Thanksgiving Traditions

Just about everyone that I know has some sort of special tradition surrounding their celebration of Thanksgiving Day. For some, it’s a particular recipe, or a particular preparation. As I was growing up, I recall that my Grandfather was always responsible for the cranberry sauce. He made it himself, every year that I can remember, while he was alive—or at least he claimed to have made it. Some folks make the preparation of the traditional turkey an almost religious ritual, rising in the deep, dark hours of early morning to begin preparations, and bowing reverently before the oven and its bird. A small minority that just has to be different go for ham instead of turkey, and some have both.

My wife Sharon’s family tradition includes perhaps the most sumptuous feast that I have ever attended, prepared by her Aunt Helen and Uncle Ben. They spend several days preparing food for this special gathering, perhaps more food per square foot than I have ever seen in my life—I could spend the rest of this column listing the menu, and still leave something out. One other tradition that is associated with Thanksgiving Day at Ben and Helen’s house is that everyone and anyone who happens to be there is automatically family, and anyone who shows up at the door is automatically invited. Ben and Helen’s home is a warm, wonderful place to be on Thanksgiving Day—or any other day, for that matter.

Many people have traditions of sharing at the table the things that they are thankful for. One cute idea I heard of recently was having everyone write down on a little slip of paper something that they are thankful for. The slips are then baked into crescent rolls, and at the start of the meal, everyone “breaks bread,” and reads the paper in their roll. There is almost always the traditional Thanksgiving Day prayer prior to the meal—but sadly, in altogether too many households, it’s the only prayer uttered all year. Like it or not, many folks are more thankful for the gravy than for the grace of God that allows them to enjoy it.

Like most Americans, we thrive on tradition in the Case household. We have developed one of the most satisfying of traditions in connection with Thanksgiving Day—one that I heartily recommend to anyone and everyone. Every year, the Lord brings us a guest list of folks that are alone, to fill our Thanksgiving Day table. Some are distant from family; some simply don’t have any family at all. They might be single, or married, or young, or old, or rich, or poor. Sometimes they’re in transition — recently separated, divorced, or widowed, or new in town, or “just passing through.” It seems that we seldom have anyone for 2 years in a row, but we delight in sharing with them whenever the Lord brings them to us—and He does “bring them” to us, sometimes in the most wonderful ways. There’s always a last-minute addition, but somehow, there’s also always enough.

I have been wonderfully blessed with a wife who has the spiritual gift of hospitality. She is at her best with a houseful of guests, and nobody crosses the threshold without becoming a friend in the process. Her hospitality mixes well with my gift of encouragement, and the result has been so satisfying that I actually have a hard time putting it into words (if you can believe that). But, we were not always so blessed. When we came to the realization a few years ago that we were living distant from our families and would be unable to share in the traditions that we loved, we could have just sighed and sat back—but instead, we decided to start new family traditions of our own, and to open ourselves up to whatever direction the Lord wanted to give us. It was Him, not us, who started this new family tradition, and year after year He blesses us with a filled table and good cause for giving thanks to Jesus Christ, the source of our satisfaction.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Col 3:15-16

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at CaseStudies!

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