The Family History Guide Activities Section makes it easy to include family history fun in your Thanksgiving celebration. New activities you choose to do this year just may become traditions that make Thanksgiving day more fun, meaningful, and memorable for years to come. Traditions are unique and varied wherever and whenever you find families celebrating a day of gratitude. What comes to your mind at the mention of this particular holiday? Is it imagining the luscious aroma of the over-stuffed turkey slowly roasting in the oven or the vision of over-stuffed family members lounging on the couch, watching a football game after the feast?
Perhaps your family doesn’t have a tradition of watching football, but they participate in other entertaining family activities year after year. My husband’s family has a tradition of some members always crawling behind a couch after dinner and moaning out loud from the discomfort of over-eating! I was a bit surprised when my mother-in-law and her sister did that the first Thanksgiving I spent with them
after I married into the family, but I ended up joining in the fun! I will say that it was no surprise that we all over-ate because the food was heavenly. Try as I might, I can never make sausage dressing that tastes as scrumptious or looks as good as my mother-in-law’s.
Perhaps your traditional meal is enjoyed at a restaurant with friends and family. Maybe the festivities include many meals and go on for days. The typical German, Austrian or Swiss Thanksgiving celebration (Erntedankfest) is usually a rural harvest time observance with church services, a parade, music, and a country fair atmosphere. Later in the day, there’s more music, dancing, and food. In some places, there is also an evening service followed by a lantern and torch parade (Laternenumzug) for the children — and even fireworks!
Entertain your family by serving some tempting dishes that your ancestral family might have eaten, such as Danish dumplings, lasagna, sauerkraut, sushi, lox and bagels, johnnycakes, smoked dried jerky, or French pastry. What items were on your ancestors’ menu?
Discover, preserve, and share your family recipe stories by uploading them to FamilySearch.org/campaign/recipes. Another idea is to create Family Recipe Videos. If creating a video is something you would like to try, check out these ideas from the Family History Guide Youth Activities Page:
Dr. Fishel suggests that if some questions “seem too intense for Thanksgiving dinner, you might just let the food generate its own stories. Elders at the table can be asked to remember what they ate for Thanksgiving. What is the worst food you ever had at Thanksgiving, and what was the most delicious? Is there a dish at the table that has been made for generations of your family, and do you know how that food was chosen?So many of our memories of Thanksgiving are contained in the sensual details of the smell, tastes, and look of the foods. Our stories about the foods may be just as delicious, and memorable, as the sweet potato pudding.”
You may want to record your family members talking about the things for which they are grateful this year. This is one of our dinner-time traditions in my family. We have had to limit our gratitude sharing to “one item each” in my extended Clark family which sometimes includes over sixty people at a Thanksgiving family gathering!
This blog post entitled “The Family history guide’s Memories Project – your blueprint for posting and sharing family stories” gives insights into the why and how to preserve your family stories, and how to easily locate them on FamilySearch using the “All The Stories” app found in Photos and Stories . It is in the apps gallery accessed on FamilySearch. This is one of my favorite apps!
It is worth the effort to share stories, listen, and record. Dr. Fishel states that doing so “serves as a reminder of our interconnectedness with others. Stories teach us lessons that help facilitate change, growth, and transformation, which can be very powerful.” She shares the following story to illustrate:
“This will be the first Thanksgiving without my father at the table. I will certainly think of him as I eat the sweet potato pudding that he loved and declared “the best he ever had,” year after year. But, more than the food, I will recall the stories he told around the table. Some were about great daring and resilience, like the time his submarine was torpedoed by Germans in the Mississippi River and he had to swim to shore, wondering if he would ever get out of America to fight the war. Some stories were about his hijinks, like the time he outfitted his army mutt with a parachute and pushed him out of a plane, an event that was captured on the front pages of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. A few years ago, when he was 90, my family and I recorded several hours of his storytelling, and this Thanksgiving I look forward to rereading the transcriptions of those stories. His stories bring him to life. When my sons and nephews retell his stories, which they do throughout the year, I know he will live on even after I do.”
Thanksgiving is definitely one of the best times to learn more about your family. Planning ahead to include a side dish of family history stories while enjoying recipes from your heritage can help make this Thanksgiving celebration the best yet. Who knows, years down the road your posterity might still be cooking the same family recipe you introduced this year and sharing the story of why it became part of your Thanksgiving dinner and is now part of theirs!
Postscript: Check these out!