How My Childhood Thanksgivings Were Different From My Grandchildren’s

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This time of year, I cannot help but feel nostalgic as I think back to my childhood Thanksgivings and how different they look from my grandchildren’s. While I like to pass down my childhood traditions via food and activities, I find that things are… well, different.

Are today’s get-togethers wonderful and memorable in their own way? Of course! 

However, there are still many differences that cannot be denied, which I found when I sat down to write them out. (Have you noticed by now that I love to process things by writing open letters and essays? Hehe.) In the following essay, you will find some of the changes I have discovered from then until now – for both better and worse. 

When it comes to family traditions, Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart. The food that my mama spent so much time preparing (and we devoured within minutes), the lively conversation around the table, and the family reuniting... It was a joyous time and a bright spot in my childhood.

As a grandmother who has seen the transformation of this cherished holiday from my childhood to the experience of my grandchildren, I am struck by the contrasts and the continuities that define Thanksgiving then and now. While the premise and menu remain the same, many things are blatantly different.

When I was a girl, Thanksgiving was a hallmark of simplicity and familial warmth, as the holiday was less about Pinterest-inspired extravagance and more about togetherness. Our homes were not filled with lavish decorations but with the aroma of home-cooked meals passed down through generations.

When I was a girl, the kitchen was the heart of the home, a place of bustling activity where the matriarchs commanded the stove with a sense of purpose and tradition. The turkey, though modest in size, was rich in flavor, lovingly basted, and seasoned with family-secret spices that I still use today. Side dishes like homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, and hand-cranked cranberry sauce were staples. Desserts were traditional, with pumpkin pies that spoke of hours of labor and love.

When I was a girl, television, a relatively new invention, played a minor role in the day's festivities. The focus was on conversation, sharing stories, laughter, and, sometimes, reminiscences of those no longer with us. Thanksgiving was a time to pause, reflect, and be thankful for the simple blessings - health, family, and togetherness.

Fast forward to the present, and Thanksgiving has evolved in its expression, mirroring the changes in the world around us. The essence of family and gratitude remains at its core, but how we celebrate this gratitude has diversified.

Today's Thanksgiving table is a mosaic of traditional and modern, reflecting the global village we now live in. The menu has expanded to include not just the classic turkey but also dishes catering to various dietary preferences and cultural influences. Organic, locally sourced, and vegan options are a nod to the environmentally conscious mindset of the current generation.

Technology has also found its place at the Thanksgiving table. Where once the sharing of stories was purely verbal, now smartphones and social media allow for an instant sharing of the day's festivities, connecting geographically dispersed families. Video calls bring in relatives from across the globe, making the table extend far beyond the confines of the dining room. (Need I mention the football games and the broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade?)

Yet, in this sea of change, the spirit of Thanksgiving remains untouched. The warmth of family, the joy of coming together, and the act of reflecting on our blessings transcend the nuances of how we celebrate. The laughter, the clinking of glasses, the sharing of old family tales, and the creation of new memories - these elements are timeless.

What strikes me most profoundly is the realization that Thanksgiving, at its core, is about the continuity of family, the passing down of traditions, and the timeless act of giving thanks. From the Thanksgiving of my childhood to the Thanksgiving my grandchildren know, the holiday continues to be a cherished beacon of togetherness and gratitude.

As I watch my grandchildren around the table, embracing the new while respecting the old, I am filled with hope and gratitude. Despite its outward changes, Thanksgiving continues to celebrate life's simplest yet most profound blessings - family, love, and togetherness.

What other changes have you noticed? As always, I would love to hear your take! Enjoy your Thanksgiving, my fellow Devoted Grandma – This year, I am extra thankful for YOU!

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