Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving in Pilgrim Country

What better place to spend Thanksgiving than back where it all began...Massachusetts? Every year we travel to New England to celebrate a family Thanksgiving that is rich in tradition. Here's a taste of our holiday...

The Setting
We gather in the house where generations of my dad's family have lived since it was built in 1800. My dad grew up here, as did my grandfather and it is the only place I have ever been for Thanksgiving. This was my Grandparents home until I was in my 20's and now my uncle lives here. The house and all the furniture have remained pretty much the same, except for some additional clutter, but that happens to the best of us.

The house is really neat to me because it is so old! There are fireplaces in every room because that was how they heated it back in the day. There are tons of old dishes and portraits hanging on the walls. The portrait in the dining room is of the first lady of the house, Submit Hill (now, that is a good name for a wife..Submit!!). Lulu calls it the "creepy lady" picture because the eyes do seem to follow you as you move around the room. That's her on the wall between the two doors...

Here is the dining room all set for Thanksgiving dinner. There are usually about 25-30 of us. My family, my sister and her family, my parents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins and children of cousins! It is very neat to me that my children are experiencing the exact same Thanksgiving that I did as a child. The Mayor thinks it's pretty cool too, his family understands that this is a tradition that can't be given up. (Don't worry, we spend Christmas day with the Mayor's family). Okay, more house pictures...

This is a room, downstairs, off the kitchen, I'm not sure what it's original purpose was, now you just walk through it on your way to the TV room, but the stained glass window is really pretty. Old houses are quirky...on the other side of that window is the downstairs bathroom! Not real private, huh? I never really thought about that until now!!

This is an upstairs bedroom that my sister and I always called the "sleigh bed room", my dad calls it "Grandma Etta's" room because when he was little his grandma lived with them and this was her bedroom.

The house was built by Paul Dudley for his son, John Dudley, and his son's wife, Submit Hill. There is a really old framed document that is hanging in the front hall. It is Paul Dudley's appointment into the Army of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Governor at that time, John Hancock...super cool!

Thanksgiving Favorites
Many of my cousins live in Massachusetts so they come for Thanksgiving Day and then go home. My parents, my family and my sister's family all come from other states so we stay right there in the house. Each family gets a bedroom. Before Lulu and her brother settle down on their air mattresses on "Thanksgiving Eve", we read a special story. It is my favorite Thanksgiving book, my mom used to read it to my sister and I each year. It is called Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it. I was captivated by it as a child and I still love it now!

Another tradition is the game we plan the night before Thanksgiving. It makes us all laugh until we cry and has become a highlight of our time together. The players are usually myself, the mayor, Lulu and her brother, my mom, my sister, her husband, my two teenage nephews and my cousin's teenage daughter. We each have a piece of blank paper and everyone writes a sentence, anything works but the more random it is, the "the angry squirrel threw acorns at Darth Vader". Now you hand your paper to the person on your left. That person reads the sentence and draws a picture to illustrate it, trying to get in as many details as possible. Now, you fold over the sentence, so just your drawing is showing and again pass your paper to the left. Now, you guessed it, this person has to write a sentence based on the drawing. It is kinda like a paper version of the telephone game and it is hilarious! Some of us can draw (like my mom the art teacher) and some can't, which makes it all the funnier. So when you finally pass the papers enough to fill up the sheet, someone reads the initial sentence and the final sentence and we totally crack up! The kids love it.

The Food
We have to mention the food, it is Thanksgiving after all. The dinner is pretty traditional, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash, green beans, cranberry sauce (homemade and the one that comes out in the shape of the can). We start the meal with little dishes of fruit cocktail and rainbow sherbet. But, the best part of the meal has to be the dessert. Pies galore! One year we had 14 pies, everyone still talks about it. My dad takes inventory and "pie count" as everyone arrives. I am in charge of bringing pecan and apple and whatever else I come up with. This year I am trying a new recipe for a pear and cranberry pie..I'll let you know how it turns out.

Since we are in Massachusetts, we have taken advantage of a couple historical outings on the day after Thanksgiving. We visited the Mayflower one year. Last year we took all the kids to Lexington and Concord to see where they fired the "shot heard 'round the world", it was very cool.
So, that's a taste of our celebration, it's so familiar to me I have to pause to appreciate the traditions we enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving to all my sisters! Eat lots of pie!


  1. Wow! that sounds like a really awesome Thanksgiving! it's so cool to have an old family house so preserved like that! ~*S*~

  2. I love your post Nel!!! it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!!!~Mar*


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