When we asked readers to tell us about their Thanksgiving traditions, we heard about platters and other special objects that make the holiday special tableside. Here are their stories.
The old blue platter
For as long as I can remember, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, we opened up my mother’s china cabinet, which had been my grandmother’s before her, and pulled out the "old blue platter" to use for our holiday turkey and ham. It was very old, and no one remembered quite where my grandmother acquired it. It was the only piece from this type of setting that she had. It has gold trim, true gold, so, of course, it must be hand washed.
After my mother passed away six years ago, I brought the china cabinet to my home in Augusta, along with a few pieces of her favorite family china and crystal. The old blue platter was among these. Feeling it was too beautiful to store in the back of the cabinet, I placed it proudly on the wall of my dining room in a wall holder. It is only taken off the wall two days a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Every time I walk by it or serve our holiday meal, I think of my mother and my grandmother. Now a grandmother myself, I can only wait for the time my little Avery gets old enough for me to share the story of the platter with her. Throughout the years, my mother and I have been offered quite a bit of money for the platter, but no amount would be worth parting with it.
My Grandmother Chipps lived in St. Joseph, Mo. I was the oldest grandchild, and when my grandmother died in 1982, I got first pick of two items from her shelves.
I chose the candy dish that always sat on her coffee table and a platter featuring a rooster. I recall admiring it on Grandmother’s display shelf as a young child because its reds and blues are so vivid. My family didn’t spend every Thanksgiving with my grandmother, but when we did, this platter was used. It also came out during other times when the whole family gathered for special occasions.
I will be using this family platter at Thanksgiving again this year.
I have a platter that has been handed down in my mother’s family since about 1860 to the youngest in the family. I have it now, and my son is the youngest, and he has a son. It’s a big old platter, a heavy thing. My mother used to talk about how her grandma would carry it to the table with a turkey or duck on it. We don’t use it now because my house is small and when I have too many people, it takes up room.
We had a three-generation tradition of having the new babies of the previous year being put on a platter and passed around to each person at the table for everyone to give a blessing and kiss before passing on to the next Thanksgiving dinner attendee. It always worked great until we had a baby, my sister’s son, who was 11 1/2 months old, sitting up and weighing 24 pounds! We were trying to push that thing to each person. And he didn’t know what was going on. That was hilarious.
The platter is about 75 years old, and the tradition started with my dad’s aunt and uncle. Fifteen or so babies were pushed on it. We are ready to use it whenever another baby is welcomed into our family!
A cornucopia of blessings
Each Thanksgiving, my extended family places a large and empty cornucopia on the dinner table. After saying grace but before we fill our plates, family members take turns adding an item to the cornucopia that represents what they are thankful for over the course of the year. It can be photos of loved ones, simple items you find around the house (a box of bandages to represent health), or more thought-out objects such as a handed-down keepsake. After each family member gets a turn to tell the story behind the item they brought, the cornucopia is filled as a reminder of all we are thankful for. I hope this tradition is simple enough that my kids and future grandchildren will be able to take part and use this as a special reminder of our yearly blessings.
I have a new spin on our tradition this year. I’m asking my family to bring a new item that represents what they are thankful for to donate to Stuff the Bus. For example, my 10-year-old son said he was thankful for his health in order to play soccer. He will use his allowance money to go buy a new soccer ball to donate as a Christmas gift.
Lighting a candle
At Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter, around the time we say grace, we light one candle and place it in the center of the table in memory of all the people who passed on before us, and we reminisce about them. There are some good laughs. It’s not really a sad time. We remember when my grandmother fixed the turkey years ago and she got up at 4 and fixed this turkey for 30 people. And she’d be just so tired she’d just — poof! — down in the rocking chair. That candle glitters and glows, and we have a feeling that they’re still with us and they’re in our hearts. We have a real, real close family on both sides, and my husband’s dad used to tell stories over and over and over again. And we’d laugh. And he had this twinkle in his eye. We swear we see that twinkle in his eye in the candle on the table.