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Passing On Family Traditions

 Posted by Krista Hughes on November 20, 2020 at 2:15 PM

Written By Krista Hughes

Aside from a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, most areas of life involve the general understanding that advanced age precipitates the passing of the torch (so to speak) to a younger generation. But when it comes to stepping aside as the Thanksgiving hostess — and passing the ceremonial turkey platter to a new generation — the rules are not always clear, embraced, or accepted. Or, is that just what we think? 

Thanksgiving is not a typical dinner. It’s often a ritual steeped in tradition; roles have been established, routines entrenched, menus set in stone.  Thanksgiving is the kick-off to the holiday seasoninviting familial emotions and memories that might try and define us. And, something seemingly as straightforward as a change in venue can become emotionally charged. Tweaking even a small part of the “traditional” holiday schedule, ceremony or menu can produce rippling effects, positive or painful, in the collective life of a family. 

The eating part may last less than an hour but hosting Thanksgiving is so much more.  The host/ess creates an “experience” that transports us somewhere, if only briefly, where emotions and memories take over. 

But what happens when it’s time to pass the “ceremonial turkey platter” to the younger generation?  And, what’s the most important thing to keep constant in the midst of this change?  What’s the one line that won’t be “crossed” in order to retain the family experience? 

For me, Thanksgiving requires the following 5 non-negotiable things: 

  1. Deviled Eggs: My grown kids probably eat deviled eggs once a year, at Thanksgiving, but they eat their weight in them, haha….  

  1. Dressing:  You simply won’t find my mother’s dressing served anywhere else but at our table.  I’m 60 years old and been around a lot of blocks and never have I ever met anybody who’s ever heard of our secret dressing recipe. You hear of cornbread dressing down south but our family recipe uses herbal bread crumbs as a base.  That’s as much as I’m at liberty to say. It’s the best dressing in the world! I have my mother’s handwritten recipe (with stains on it) laminated for its protection. It’s something I truly treasure, as she is no longer with us.   

  1. Dark meat turkey: What kind of tryptophan delusion would ever mislead one to think it would be okay to make a white meat only turkey? (Note: This happened once, approximately 20 years ago.  I’m still trying to recover from the trauma). 

  1. Table centerpiece: I have our little wood turkey centerpiece with suckers as tail feathers that my dad made.  Yes, it might sound lame, but it’s been on our table for over 40 years and my grands love it. They know they’ll get a sweet surprise at the end of the otherwise long stuffy meal 

  1. “Remember When” Stories:  These usually involved times when all of the cousins were together, with one saying “Hey Dude, Watch This” followed by something stupid that resulted in first aid and time outs.  Good times! 

Passing of the ceremonial platter does not have to be a sad end of some cherished experience. It can simply be an opportunity to add a new twist to an otherwise meaningful reunion/revival of family. It can still honor the family matriarch/patriarch and the values they molded in each of us.