My mom would plan her Thanksgiving shopping list weeks in advance. She made it a priority to shop for all the necessary ingredients for her recipes before the stores could sell out. Topping the list was poultry seasoning. My mom could not make her famous sausage dressing without it. There was also the Jimmy Dean silver label sausage with sage. My mom incorporated the brand into her dressing in 1969 and after that, no other sausage would do.
Another item we had to hunt down before Thanksgiving Day was unseasoned croutons. My mom thought the herb-seasoned croutons made her dressing too salty, nothing but the best for her family. If you’ve ever had the task of finding unseasoned croutons or poultry seasoning on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Thursday, you understand the challenge it can present.
Who could forget the obligatory cans of cranberry sauce? In my house we preferred jellied, not whole. One year mom purchased the whole berry stuff by mistake. What a disaster that was! I’m sure Ocean Spray does entire studies on the qualitative differences between the demographics of jellied eaters versus whole berry eaters.
Every year, my sister and I took turns taking the first slice of cranberry sauce. (That was the piece from the end of the can that had the imprint on it.) I’m not sure who started that tradition. It was probably just some made up ritual to detract from the fact that we could only afford one can of cranberry sauce. The tradition stuck, along with breaking the wishbone and my mom’s egg custard pies. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without those pies.
For the past few years, my niece and nephews have taken turns making fudge pecan pies. Everyone knows I get the first piece. That’s the one where the hot fudgy pecan sticks to your tongue and scalds the roof of your mouth because you haven’t let the pie cool down when you take the first bite. Guess I’ll never learn.
Everyone looked forward to my mom’s sausage dressing - in spite of the times she made us dress up as Pilgrims to eat it. She would ceremoniously only serve it twice a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suppose that’s what made it so special. My sister and I both make variations of our mom’s recipe today, in consideration of our families’ dietary habits. My sister has been known to make the original version as well as a reduced fat and a vegetarian version of the savory specialty. Yum! I am salivating right now. I can hardly wait.
Another of our family traditions is my mom’s famous candy count jar. Every Thanksgiving, she would fill a jar with candy corn taking care to count each piece as she placed it in the jar. Whoever guessed the closest without going over the actual number of pieces would win the jar. We have been know to celebrate the counting game with a variety of candy on Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Christmas, Three Little Pig’s Day, Eastern Orthodox Lunar Landing Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, you get the idea. The tradition is always a conversation starter around our house, and one that I have enjoyed sharing with friends on many occasion.
We also always look forward to the family’s holiday gaming ritual. It varies from year to year, but generally involves some sort of vegetative state of a tryptophan overdose along with a competition and ridiculous thrift store prizes. Sure everyone complains about winning the twelve year old pasta-in-a-jar or the macraméd kitten napkin holders, but the tradition still stands and is always good for a belly laugh on a full stomach.
One of my personal favorite holiday traditions involves a time of reflection as we go around the table and give thanks for our many blessings. I am also the self-proclaimed keeper of the secret envelope of predictions. Each year, all who gather are invited to write down their predictions for the coming year. Every year after the meal, we tear open the previous year’s predictions. It is always surprising to see who predicted the past year’s events most accurately. Sometimes the predictions are funny, sometimes sad, but always memorable and thought provoking.
Yes, our family loves its Thanksgiving celebration. Over the years we have enjoyed creating new traditions as well as passing along the time-treasured favorites that began with our parents. As our children have grown, each year becomes more challenging to coordinate with everyone’s busy schedules. Though many of our family members are no longer with us, Thanksgiving is always a time of sharing our bounty and passing along our memories. Happy Thanksgiving y’all!