Sometimes I get a strange look when I tell people this, but I’m sticking by it:Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love it because it's really, at its heart, about simplicity and love. There aren't any gifts to buy or worry about. There are no expectations. It's just about hanging out with your family, eating really good food. As I love to cook and I love my family, well: I love Thanksgiving!
Plus, it's a holiday that's rich in traditions. When I am cooking, I feel like I am using the wisdom of many of the women who came before me—my grandmothers, my aunts, my mother-in-law, and my mom. I use the same recipes every year, some that came from friends, some that were discovered when my grandma was a young mom, some passed to me by my husband's family. (Plus, OK, a couple from Pinterest!) I like to cook in solitude, while my kids do some serious Thanksgiving hanging out (accompanied by more food, cheeseball and crackers, homemade cookies, something delicious to drink) but I'm never alone because each thing I make connects me to someone.
But it's not just the food that is full of memories. If you're an American celebrating Thanksgiving today (or you're reading this on your cell phone on Friday morning while you're out shopping!), here's a list of journaling prompts (and a few layouts illustrating them) to help you record your Thanksgiving traditions.
1. The dishes. Paper or china? Glass or plastic? Is there any history connected to the dishes you use? (Don't forget the serving bowls and platters!)
2. The activities. Are you a board-game-playing family? Cards? Or is it all football, all the time? What do you do between the meal and dessert? Do you go out shopping or wait until Friday?
3. The food. How do you cook your turkey? Where did that recipe for sweet potatoes come from? Who helps you cook? How long did your prep take? What is each family member’s favorite dish? What other stories can you tell about your food?
4. The little details. What small details will you always remember? What little things happened that set this Thanksgiving apart from all the others? What did you laugh about or discuss? What political or social events influenced your conversations? Or, what sensory details are strongly embedded in your memories? Scents are a huge part of Thanksgiving, and taste of course, but what does it sound like?
In this layout, I made some text embellishments to record some of the small moments of the day, and then used the journaling space to tell a larger story:
5. The family and friends. Who came this year? How has your family changed since last year? What qualities in each person are you grateful for? Who didn't come that you missed? How are the family dynamics at a big gathering?
6. The interaction. What funny things happened? What good memories were shared or conversations had? How did cousins get along (or not)? What sweet, surprising, or memorable interactions did you notice?
(This little moment between my mother-in-law and my son is so precious to me, even if it's not a very good picture.)
7. The changes. How have your Thanksgiving traditions changed over the years? What has been lost and what has been added? How are your kids' Thanksgivings different than those of your childhood?
8. The setting. Whose house did you eat at? If you ate at yours, what preparations did you do to get your house ready? At someone else's, what do you love about that place? How does the location influence your Thanksgiving experience?
The journaling in this layout is about my mother-in-law's house:
9. The desserts. (As much as Thanksgiving is about turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and rolls, it's equally involved with dessert, yes?) What is each person's favorite dessert? What dessert must be present or it wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving? Who makes the desserts? (Or did you buy them all at Costco?) Whipped cream or ice cream? Cake or pie?
10. The feels. Gratitude, of course, goes hand in hand with Thanksgiving. So it's an important emotion. But it's not the only one. What other emotions do you experience at Thanksgiving? Are you emotions straightforward or complicated, and why? Were you surprised by anything you felt this year?
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May your turkey be moist, your mashed potatoes buttery, and your pie crust flaky!