Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving: It's a Tradition!

Today dawned bright and frosty. Early sun on frost and morning mist united to turn the world to gold. Temperatures were crisp without being cold. It is Thanksgiving in Virginia and, as much or more than any other place in the nation, thanksgiving runs deep in Virginia.

Nearly four-hundred years ago 38 English settlers arrived at Berkely Hundred, about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown on the north bank of the James River. When they arrived, they celebrated a "day of thanksgiving" to God as required by their Charter. Captain John Woodlief held the service and proclaimed at the time "We ordaine [sic] that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon [sic] in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God".

At this first Thanksgiving, history records neither turkey nor feasting nor Indians, but a service of "thanksgiving to Almighty God." The genesis of traditions of turkey and feasting with the Indians begin with the Puritan Separatists three years later in Massachusetts. Other traditions have been added over the years.

When I was a boy our family had certain Thanksgiving traditions, If you were a man or a boy, Thanksgiving was a day for hunting small fierce rabbits. Dad's friends would come early with their dogs and we'd hunt the fields from before the frost lifted until early afternoon. Sometimes, we'd even get something. Always, it was a good time, and something for which to be thankful..

Then there was the family meal at the home place. The wood stove was well-stoked and the smells of cooking filled the large eat-in kitchen. Grandma presided, but most of the work (and all of the silliness) was provided by Aunt Pat and Aunt Elsie. Uncle Ed usually brought the turkey, stuffing, and other delicacies from "The Banker's Club" in New York where he worked.

I don't remember where the pies came from, but vividly remember my aunts giggling and going on and on about the mince pie because "It's got liquor in it!"

An finally, there was mealtime around the Grandma's table. With all five leaves inserted, there was scarcely room for all of us, but we squeezed in and enjoyed the food, the silliness, and the time together. And for this I am thankful.

Today, I own Grandma's table and all five leaves. Last Thanksgiving, my family, kids and grand kids gathered around it and discovered we now need an extension to seat us all, even if we squish in.As in long years past, we gathered to enjoy the food, the silliness, and the time together. And to give thanks.

It's a tradition.

What do you most remember of past Thanksgivings?

What traditions do you treasure and hope to continue?

For what are you particularly thankful this year?