The holidays are coming and with them, the assorted joys, stresses and traditions of being with family. Some traditions come from your religion or nationality, and some are specific to your family. They may have been around for generations, or they may be something new. And, in some cases, they may be completely unintentional.
When I was growing up, we spent most holidays at the home of my grandparents, my Nana and Bumpa. My aunts, uncles and cousins lived nearby so it was always a noisy gathering, full of lots of teasing, laughter and love. And of course, lots of food. Many holiday traditions revolved around the dinner table, and my family is no exception. I remember that at Passover, my grandfather got his own bowl of horseradish because the regular stuff wasn’t hot enough for him. He’d have a spoonful out of his special dish and his face would turn red and there would be tears streaming down his face as he gruffly declared that it still wasn’t right. At the end of the Seder, he would roll his eyes and grumble when my aunt burst into singing Daeyenu, a traditional Passover song.
At every meal—Thanksgiving, Passover, Rosh Hashanah—my Nana would prepare a fruit plate for dessert. She had a near-magical ability to select the freshest and most delicious fruits even when they were completely out of season. She would arrange everything on a beautiful tray, then cover it and put it on the porch to stay cool until after dinner. After each meal, Nana would pack up leftovers while Bumpa did the dishes, and then everyone would sit down to coffee (for the adults) and dessert. We’d be sitting there for a while and then Nana would leap up and yell “Oh! The fruit plate!” and she would rush out to the porch to get it and bring it to the table, where we would all laugh and pick at the delicious fruit. This happened, at least in my memory, every time. Every single time. And she wasn’t doing it for a gag—she’d really forget about it.
Today, Thanksgiving is held at my house. My husband does the cooking and I do the dishes. My aunts, uncles and cousins are scattered around the country, and my grandparents are gone. Now there is a different crowd at the table, but there’s still a lot of teasing, laughter and love. And every year, my husband and I prepare the Oh—-TheFruitPlate. It is all one word. We put it on the porch if it is cool, or in the basement if it is warmer. I have been known to leap up halfway through dessert and yell “Oh! The fruit plate!” because we actually forgot about it. It makes me think of Nana, and I smile.
At a recent meeting here at the Museum, we were talking about family dinners and family traditions. They don’t have to be from years past – you can create your own traditions and your children will grow up saying “At Thanksgiving, my family always….” They will have fond memories, and may never know it’s something you started when your children were very small. And these traditions may appear at their tables when they are grown.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to email my husband. We forgot to place an order from our CSA for fruit.