“Traditions” change. Those rituals, meals, and celebrations that we swore were cast in stone are altered as our families grow or as our lives change. I used to think of Thanksgiving as one of those inviolable traditions, “If you want to see us on Thanksgiving you’ll have to come to our house.” For 14 years of our married life, Thanksgiving was at our home and all were welcome. It was our holiday.
Thanksgiving Traditions and Others: The Times They are A-Changing
Of course, once we moved aboard I had to reluctantly cede the day to someone else, but that isn’t to say I gave up easily. First we attempted a Thanksgiving on board the boat joined by EW’s sister, Dale, and two friends and their college-age son. The impetus for that less than genius idea was our friends’ turkey fryer, so the men fried the turkey in the marina parking lot while we women attempted to heat up way too many “must have” side dishes in my small boat stove and toaster oven. The result was a delicious turkey, lukewarm sides, and six folks— four of them land-lubbers—squeezed into a boat. Fun, but not ideal. Future Thanksgivings in Maine were held at Dale’s or with other friends in their homes.
Thanksgiving Traditions when Cruising: You Can Get Anything You Want
As cruising sailors, we have frequently been in foreign ports for Thanksgiving and I’ve actually grown to love creating an American Holiday where one doesn’t exist. In Grenada we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, because folks on this tiny Caribbean island have strong ties to Canada and there’s always a large flotilla of Canadian cruisers. Together, they’d organize a Thanksgiving on what we think of as Columbus Day. (Yes, Canadian Thanksgiving is on a Monday in October, usually with a lot less hoopla. That link above tells the tale, “where the holiday gets about as much attention as the half-birthday of the youngest child in a family of 12.”)
Because it’s what we do, we U.S. Cruisers hoopla’d it up, easily done as the meal was held in a bar popular to cruisers. The turkeys were cooked in the bar’s kitchen, everyone contributed dishes to the potluck and the food included assorted dishes contributed by our Caribbean friends and cruisers from Europe, Australia, and South America. One U.S cruiser insisted on playing Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” on the sound system—a tradition difficult to explain to sailors from Sweden. After the meal, the English cruisers started a game of cricket, creating a new Thanksgiving Tradition.
Your Thanksgiving Traditions (and Others) Will Change with Time
Over the course of 32 years of marriage, all of our holiday traditions have changed. First, we drove to Niagara Falls every year for Christmas; after Favorite moved in we hosted a large open house in Maine on Christmas Eve; later, we celebrated that holiday with my family or with Dale. Thanksgivings while cruising have been celebrated in grand style at the home of EW’s cousins in St. Thomas, or on La Luna with a meal for just two in the Canary Islands, or again on our boat in a windy and bouncy anchorage when we hosted a Canadian father and son in Key West.
What’s my point? We tend to think of Thanksgiving Traditions (and others) continuing on as they always have done. That’s an unreasonable expectation. The first Thanksgiving your newly married son spends with his in-laws, the first Easter after your mom passed, the holidays you can’t be home—none of those will be what you consider normal, or even right. There will be holidays when you won’t even have turkey, or a crown roast of pork, or a full ham, or potato latkes. Your traditions will change.
What we’ve learned while traveling for seven years is that, while the traditions may be a reflection of what we feel—they aren’t the holiday. The holiday is what is in our hearts… thankfulness, joy, peace, love of family. None of that changes unless we allow the outside stuff— the lack of some cherished Thanksgiving tradition— to push away what’s important.
Once Again, a Lesson About Letting Go
Perhaps that’s both a lesson for those of us over sixty and something we can continue to teach to those who are younger. Things change. Life goes on. How we handle it makes all the difference. My mantra right now is “Life’s an adventure!” Bring it on, we’ll adapt. This year we are again joining a cruisers’ potluck in St. Augustine. As an homage to our cruiser thanksgivings in Grenada, we’ll play Alice’s Restaurant on EW’s iPad, I’ll bring a carrot halwa as my dessert, and we’ll challenge fellow cruisers to a few rousing games of petanque after dinner.
Traditions that change and move with you are the best traditions of all.
I got nothing to add to this. Except maybe, world peace. My take is similar, but without the boat part. (Smiling.)