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Thanksgiving Traditions

Posted by Jennifer Greuel 11/21/2017

This year is a very special Thanksgiving at my house, as we were blessed with our long-desired first child. With the birth of our daughter, we have begun to discuss our families’ traditions and how best to blend them and begin our own traditions for her.

Growing up in a military family and spending 11 years stationed overseas, my Thanksgivings and holidays have always been a bit unusual. With blood relations an ocean away, we spent our Thanksgivings surrounded by other military family friends. As most service members are only stationed at an overseas base for a handful of years, holidays were a rotating sea of faces packed into a small, base housing living room. It was only when I moved to Minot as a teenager that I realized our holiday celebrations were not the norm. Americans, and North Dakotans especially, seem to have a strong sense of history and stability with their families, and are often able to see each other at Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. My family lives spread across the country and world.

My husband had a completely different childhood than I. Whereas I moved cities, states and countries countless times, he grew up in the same house in Minot, as in the one to which he was brought home from the hospital. His family and extended family still gather for Thanksgiving at his grandparents’ house each year, an experience I have never had.

Although my holidays were anything but normal, those of us that gathered together each year were careful to reach out to anyone from work or church who might be left to celebrate alone. Growing up with untraditional holidays made me expand my definition of family. When my family and I fell in love with the safety, peace and friendly people of North Dakota, a short assignment to Minot soon turned into a permanent retirement destination. The friends who we have spent years vacationing with or hiding eggs at Easter together have become like family, and these relationships have been so important to me in times of joy and need.

The transiency of my childhood made me realize many people take for granted the special gift of having family around during the holidays. It is easy to get distracted by the crazies in the family (we all have them!), and forget how amazing it is to have generations together to celebrate. This year National Public Radio is again encouraging people to record an interview with a loved one at Thanksgiving. You might be tired of hearing about your father or grandfather’s Great Fish Story, but think of all the other stories you haven’t heard- time spent in the service, childhood tales or how they met their future spouse.

Although my marriage has now provided me with the experience of spending time with his family at holidays, my husband and I decided to continue my “Friendsgiving” tradition and pack our house with as many friends as possible each year. My daughter will have opportunities I never had, to be surrounded by aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins, and all of her grandparents at Thanksgiving. But I am also excited to intertwine my holiday tradition of an open “family of friends” with the strong relational ties she will have in North Dakota. 

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