Thanksgiving Past and Present: How We Celebrate Now


My family can only be described one way: The general white family from the US Midwest with a whole bunch of crap thrown in.

Thanksgiving Past and Present

Thanksgiving Past and Present

Holidays were primarily at my (my parents’) house, big enough for my parents’ other kids, their siblings, their kids, and occasionally friends that weren’t traveling. There was the adult table, then there was the kid table. Traditional meal in the early afternoon- turkey or ham, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, Waldorf salad (“Green Death”), rolls and biscuits, pies and cakes. We ate the same leftovers the next day- turkey enchiladas with whatever we want to heat up. There was no alcohol; my family was dry. Everyone played outside, watched TV, got into fights, passed out from exhaustion.

There was also always a prayer before we ate, with the assumption that everyone was the same faith. Back then it didn’t matter much with us kids, so meh. As I grew and explored my own thoughts and feelings about my religion the less I wanted to partake in the prayer. Though my parents thought I was weird and they feared for my soul, they accommodated me in the secular upbringing of my oldest by 1- Not getting upset when we didn’t participate in the prayer, and 2- Actively (and with positive spirits) participating in my request for a new tradition of everyone at the table to share something or someone that they are thankful for.

our first thanksgiving

When J and I got married, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at our own home by ourselves. The main reason was because I was due five days before and we didn’t want to travel or plan to visit family in town when we might have to cancel. We chose prepare a traditional meal, anyway. It’s not like baby was going to slide down my legs in the 6 hours the turkey was going to cook. Statistics and history were in my favor. HA! Anyway she was born that night. 

Thanksgiving has been mostly at our home, with our kids. We have a lazy day where we watch Charlie Brown and talk about what we are thankful for.

teaching thanksgiving history

I haven’t incorporated Thanksgiving history into our school in the past; this year I am. M learned in public school the traditional story that the First Thanksgiving was a meal shared between the Indians and the Pilgrims as a coming together of harmony and thankfulness for a successful crop, which the Indians had helped them with. What he wasn’t taught were the issues and conflict between the pilgrims and natives.

I decided to borrow a book recommended to me by a friend (Native, and very passionate about the subject) called Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong  by James Loewen. It’s going to be after the holiday when I get it (due to the hold system), but that’s ok. We have slowly gone through bits and pieces of Native American history and heritage in the past, particularly local tribes. I want to touch on what are the current issues and events with these groups, and why they’re important.

Essentially we want M, E, and J to understand that no civilization is established in purity and good intentions. Unfortunately that’s what history has taught us. There are so many perspectives for every event in history, and in daily living. Our goal is to help guide our kids to recognize these different perspectives, grow from them, and live knowing how our actions affect everyone around us.


Well it depends. This year (2014) is the first year since E was born that her birthday is on Thanksgiving. So tomorrow we shall have pizza, cake, and all around shenanigans at a playground and outside (weather permitting). We aren’t hosting or traveling; since it’s her birthday, we don’t want to impede on others’ holidays. She (and we) are happy at home playing around.

Years past and future have and will be different every year in some way. We always dream about getting away, spending time in a hotel on the coast, partaking in the chef’s deliciousness with random patrons.

893584_10200469899264609_2087875974_oWe always have a dinner, preferably turkey. Turkey’s just awesome. We started buying a few each year to keep in the freezer for summer and whatnot- might as well when they’re cheaper. We try different foods each year, or different recipe variations. We have ordered local turkeys. Great quality, though more expensive. Last year we raised our own turkey. Eventually we’d like to raise a few turkeys each year. I’ll let you know when we get there. 

The kids set the table how they want. They dress up if they’d like. We pop open a bottle of wine and a bottle of cider. Then we devour what we can, laughing at childish (parents’) antics. We talk about happy things, things and people we love. We try to keep any negativity out of conversation. We don’t talk about history, or thankfulness in particular. Besides our typical statements of what we’re thankful for at the beginning. I am considering an addition of making a statement of thanks, using this benediction as a template. I think we might begin this next year.

We have hosted friends in the past, and will do this again in the future.

Overall, Thanksgiving spurs a lot of mixed feelings from our childhood, and what we know about the history of it. We have so far succeeded in the holiday having some kind of meaning to us as a family, while trying to work toward awareness and empathy of social issues, as well as the world around us- civilized and natural.

What have your past Thanksgivings looked like? How do you teach the history of Thanksgiving, colonization, and Native history of that time?

Thanksgiving Past and Present

Thanksgiving Past and Present


2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Past and Present: How We Celebrate Now

  1. Hi Rachel! I’m stopping by from the CAP and love your post! I agree, traditions change as one separates from the religion and believes of childhood. In our family, this is most apparent in the yule holiday. As a bi-cultural family, we do celebrate Thanksgiving to keep a wonderful U.S. tradition alive for my husband and our children. Quite honestly, we haven’t taught the kids about the origins; in our family, we invite other people to share dinner with us each year, expressing how thankful we are for all the different people in our lives.


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