and maybe a blueberry one thrown in there as well. Thursday night is even better than Wednesday night. After or before dessert we will have a hymn sing. After which we will sit around in a circle and go around telling about the past year in a few words, or saying something we are thankful for. It is always an amazing time of fellowship. Besides the usual games we play we usually have at least one game of Rook, a game that goes back to when my dad and his brothers were growing up as missionary kids in South Korea. It is most fun when you have at least one of my Uncles involved. This will all continue into the night. At some point the children go to bed, the older ones staying up, talking, playing more games, drinking, sampling more food and drink. Around midnight they might be well enough tired out to go to bed.
Friday morning there is not quite as much to look forward to so people might not be up quite as early. Breakfast will be more of the same, pies and Thanksgiving meal leftovers. More coffee and tea and cider will be made available. Games will probably be started, and talk of leaving will happen as well. Usually after lunch some of the cousins have to leave to go back and the goodbyes are said, hugs are passed out. Some of the cousins will stay another day. The eating and partying will continue as long as some remain, but it will not be quite as joyous as before. A late night campfire will be in order, long talks about life and everything else. A bonding time for cousins and friends.
Saturday will come, and go. If we are staying until Sunday then it is not a sad day, more of the same happens. General Thanksgiving games will continue, walks will continue, talks with Uncles and cousins will happen, and general catching up with each other will happen.
Sunday we often go to church with the host family and leave afterwards to come home. Everyone is thinking about next Thanksgiving and how much fun we will have. Thankful for the amazing family they have, and thanking God for all His blessings. Hearts somewhat heavy, as we come back to reality, a taste of heaven still left on our hearts and lips. We go back to life, but with a little more vigor than before, a little closer to Jesus, because we know what eternal fellowship with His saints in Heaven is going to be like. I believe that at Thanksgiving we get a picture of what Heaven will be like, feasting, drinking, singing, praying, talking, except it will be even better, when we can be face to face with Jesus. The most amazing week of the year, is this week, Thanksgiving.