Holiday Traditions Link the Generations


Sitting around our Thanksgiving table with my granddaughters made me realize why I value holiday traditions so much. These familiar rituals, which morph from one generation to the next, are the links that connect the generations.

My mother and grandmother both loved to make flower arrangements for our holiday tables. My 7-year old granddaughter is continuing the tradition with her own twist. I brought a cornucopia for our table decoration and asked her if she’d like to make the centerpiece. She spent a half hour looking around for things to fill it with. For inspiration she used a picture of a cornucopia on her calendar. She cut off a corn husk left over from their Halloween decorations and grabbed a baby pumpkin. Instead of a gourd, she used an onion and a shiny red apple added the final touch. She stuck a few colorful fall leaves she’d collected into the sides of the cornucopia.

Seeing her cornucopia triggered memories of Thanksgiving dinners at my grandmother’s house when I was growing up. I described the scene for them and cut to my favorite part—dessert. Every Thanksgiving my grandmother ordered fancy ice cream molds in different shapes: orange sherbet pumpkins, chocolate turkeys, and vanilla cornucopias. My brothers and I always vied for the chocolate turkeys.

When all the plates were served, my grandmother brought out her plum pudding that she made in the vintage pudding mold from England, accompanied by a cut glass bowl of hard sauce. My father poured brandy over it. We turned out the lights and then he struck a match. We all watched in fascination as the blue flames danced over the dark brown pudding. The ice cream molds and plum pudding have since been replaced by homemade pumpkin pie, which both my granddaughters helped me make.

We started a silly tradition last year using my extension fork with the 25” telescopic handle. We each took a turn holding the fork and pointing it at someone across the table. Then we said something we appreciated about that person. The recipient of the acknowledgment then took the fork, pointed it at someone else and said something they appreciated about them.

We also sang some silly Thanksgiving songs that I found online: “The Turkey on the Farm” (to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”) and “Turkey Pokey” (to the tune of “Hokey Pokey.”) When we came to the verse, “You put your wattle in, you put your wattle out, you put your wattle in and you shake it all about…” I wobbled my wattle so my voice vibrated. The girls laughed hysterically and wanted to do it over and over with me wobbling their wattles!

As we sat there giggling, I couldn’t help but wish that when my granddaughters are grown and I’m no longer here, they’ll reminisce about their Thanksgiving and say, “This reminds me of the traditions I used to do with my grandma.”


  1. says

    The tricky thing about traditions is knowing when they have outlived their usefulness. For example, for a dozen or so years, we rented a bounce house for our Thanksgiving celebration. But our grandchildren are getting older, and we discontinued the tradition a couple of years ago, and no one seemed to mind except me.

    We’ve also always been a real Christmas tree family. We have a beautiful Noble fir this year, but I’m seriously considering buying an artificial tree when they go on sale after Christmas. Artificial trees are much easier to set up and decorate. I know the other members of the family aren’t going to be happy about this decision, but they will adjust!