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Thanksgiving Traditions: Turkey, Pies and ‘Thankful Tree’

Written byShelle Lenssen

All families have their own way of doing Thanksgiving and passing on traditions. Growing up, I thought my family’s Thanksgiving Dinners were pretty typical. We’d have a big turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and Jell-o salad. We’d go around the table and each say something we were thankful for, stuff ourselves silly and take a break to clear the table. Then, the assortment of pies would come out and the real eating would begin.

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Sometime in my childhood, my dad decreed that on Thanksgiving, we would have the same number of pies as there were people at the table. That meant if it was just our 5-person family at dinner, there would be five pies, and we’d just keep adding pies as we added guests. The more people around the table, the more pies to choose from. Classic pies, such as apple and pumpkin, are always served. Cherry, blueberry, and pecan pies are also regular favorites. We’ve had various cream pies, custard pies, and my favorite, peanut butter pie. The number of pies really is ridiculous, but the tradition continues and no one complains. Guests leave with their own to-go box of pie slices and those remaining eat pie for breakfast for the next week.

My second-grade daughter is preparing for her class’s annual Thankful Feast next week. The children are supposed to bring a food item that is traditional to their family’s Thanksgiving meal. When talking with me about this project, my daughter was a little frustrated because she didn’t think we had any unique Thanksgiving traditions. To her, a dessert table overflowing with pies was just something she’d seen her whole life and assumed other families did the same thing. She was pleasantly surprised to learn the abundance of pies was indeed unique to us and is happy to share this tradition with her class. Together, we’ll assemble 25 mini peanut butter pies and she’ll proudly pass them out and talk about her family’s Thanksgiving pie tradition.

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While our pie tradition has been around longest, my husband and I are working to make other Thanksgiving attributes, such as gratitude, generosity, and service, part of our annual event as well. For the past three years, we’ve cut out a paper “Thankful Tree” and decorated it with leaves listing out the many things we’re thankful for. Everything from family members, pets, and friends to chocolate and favorite toys gets listed and by Thanksgiving our Thankful Tree is just as overcrowded at our pie table. We’re adding in a new service tradition this year and our family will be volunteering to fill the shelves at our local food bank. We’ve been talking with our kids about helping others and now it’s time we put words into action. As much as we enjoy our pie tradition, creating a heritage of gratitude and service is ultimately more rewarding.