The photo below is giving me all the feels, because this year only a small version of our long-standing family tradition happened, thanks to my niece who kept it going in a way that was safer than doing things traditionally – even though how WE do Thanksgiving is kinda not traditional.

Nine years ago, I had a chance to write a piece for the local Patch.com about the way my family changes things around when it comes to the last Thursday of November in America. We don’t do it on that day – we choose our own day. You can’t find the piece online anymore and I guess I see what the universe did there. Maybe the internet isn’t so permanent after all.

This year, we didn’t have a gathering. That’s because of the pandemic. Because we value each other’s safety and that of those in our community as well.

Still, I would be committing a huge error if I didn’t put something out to honor our tradition which was forced into its first hiatus since I was in college more than 25 years ago. The photo below is the first photographic proof I could find (in digital form) of one such gathering and it is from November  18, 2007. That’s thirteen years ago. Yes, thirteen, my lucky and most favorite number. 

I truly love Thanksgiving, the idea of giving thanks any day, any time, really. It is such a blessing to count blessings – because that’s how they multiply. Multiplied blessings are what we all really need right now.

The faces of many of mine are seen in these photos and I love and miss them all – in addition to the many not pictured because of distance, time, and space. 

Hug the ones you know to be blessings in your life. I hear virtual hugs are a thing now.

From Changing Things Around: A Giving Thanks Day Instead of Thanksgiving, by Mary Moscarello, written November, 2011

I’m about to bust a gut from all the food I ate on Giving Thanks Day. Yes, I already ate my fill of Thanksgiving must-haves. Sweet potato, stuffing, collard greens, cranberry bread, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, and pie! I know, I know, it’s supposed to be Thanksgiving Day – but for me, the name given to the federal holiday that falls on the fourth Thursday in November is already backwards. You see, my family started a pretty unique tradition some twenty years ago where we celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day than the rest of the country does. And, just to be different, we called it “Giving Thanks Day”. I think it was my mom’s idea to establish our family’s Giving Thanks Day tradition, though I’m sure my dad was consulted on the notion and gave it two thumbs up. The tradition of celebrating our abundance and gratitude for it on a day all our own, began when the first of my five siblings got married. You see, my mom remembered what she went through as a young wife and new mother in trying to please her family AND her in-laws around the holidays. She recognized what a hassle it was to drive to, let alone eat, two holiday meals in one day, especially with (six!) young children in tow who’d be at varying stages of tired and cranky during that time. So she abdicated the traditional Thanksgiving Day to the various in-laws and in-laws-to-be and requested that we’d all make time on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to get together, share the traditional holiday meal and give thanks that we didn’t have to go through that nonsense. Plus she knew she’d have a better chance of getting us all to herself that day. We all get to relax and enjoy each other.

Whether it was a selfless or selfish act, it has worked for us on so many levels. Out of town relatives who make the journey to my parents’ home don’t have to deal with the holiday-bloated highways. When many of us waited tables to get through college – requesting the Sunday before Thanksgiving was no problem, where getting that special Thursday would have been.

Arguments about whose side of the family got the prime visiting hours are a thing of the past. By “prime visiting hours” I mean those moments when the bird is fresh from the oven and the cranberry sauce has yet to congeal? No more battles over which family has to settle for the “dessert only pop-in visit” after having eaten and the only thing about to pop is the button on your pants.

The ability to shop for and prep the meal ahead of everyone else meant that we never had to deal with crazy lines at the store. We also bypassed the frozen turkey curse. Choosing our own day to give thanks meant there were always plenty of fresh cranberries at the market for me to make my famous cranberry nut bread and homemade sauce. 

My family has its share of football fans and they don’t lose out either by this calendar switcheroo. Our Giving Thanks Day takes place on a Sunday in the fall which means there are plenty of football games on. A welcome addition to our tradition since that aspect of the holiday is as synonymous with Thanksgiving as stuffing. And what, you may ask; do my parents do when the “real” Thanksgiving Day rolls around? They sometimes accept a dinner invitation from a friend, work at a soup kitchen, put together food baskets for the needy or use the time to volunteer in some capacity through their church or faith group.

Sometimes, they just enjoy each other’s company, quietly working their way through our Giving Thanks Day leftovers, giving thanks for what they have. And if you ask me, doing it any other way would be backwards.

Mary Moscarello is a freelance writer, based in Clifton, New Jersey. She writes about parenting, health, wellness and relationships.