Lost Traditions May Sadden Thanksgiving

Karen Overstreet, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  11/10/2007 3:47:18 AM

Holiday News You Can Use Distributed 11/09/07

If your Thanksgiving is steeped in family traditions, the occasion can be a difficult one should circumstances change and those traditions are lost.

The changes don’t even have to be as severe as death or divorce. Those losses can be made less painful through the help of family and friends. Temporary changes can depress people, too, according to LSU AgCenter family specialist Dr. Karen Overstreet.

Changes may be relatively simple, such as grown children missing their first Thanksgiving at their parents’ house or spending your first holiday in a strange city and not being able to come home. A parent might be starting a new job and has to work on Thanksgiving Day. Grandparents might decide to spend the holidays at another sibling’s house instead of hosting the dinner at their home.

“Whatever the reason, lack of tradition can be upsetting,” Overstreet says, adding, “Telling yourself it’s not that important misses the point.”

If your circumstances will prevent the usual Thanksgiving this year, the family expert advises looking on the situation as an opportunity to try something different. Adults without other family responsibilities may decide it’s the perfect time to travel.

On the other hand, if you have children or prefer to stay closer to home you can create some new traditions of your own.

Does your mouth water over magazine recipes, but you wouldn’t dare change the family recipes that have been used for generations? This may be your chance to try a new one. Even though the family may be smaller this year, do a special dinner and try out something new. It’s less a reminder of what’s missing if you don’t try to do everything the same way. If you’re not in such a rush to prepare a big dinner, there may be more time for parents and young children to cook together, something that can be very special.

Use the time you would have spent visiting with family guests to write thank-you notes to important people in your lives. Maybe after dinner but before dessert, gather together and write notes to a teacher, the nearest fire station crew, your minister, a soccer coach or anyone that is special to you. Let children choose or make their own cards even if it’s just a drawing. When the notes are stamped and addressed, bring out the pumpkin pie.

If you enjoy visiting, check with local organizations or your church to see if they know people who may be alone this year. If you have small children, it may be enough to visit just one person. Visits don’t need to be long but can be beneficial to you as well as the person visited.

If you live near a university or a company that often transfers people in, foreign students or newcomers might love to spend time with a local family. Again, churches, civic organizations, schools or the local company may be able to make connections for you.

If you are fortunate and things return to normal next year, you may find that you still want to include a new tradition from your experiences this year. Some families may develop multiple sets of traditions as their families change over time.

"Changing traditions can be difficult, but trying something new reminds us that time moves us on, and new challenges will always lie ahead,” Overstreet says. “Changes can be opportunities if we let them.”

For related holiday topics, visit the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Contact: Karen Overstreet (225) 578-1425 or Koverstreet@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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