Friday, November 27, 2009

Who was sitting around your Thanksgiving dinner table? Family? Friends?



Holidays have a way of making me review my life—-memories of Thanksgivings past. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was strictly a family affair. During my first brief, troubled marriage, I don’t recall our ever celebrating Thanksgiving. My second marriage was another mistake, but it lasted much longer, and about a decade of Thanksgiving dinners were spent with my ex's family. They were a very nice group of people who were very good to my son and I have fond memories of them.

My third try at marriage was a success and many Thanksgiving dinners were spent with my husband’s family in Rhode Island. Sadly, my husband’s parents and many of the relatives who sat around that Thanksgiving table are no longer with us and we are no longer driving up to Rhode Island for Thanksgiving. The common thread in all this is that the folks around the Thanksgiving table were all family—-traditionally defined.

My sister and a group of her friends have been having Thanksgiving together for years. And luckily for us they have taken us in. Much as I enjoy having dinner with my husband, a Thanksgiving dinner with just the two of us wouldn’t be much fun. Holidays are communal celebrations.

My guess is that in our increasingly mobile society with our changing notions of what counts as family, many of those communal celebrations are as likely to consist of a small circle of friends as of a group of relatives.

3 comments:

  1. This Thanksgiving was probably the most pleasant and enjoyable ones I've had in a very long time. And I didn't spend it with family (which is why it was so pleasant and enjoyable).

    My immediate family is a small circle, and over the past several years tensions have grown between several of us in the group leading to a breakoff of communication. And I have no contact with extended family members.

    However, this year was spent with my boyfriend and our friends. We just cooked, and ate, and enjoyed the day and the company of each other.

    Personally, I always thought the Holidays were overrated, but I'm certain that's because my family is so disconnected.

    Tammy

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  2. This Thanksgiving was probably the most pleasant and enjoyable ones I've had in a very long time. And I didn't spend it with family (which is why it was so pleasant and enjoyable).

    My immediate family is a small circle, and over the past several years tensions have grown between several of us in the group leading to a breakoff of communication. And I have no contact with extended family members.

    However, this year was spent with my boyfriend and our friends. We just cooked, and ate, and enjoyed the day and the company of each other.

    Personally, I always thought the Holidays were overrated, but I'm certain that's because my family is so disconnected.

    Tammy

    ReplyDelete
  3. I spent most of my 20s and 30s far from my family, living in Germany, Phoenix, Oregon and then Oakland, CA. Briefly, I had my own small family - husband and stepson - but even then, we shared our holiday meals with the many friends we had who were far from their own families. Every year for almost two decades, I spent Thanksgiving with a varying assortment of people, all far from home. They were very special celebrations. Everyone brought their own favorite dish from their family's traditions, and we were all thankful to have each other to celebrate with.

    For the past 20 years, I've been back in Philadelphia with my large, extended family. For 17 of those years, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, which was, at least for a while, a welcome novelty for me after so many years away. Now I host an even bigger Xmas Eve party for an even more extended family, and have passed Thanksgiving on to my sister. While I always love spending time with my family, we already get together frequently, especially this time of year (there are 9 family birthdays between late Oct. and Christmas), so the novelty has definitely worn off.

    So Karen, your post reminded me of the specialness of those holidays of the past, spent with an ever-changing, eclectic assortment of misplaced but loved persons. I think we were more keenly aware of the meaning of the holiday then, spent more hours together, valued the traditions more.

    I love my family and I know how lucky I am to be part of such a large, raucous, compatible brood. But for me, Thanksgiving has lost some of its lustre, and is now just one more in a string of family get-togethers, with turkey.

    Kathy Black

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