“Over the River and Through the Woods” is a well-known Thanksgiving song written by Lydia Maria Child. It was originally written as a poem, entitled “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day and celebrated childhood memories of Lydia Maria visiting her grandparent’s house. Although it is sometimes substituted as a song for Christmas, our family never failed to sing this song in our unmelodic voices on our way to Thanksgiving Dinner at Nana and Grandpa’s house. Usually driving over a bridge precipitates it and we break into song. It is a tradition that spills over into the grandkids. It goes:
“Over the river, and through the wood, To Grandmother’s house we go; The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. Ohhh”
Over the river, and through the wood—Oh, how the wind does blow! It stings the toes and bites the nose , As over the ground we go.”
Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is a traditional family gathering either at our parents, if we still are fortunate enough to have them, or a sibling or whichever family member does the cooking that year. The holiday conjures up memories of other Thanksgivings and more often than not, there is a big stuffed turkey, with lots of vegetables and trimmings. If you are Italian, or any other nationality, there is sure to be favored ethnic dishes piled high. We try to make sure we have room for the pumpkin, apple and mince pies – what is Thanksgiving without the memories of feasts we’ve shared?
The day, of course, is in gratitude for all our blessings and family members. As we gather round, we are grateful for the gathering and maybe some new additions to the family. There may also be some empty chairs for many reasons that once were filled, and we are grateful for the memories we hold for these family members, too.
We probably all have similar sayings and customs for this “Thank You Day” or “Turkey Day”. I always say something which my mother always said when we sit down at 3:00 pm for dinner, “Do you realize how many people are doing this same thing right now?”…..and most likely my daughter will say it someday when I’m not around in memory and fun. She does so already.
Here are some of our happenings on this special holiday.
- After our first blessing, I ask one of the children to say grace. Children love to be part of an adult gathering and they love to say grace. They are thankful for everything, so make sure all the plates are covered against getting cold. The rest of the children want to add their thanks, too, and you get a good idea of what makes these little people the happiest. Anyone who wants to add a prayer, is welcomed.
- After dinner, we always go round the table and each person tells everyone what they are most thankful for this year. The kids enjoy this part the most. This is always special as some people always joke; some always get very serious; some get emotional; and some articulate beautiful thanks to someone there who especially went the extra mile to help them. This part of the meal – while digesting – and before dessert – is very family-oriented. No hand-held video games, iPods, or cell phones are brought to the table.
- During dessert, we ask if anyone wants to do the ‘Christmas grab bag gift’ idea. We started this when the family and kids and grand kids started to number 30. Instead of buying small gifts for everybody, we have a grab bag. Everyone’s name goes in the hat and each person picks a name and buys a gift for that person and that person only. We put a price tag on it – one year it was $25.00 and that was a little too much for the teens and kids, so we settled on $15 or $10.
I wish you all a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving ~~~
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
Marie Coppola November 2013