Thanksgiving Traditions: Dealing with Big Changes


I am definitely one of those adults who feels Thanksgiving is great.  Great because of the lack of commercial gift-giving and the hustle and bustle. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas too.  But Thanksgiving holds an extremely special spot in my heart.  

Tradition is a huge part of my life.  We do the same patterns each holiday. It became a source of comfort and peace to me when it was the same year after year.  When something massive changed, it really messed with me because I wasn’t prepared. 

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries (from a can- don’t hate me!), homemade rolls, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and many other dishes.  You can picture the steam from the gravy, the noise from the kitchen, and the smell of amazing, delicious food!

We either had dinner at my parents’ house or my aunt’s.  It just depended on the year.  The one major piece of this tradition was about who was there.  My sisters and any special boyfriends/fiances/husbands would typically be there.  Parents and extended family.  But the most special guest was my grandpa.  He was the one person who of course would always be there.  Always wanted the canned cranberries.  Pie, gravy, bread.  He LOVED bread.  We share that love.  It’s most likely genetic.  Bread DNA.  I’m sure it’s a thing. 

Those words to me paint a beautiful, comfortable memory. I know you have similar memories.  But this tradition is over.  Those words are so hard to write, and I’m having trouble seeing the screen through the tears.  Last December, Grandpa passed away.  Our Thanksgiving was the last time I ever saw him.  For that memory alone, I will be forever grateful.  All my sisters and I were home that year, which is sometimes a hard thing to juggle and plan.  He told stories, ate too much, and laughed at our beautiful nephew.  It was perfect.  I am certain the day itself wasn’t actually perfect.  But it is now.   Sure, I’m totally gilding the memories, but isn’t that how it should be?  Tarnish isn’t really a nice idea. 

But now what?  How do we move on from that?  I’m not 100% sure, but here’s what I think:  we relive each of those Thanksgivings year after year.  I’ll definitely cry.  I do that anyways! Guess what- it’s okay, too!

We tell the stories he used to tell:

                           “Remember that story about the bear in the woods?” 

                             “What about that time Punkin the cat crawled on his lap and he pretended to hate it?”

Thanksgiving Traditions: Dealing with Big Changes | Duluth Moms Blog

And so on.  Remembering.  We will create new memories every year.  Nieces and nephews, grandkids will hopefully join in the subsequent years.  Children have a way of making the holidays so much more fun and heart-fulfilling.  That’s the way it is, isn’t it?  Sometimes small, sometimes big changes.  Adding spouses, subtracting loved ones.  But the love always multiplies even when the math doesn’t make sense.  

I encourage you this year to take 30 seconds or less, to look around your table or wherever you are this Thanksgiving, and see the love.  Appreciate the moment right now, and see the blessing of family. Be open to how it can change in a moment.  But always take a moment.  Freeze an image in your mind.  Dare I say not even a real photo? Do that later. 

My goodness.  The sharpness of grief is still strong reliving some of these memories.  But there is beauty in the pain.  A loving family, tons of good food. Humor, love, jokes, and the list goes on.  Such an unfathomable blessing. 

I might sound like I’m getting bossy again- I do that- oldest child,  right? But also tell your family what you love about the traditions you have.  Maybe you skip the turkey and go right for delivery food (Props to you, because that is so smart.  Hello lack of dishes?).  Maybe you have a formal 10-course dinner with the fancy place settings (Again, what an amazing amount of dedication to celebrating!  I also picture lit tapers and golden glowing lights, the whole nine yards.).  Are you like us where it is somewhere in between?  Crammed around a table with nice linens, trying to suck in your over-full bellies past the chairs to get another serving of turkey and pie. Kids sometimes crying, sometimes eating, or throwing their food.  No one clamoring to help with dishes, but it getting done anyways.  Or forgetting the salad in the fridge until afterwards?  No?  Okay, me either.  Messy, but perfect.  Family. 

Take that moment to breathe, mentally capture that memory, and share it with your family. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Alyssa Holmstrom
Creative, always pondering and thinking, Alyssa Holmstrom loves the beautiful landscape Duluth has to offer. Reading a book, walking her beloved dog, cooking, or spending time with her strong and loving husband of six years, Todd are favorite pastimes of Alyssa's. Alyssa loves spending time with her friends. Her friends are so very important: making them laugh and drinking lots of coffee are her favorite ways to unwind! They are a true gift and bring much joy to her life! Walking together through infertility and adoption, they are enjoying their 2.5 year old toddler, and expecting another child early 2019.


  1. *hugs* So sorry about your Grandpa. I’m glad you have such lovely memories of him. I didn’t know my grandfather very well before he passed away, and I feel this little pang of not belonging when my cousins go on and on about how wonderful he was, so keep telling those stories. It’ll help the kids in the family feel connected to him.

    And judge you for the canned cranberry sauce? My goodness, cutting into that red jelly-like substance in that wonderful can shape is the whole reason I put cranberry sauce on my plate. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the way that canned stuff separates under my fork, the symmetry in the can-sculpted rings. I cut the round slice like a little pizza. It just makes me happy for some reason. ^_^

  2. Thanks, Alyssa. I know how you loved your grandpa. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him..sitting at the same table at your wedding reception. He was a very gracious man…and dignified looking and acting…and wise and perceptive. I will have to remember to have a can of cranberries on our TG table (in addition to Granny Hill’s cranberry frappe) every year.

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