The Art of Family Traditions

        I know what you must be thinking– Thanksgiving is the simple traditional gateway to the infamous Black Friday. Thanksgiving is merely a family acting as bears preparing for hibernation; they stock up on food on Thursday to be able to shop the entire day on Friday. We need to preserve our strength in order to fight anyone for that last pair of boots during a sale. In America, and as Americans, we tend to overvalue materialistic things instead of quality family time. And I get it. Sometimes, those store sales get the best of us. However, there is a certain kind of art in having those quirky family traditions that make your holidays genuine and familiar.

         When I was growing up, my Thanksgiving was surrounded by food, my mom, and, of course, football. Each year, my mom worked during the morning of Thanksgiving. It was my job before she came home to cut up some cheese and pepperoni for the crackers we would have recently bought. Eating cheese and crackers on every major holiday was a part of my childhood tradition– something that I could look forward to every year. By the time my mom would come home from work, I would change the cable station to Thanksgiving football. Each year, no matter who was playing, my mom and I, and sometimes my older brothers, would watch football. It was a good year when the Philadelphia Eagles were playing, but we settled for practically anyone. In between commercials, I would start the long process of preparing the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Every year, my family and I would have practically the same meal: oven roasted turkey; homemade mashed potatoes with minced garlic which my brother hated; boxed stuffing; green bean casserole, which my brother loved; and a homemade macaroni and cheese casserole. I cooked everything but the turkey only because I feared  cleaning a dead bird. But because I did the majority of the cooking, my mom gladly agreed to take over the turkey duties. The day always ended with our stomachs full and with my mom and I finishing the football game. When I was in high school, the spirit of Thanksgiving was not about shopping on Black Friday, but cheering for my mom’s pick to win the football game. I found art in the mutual excitement for the game my mom loved.

       My holidays were about spending time with my best friend, my mom. I do not think I was exactly thankful for my time with her on holidays until she passed away last year. I thought that my holidays would be easy to fulfill, but there was something missing.

        On Thanksgiving of 2016, I was invited to my best friend Ashley’s holiday festivities. Not knowing how the holidays would even go, I accepted the invitation to be with Ashley’s family for a day. I was hoping for her family to be cooking while watching football like I had every year prior. As I entered her grandmother’s house, I immediately felt at home. The television was not playing football, but Ashley’s family was cooking turkey, green bean casserole, and a new dish that I never had before, homemade cheese spread for crackers. What made me feel at home was being in the presence of another family’s traditions. I was elated that I was even invited to take part in them. After eating, it was their tradition for the kids to stay home and play board games while the adults went shopping for Thanksgiving Day sales. I had mentioned to Ashley that I have never shopped on Thanksgiving, and that prompted her to convince her mom to let the kids join. This made me beyond excited. Not only did I eat a whole lot of good food, but I also got to shop. Ashley’s mom had Ashley, and her twin sister, Amber, and I shop in different stores for fear of us getting in the way of her sales. While she tried to make us go somewhere else to shop, we kids still followed her mom around like wandering puppies. There were too many people in each store to count. I remember being wedged in between two women as Ashley and I tried to find her mom in the shoe section of Macy’s. I would say I was scared, but I had not felt that happy in awhile. After our adventure in Macy’s Ashley’s family and I ventured to other parts of the mall we were in. As we entered another store, I looked up at the television screen to see highlights of the football games that played throughout the day. I smiled and turned toward Ashley who was in the next store.

      People might say that there is not a true art of Thanksgiving, but I would have to disagree. The art of Thanksgiving is tradition. The weird ritualistic things we do as families. I had not known the power of crackers and cheese on Thanksgiving while watching football until I was surrounded by a family who did not do that as a tradition. Now, to me, Thanksgiving is being open to the change that is bound to happen in your life and being thankful for it. I am still trying to develop my own traditions as an adult in college, but there will always come a time where I just want to watch football while eating turkey, and that is okay. I am thankful for the friends I have made throughout my life who allowed me into their families and invited me to be a part of their traditions.

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