Thanksgiving Traditions: Celebrations beyond food

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There is a truth I have come to realize about the human spirit, that we are meant to celebrate in community. Why else would cultures since the beginning of civilizations build monuments, set aside holidays, and start lasting traditions. Life takes us through intense seasons of effort. Knowing that a season of celebration is coming propels us forward through the exhaustion knowing the joy that awaits.

Celebrations are suppose to bring this relief. If Thanksgiving is coming and you are feeling the stress, maybe you need a reset. Adjust your plans, say no more often, and whittle down your schedule to the most important moments that make you happy.

When autoimmunity became too obvious to ignore and I needed to change my diet, holiday traditions for me also needed to change. I refuse to tell myself the lie that “It’s not really Thanksgiving unless I’ve eaten some pumpkin roll.” If I did give into that, it would taste delicious for a moment, but soon I’d have a weeks worth of sickness to deal with. It also conflicts with my secondary weight loss goals. In January I don’t want to be set back even further because of the holidays. Food is fuel, not feelings. While I have some favorite Thanksgiving dishes that taste good and make me feel good, like my savory sweet potato hash, roasted Brussels sprouts with mustard glaze, and butternut squash noodles with roasted red pepper sauce, I also believe in setting traditions that let us celebrate beyond our food choices. I want more moments that bring me joy and help me find connection with my family, neighbors and friends.

Green Gurney Thanksgiving Traditions

1 Turkey Trot

My husband’s hometown turkey trot began with my father in law, John, inviting his friends and neighbors to meet on his driveway on Thanksgiving morning. John was the kind of man that loved his community and loved to eat. He knew that relationships were built through activities and traditions, like running. Years after he passed away the tradition has carried on with a community trot named in honor of John Gurney. The local YMCA hosts the trot and the event collects cereal boxes for the local food pantry. It is not just about exercise. It is about neighbors caring for each other, which is something John believed in and I like to be reminded of at Thanksgiving.

2 Netflix: Friends and Gilmore Girls

My cousin and I live more than 2,000 miles apart. We are truly 2nd cousins or 3rd cousins thrice removed, but nobody actually cares what we are called because we are kindred spirits. About 30 years ago, on a whim, she traveled to Ohio for Thanksgiving and we were forever connected by fate. When she visits we of course do some cooking, but we are also committed to sitting in our pajamas watching our favorite Friends and Gilmore Girls Thanksgiving episodes. If you have Netflix both shows are available to stream. There are 7 Friends Thanksgiving episodes, but my favorites are S3E9 – The One with the Football, S5E8 & 9 – The One with all the Thanksgivings and The One with the Sandwich, and S8E9 – The One with the Rumor.

Gilmore Girls is a forever favorite of mine. Season 3 Episode 9 – A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving never disappoints! I will probably also watch the Fall episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life while I chopped veggies!

3 Good Books

I could name so many children’s books that celebrate Thanksgiving, but here are two of my favorites.

  1. We Gather Together… Now Please Get Lost by Diane deGroat The series character Gilbert always teaches a lesson in a funny way. This time Gilbert learns how important it is to include people who are easily forgotten.
  2. How Many Days to America? by Even Bunting is an immigration story that begins with urgency but ends with hope when people find America on a very special holiday.

For my own reading I always have a stack of books on deck, but this year I’m geeking out over a Pulitzer Prize Winner. A friend of mine loaned me The Overstory by Richard Powers. Simply stated it is a powerful novel about trees that teach the reader big truths about connection and the human experience. I cannot wait!

4 Games

While my family is full of Euchre and Scrabble lovers, I seek out games that make people laugh, teach us about our loved ones, and foster connection. I guess it’s because I’m not so competitive, I just want to enjoy the people. Catch phrase was a favorite with me and my cousins growing up. Jenga is great because a huge age range can enjoy it. This year my mom bought a Questions game. At first I made fun of it thinking it was for bad dates and awkward work parties, then I tried one card with my mom and smack my mouth it was cool! Just from one card, my mom and I were led into a fantastic conversation. We literally talk to each other every day, but learned things about each other that we’d never learned before. This game if forced would be terrible, but we are going to make it breezy. I think we will place a card by each persons napkin and see what conversations come about!

5 Nature Walks

If you’ve followed my blog or social media for some time, you know that in the Gurney world, no happy day is complete without a nature walk. In bad weather or good, in the city or country I will find a way to be outside in some sort of green space. On the Gurney side for Thanksgiving we are lucky enough to be in the midst of Amish country on a farm with goats, horses, and a donkey. Each year we take our boots, hats, and gloves preparing for any weather. After dinner we load up our gear, gather any willing relatives and send out on a trek! Each year is filled with a different surprise or majesty. Once we saw a 14 year old Amish boy on a joy ride trying to recreate a roller coaster experience with a horse and buggy. He shot down the biggest hill in Morrow County at top speeds laughing at his sneaky version of defiance. Another year I was the only girl amongst uncles and cousins. We ended up on a 5 mile loop on country roads howling with laughter. The sun was setting too quickly, our fingers were numb, but I got to hear outrageous stories about the antics they pulled off when they were young. Sometimes it is just me and Jonathan on these walks. The sun is bright and we find ourselves talking and dreaming about the kind of things that our busy life seems to squeeze out. This by far is my favorite of all Thanksgiving traditions since I am convinced nothing resets my soul like a nature walk.

If holidays bring you stress, worry, or fear of foods, I encourage you to make new traditions. Leave a comment if you connected with one of my traditions, or you have other traditions to share!

Wishing you the kind of Thanksgiving that restores you – body and soul!

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