Holidays are like “mini-trips”, the opportunity to “travel” out of the daily grind. Sometimes they involve actual travel, sometimes not, but regardless it is a break from the mundane. Like a vacation, holidays give us room to make exceptions to our typical limitations on food, drink and bedtimes. I’m particularly fond of Thanksgiving in this respect. How great is a holiday that puts so much emphasis on food? True, this is a highlight of the day, but I also really enjoy the idea of taking time to simply be grateful for our blessings. At the heart Thanksgiving is dedicating time to intentionally focus our outlook on seeing the world for all the positive it contains.
That can be hard to do when much of the holiday is wrought with “hostess distress”. All the pressure out there – from Martha Stewart to Pinterest – to have the “magazine ready” table, puff-pastry hors d’ourves, turkey butter sculptures and the well-brined bird can overshadow the true nature of the day. Like any good trip, your holiday should have the requisite “must-haves”- you wouldn’t visit Paris and ignore the Eiffel Tower- so for most of us that means the turkey is non-negotiable. And just like every vacation needs a little down-time to discover the unexpected joys of the place, holidays need un-orchestrated moments for spontaneous laughter and true connection with those around us.
Much like travel, the destination is better when shared with those we love. Holidays are the same. Enjoying traditions with loved-ones bonds us, shared history creates lasting memories and family identity. Thanksgiving holds wonderful connections to our past. Although they are both gone, I cherish the recipes that make it to the table from both my Grandmothers. Enjoying fried cardoon and cranberry-nut jello remind us of their continued presence in our lives.
Regardless of how you spend Thanksgiving Day – at a table set with handmade lace placecards or eating pizza on paper plates -may your holiday be about what matters most – love, family, appreciation, heritage, tradition, friendship and thankfulness. Here are several Thanksgiving reads, both traditional and modern, that remind us of the true meaning of the day.
Over the River and Through the Wood is the classic Thanksgiving poem by Lydia Maria Child. Originally published in 1844, and eventually set to music, the tale of traveling to Grandmother’s house for a feast on Thanksgiving Day continues to delight children of all ages. (PB/RA)
The Night Before Thanksgivingby Natasha Wing cleverly tells the story of a modern Thanksgiving Day, from the preparations to the inevitable hilarity that family gatherings always produce, all written in the familiar cadence of Clement Moore’s classic poem The Night Before Christmas. Enjoy this Thanksgiving spin on an old favorite! (PB/RA)
Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #13: Pilgrims Jack and Annie find themselves in Plymouth colony in the fall of 1621 in Thanksgiving on Thursday the 27th book in Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series. This non-fiction companion answers all the lingering questions about what life as a Pilgrim was really like and how Thanksgiving came to be known as the celebration we enjoy today. (ER 2/3)
Turkey Monster Thanksgiving by Anne Warren Smith reminds us that Thanksgiving isn’t about being perfect, just perfectly happy. All the changes in her life, and pressure from neighborhood friend, have got Katie thinking that it is time to have a “real” Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter that she’s always loved her dad’s non-traditional, stay in your jammies, eat pizza kinda day. If Katie can make Thanksgiving perfect then maybe her family will be perfect, too. Funny, warm and sweet this story reminds every reader that at the heart all a family needs to be perfect is love. (ER-3/4)
Don’t Be Such a Turkey! Katie Kazoo is at it again – switching places at the worst times – learning what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. This double duty special edition has two great Thanksgiving stories from author Nancy Krulik. First, Katie is off to visit a reconstructed pilgrim village – and you guessed it- she turns into a real pilgrim! Can Katie survive the first Thanksgiving? Then Katie finds herself right in the middle of one of the most iconic American Thanksgiving Day traditions – she’s a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! For more on this event check out my post Sweet Serendipity. (ER-2/3)
My Name Is America: The Journal Of Jasper Jonathan Pierce, A Pilgrim Boy All alone, indentured servant Jasper Jonathan Pierce finds himself on the Mayflower. To combat his loneliness and to create some connection with the brother he left behind, Jasper writes a diary of his experiences from the beginning of the journey through the difficult first years of the settlement at Plymouth. Written as a succession of journal entries and filled with historical information this book by Ann Rinaldi gives a real picture of what it was like to be a Pilgrim, and a child, in 1620. (MR-4)
Merrie* In this young adult romance by Vivian Schurfranz 16 year old Merrie stows away on the Mayflower hoping to escape England and an arranged marriage. She finds herself unwelcome in this new world, and struggles to survive the lonely, cold, deadly first winter. As the first Thanksgiving approaches should she return to England with handsome sailor Luke? Or stay and try to make a life in this new colony with Zachariah, a budding doctor? (YA- 6-8)*Part of the Sunfire Romance Series which is out of print, but available used on Amazon.com or at the library. I adored this series as a middle-schooler, as there is a book (and heroine) for almost every major event in American history. Although they are formulaic, they are also surprisingly sweet, age appropriate early romance novels.*