Thanksgiving traditions are big in my husband's family. Over the past sixteen years, I have enjoyed helping my mother-in-law put together a family Thanksgiving celebration that honors all present. I have experienced the days of marathon cooking leading up to the arriving crowds, ensuring that every detail blesses her guests. I have participated in gathering flowers and greenery from around the yard to decorate beautiful tables to set the scene for a family feast. I have watched games of football in the yard, ping-pong tournaments in the basement, and dish-washing games in the kitchen draw family together in fun.
One tradition I have heard about but never experienced is Thanksgiving Eve. When we were dating, my husband told tales of this great memory of his childhood where the family would go back in time the day before Thanksgiving to days when life was not filled with so many conveniences. Since my children are not getting any younger, I thought this year would be a great year to request a replay of this old tradition...so we could experience a piece of their father's childhood and maybe be a little more thankful on Thanksgiving day.
I didn't tell the kids before we came...not because I didn't think they'd be game, but because I didn't know enough about the actual process to really give them the details I was sure they'd seek. We sat down last night at dinner, and I gave them the opportunity to interview their Grandma and Pop about Thanksgiving Eve. Here's how the conversation went:
Ellen (9) started off the questions -
Ellen: When did you start Thanksgiving Eve?
Grandma: We started in 1984, when your dad was seven years old. We noticed that while the kids were quick to say "thank you" they were also doing a lot of grumbling. It seemed like they were struggling to understand what being thankful truly meant.
Ellen: You came up with this? What is it called?
Grandma: Thanksgiving Eve.
Ellen: Oh! What is it?
Grandma: We thought it would be fun to go back in time before electricity and running water when people worked hard for what they received.
Grace's (11) face started to change into realization of what might happen. She has a vivid imagination. Will (15) busted out laughing.
Grace: So we are just going to fill up the bath tub at 11:59 the night before and then get our water from there all day?
All enjoyed watching her squirm as she realized she might need to be careful what she suggests, because we might just take one of her ideas!
Grace: Okay, okay. So Daddy, what is your favorite memory from Thanksgiving Eve?
Dad: Shooting the turkey.
Dad: Well, your Uncle Jon and I would put a
frozen thawed turkey in the bushes, and then take our bows and arrows and shoot the turkey. After "hunting" the turkey, we got it out of the bush, cut it up, and cooked it over the camp fire. It tasted really good after so much work!
Will: Dad, how did you benefit from Thanksgiving Eve?
Dad: Whenever we experienced Thanksgiving Eve, we were truly thankful for everything the next day.
Grace: Back to the no running water. Really? Are we doing that?
Grandma: In the old days, they would have had an outhouse, but since we don't have one of those, we just designate one bathroom in the house that everyone can use.
Grace: So we can flush the toilet? Can I wash my hands? Can I use my hand sanitizer?
Everyone laughs again as Grace dramatically demonstrates cleaning her hands.
Dad: How did you guys come up with this idea?
Grandma: Like I said, we noticed you kids struggling with thankfulness and realized that you had no idea of how good you had it. Stories from my parent's childhood sparked the idea of helping you experience some of the ways that people worked for things in the past.
Pop: We wanted to open your eyes and provide some opportunities for problem solving. Given the fact that you don't have a certain convenience, how are you going to do what you need to do?
Grace: So how does it work? When do we get up? Sunrise?
Grandma: Yes, we'll get up at sunrise. Then what would you do first?
Grace: Make breakfast. Are we going to go shoot the bacon? Maybe we could make eggs.
Pop: Good solution!
Grandma: Where would they have gotten their eggs in the past?
Grace: From the chicken coop. Are we going to go Easter egg hunting?
Pop: Well, on Thanksgiving Eve we have a "chicken coop" down in the back yard where you can gather eggs.
Grace: Where would we heat them? If it was hot enough, we could cook them on the sidewalk.
Grace continued with a string of random ways to cook an egg, to which Ellen gagged, until Grandma reminded her that they had pots and pans back then, as well as a wood burning stove, so we can still use the stove. All rested easier after that realization.
Grandma: What are some things that the women would do?
Grace: Laundry....well, we won't have any dirty clothes. (She quickly realized that she wasn't so interested in this task)!
Ellen: Do we get to use candles for light?
Grace: Do we have to go to bed when the sun goes down? Oh...I can't read in the dark!
Will: Did they have chess? Pop nodded yes. Ok - I'm good for entertainment for the day.
Pop: How much time do you think they had for entertainment?
Will: Good point.
At this point everyone started getting excited about making butter, bread, orange juice, and simply experiencing life without so many modern conveniences.
As I will be participating in this great adventure, I will be joining in the electronic fast for Thanksgiving Eve. I look forward to learning new ways to be thankful with my children. See you on the other side!
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.