Sharing my favorite Thanksgiving traditions

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After round two, Thomas Sellers Jr. is moments away from taking his traditional Thanksgiving Day nap before waking up to eat again.

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Today is a time to give thanks for those blessings in your life.

Take a moment to reflect on what is good and place the bad on the shelf for about 48 hours. Trust me, all the issues, pains and worries will be there when you come back to them.

Give yourself a break for a moment and truly enjoy the meaning of Thanksgiving Day. A quick summary of the holiday is giving thanks, prayer and eating a feast alongside family and friends.

The fourth Thursday in November is marked for Thanksgiving. It’s been a holiday on and off since 1789. Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War.

About a century later President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date and since 1942 we know when to mark Thanksgiving on the calendar.

We can celebrate any day with thanks for what has been given to us. And I have too much to recount right now. If you think the Best Sellers’ List is long every week, just imagine if I started counting all my blessings.

For this column I’m going to focus on the holiday and the traditions I partake in each year. I don’t participate in Black Friday and silliness like that. I want one of my favorite holiday to be truly appreciated and enjoyed.

The Pilgrims and Indians started the tradition during October 1621 to celebrate the first harvest of the New World. History says more than 140 people showed up for that occasion.

At my parent’s house, about 10 to 15 will packed into the Frayser home for such goodies like turkey, dressing, potato salad, greens, cornbread, corn pudding, candy yams, smoked ham, coconut pie, a large cake and the Alma Sellers sweet potato pie.

But today is about more than just food. So let’s rank my highlights of Thanksgiving.

  1. Morning jog
    For the past 10 years, I sneak in a workout before I drive over to my folks’ home. I usually get about 3 miles of cardio and about 45 minutes of weights. I get a good sweat going and feel a solid burn before I spend the rest of the day eating.
    The cardio/jog gives me a moment to reflect on things and where I stand in my life. The cool atmosphere with the warm glow of the sun is a moment I can have a conversation with God. It puts me in a good place before seeing my family.
  2. Break from work and school
    For 24 hours, I get to put the pen, pad and camera down. My work family goes to spend time with their loved ones and I do the same.
    As a child, we only got that Thursday and Friday off. Now students get the whole week out for Thanksgiving. Young people, you all better be giving thanks for that.
  3. Watching football and Maui Invitational
    Whether it was a break from school or work, I have more time to watch the Maui Invitational on ESPN to see some of the best college basketball teams in Hawaii.
    But we know the main event in the sporting world on Thanksgiving takes place in Detroit and Dallas. The two major cities beginning with the letter “D” have been traditional showcase places for the National Football League. Since 1978 the Lions and Cowboys respectively have been the site for football and bonding time around the television.
    The Detroit Lions get the early game and the Dallas Cowboys are the afternoon feature. Now the NFL has added a third game in primetime. Can’t get enough football. Add some hoops, and the couch is my favorite place to be on Thanksgiving.
  4. Post-dinner nap
    Speaking of the couch, I claim it about 4:38 p.m. each year. Unless my 5-year-old niece, Ziara, is already knocked out in the center of the couch. Then Uncle Thomas has to find a spot on the floor and grab a pillow to sleep off the great feast prepared by my mom.
    We start to heat up the food about 1:30 and place them in a buffet style setup in the den. By 2:15, we are working on our first plate.
    You normally grab a second round of food after desert about 3:30. Then the “it is” kicks in and it is time to succumb to the drowsy feeling and take that nap.
  5. Reminiscing
    Usually I start to feel sleepy about the time we go down memory lane. We start our discussion while eating and then stories of those who have passed away dominate the conversation. It’s all good memories.
    Then we start laughing at old habits that still linger today. Most of them are about yours truly. When I was a child, I called blue jeans “blue jims.” Men didn’t have a mustache. It was a “muststing.” Mom loves sharing these classics over and over again to get a cheap laugh. Even I chuckle at them now. I still make up words in my writing – yikes.
  6. Breaking the wishbone with my nephew
    Prayer works, and I do believe in symbols of good luck. The wishbone coming out of the turkey is dried by the time my nephew Juwan and I prepare to snap it. Who will get the bigger end and wish? Usually it’s Juwan because he uses his football strength and intellectual mind to cheat.
    He finds the leverage point and applies his fingers in the right position to gain an unfair advantage. My mom makes sure every Wednesday night she sets the wishbone off to the side to dry and have a proper grip for us.
    I did defeat my nephew for the first time in four years last Thanksgiving. I’ve been studying where to break and hitting the gym.
  7. Family prayer
    Since I was about 25 years old, my dad has handed over the privilege of saying the prayer right before we eat.
    It’s because I have a solid memory and sincere connection with most of my family. I try to summarize our year of blessings and mention our current needs at the moment. Then I wrap up the prayer with our ambitions and deepest gratitude for the blessing we have.
    Of course I bless all that food. But the prayer time slows down all anger and arguments that might be in the house prior to the meal. Then our spirits are open to fun, joyous conversation and true fellowship.
  8. Taste test the sweet potato pie
    “Little Thomas, come here.”
    “Yes, ma’am?”
    “Taste this.” My mom takes the tip of her ring finger and dips it in the sweet potato pie batter.
    Then the finger with a shiny, heavenly orange glow heads toward my mouth.
    “It’s ready, Ma.”
  9. Putting up the Christmas tree
    Before the night is over and I head home, I have to venture to the attic and retrieve our seven-foot artificial Christmas tree.
    We store the separate sections in large industrial strength black garbage bags. The stem is located in the living room closet alongside all the ornaments. The ages of those ornaments range from 40 years old to a few hours.
    My nieces, Tara and Miá, are my assistants. The whole time we are trying to avoid my youngest nephew, Cornelius, because he thinks all the ornaments are toys to be tossed around.
    His big brother, Kelly, keeps an eye on him as well as we decorate the tree. Selfishly I get to place the angel on top each year. The 20-year-old figure resembles my mother when she wore blond hair in 1999. They’re both still beautiful and looked the same on the day I bought the angel.
  10. Eating
    Thanksgiving is more than just about eating or preparing for a Christmas sale. But I still have to rank the food portion of the day in my top spot.
    The passing of my great-grandmothers Alma and Minnie and the recent loss of my grandmother Helen have made me realize something important.
    Once that person is no longer on this Earth, that specialty they cook is gone forever, too.
    I cherish each and every time my mom makes her signature dishes.
    And her sweet potato pie is the absolute best part of the whole meal. It’s her gift to her children, grandchildren and even now great-grandchildren.
    Food has a unique of bringing family together, teaching culture and connecting spirits.
    Have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. And keep your traditions alive.
    THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.