Heritage Holidays in Appalachia

Thanksgiving Memories & Traditions

Thanksgiving in Appalachia

For me Thanksgiving has always been a time to gather with my family-eat a lot of good food and enjoy each other’s company. The only real tradition we have-is turkey and Granny’s pumpkin pies. The side dishes might change but we always have turkey and pumpkin pie. I think I was an adult before I realized-you could actually cook turkey anytime you wanted. Growing up we only had it twice a year-at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I ask a few folks if they would share a Thanksgiving tradition or memory with me. This is what I got:

Fishing Guy a.k.a. Photographer Extraordinary said:

We have a bowl with the names of everyone at the Thanksgiving table. You pass the bowl around the table and each person chooses a name from the bowl. Then each person at the table takes a turn to share with everyone at the table why they are thankful for the person they have chosen. I feel this is a wonderful tradition and a neat time of sharing on the day for giving thanks for what we have been given. 

Miss Cindy said:

My best Thanksgiving memories are of helping Pop-my Dad- make dressing/stuffing for the turkey. My Mom wasn’t much of a cook but my Dad was a good cook and he enjoyed cooking. So the night before Thanksgiving we would make a vat full of dressing from a family recipe. We would add things then taste until it was “right”. I actually liked this dressing better before it was cooked! I still think that recipe is the best. I’ve made the same recipe with The Deer Hunter. It’s great to pass things down.

Carolyn-the nicest lady in Baltimore said:

The tradition with our family was to play a game before dinner. I especially liked the one my youngest sister came up with. She made leaf pins that everyone had to wear and during dinner conversation you could not say the word “Thanks”. It was very hard having to remember to say, “I appreciate that…instead of “thanks” when someone passed something. If you slipped and said “thanks” to another person, that person would get your pin…it was fun trying to trick people into saying it. “Oh, I really like your shoes!” “Thanks, I got them yesterday.” “May I have your pin please?” “Darn it , you tricked me!” At the end of dinner everyone would gather around and see how may pins everyone had. Two people with the most pins won a prize. Nothing big…I myself won a little set of battery operated candlesticks. What fun we had!

Becky of Twisted Fencepost Fame (and who attracts angry cows) said:

~A friend of mine, before she passed away, always decorated her Christmas tree on Thanksgiving evening~The wishbone was always wished and pulled on by my brother and I~The guys always go hunting on Thanksgiving morning, while the gals stay home and prepare the meal~My Mother’s first time to serve Thanksgiving dinner, she forgot to take the giblet bag out of the turkey. It was discovered by her Mother-n-law. She was very embarrassed~When my kids were little, they always had a Santa letter ready. And it magically disappeared during Thanksgiving dinner.

Terry said:

One of my fondest memories about Thanksgiving would be the whole day. We always went to Granny and Pa’s house, my Daddy’s folks. Since Pa always said a lady looked nice in a dress, we always got fancied up, but brought play clothes to change into. Granny would warn all the men going quail hunting to be back and ready to eat, AT NOON. She would cook the turkey, chicken n noodles, ham, pumpkin and pecan pies, and the aunts would all bring the sides. 3 bean salad, Hawaiian salad, homemade dinner rolls, and the like. We cousins were stuck in the outer room around card tables, and every year Granny would pick one of us to sit at the big table to eat with the guys. The ladies always ate last. The guys usually went next door to my Uncle’s house to watch football and nap. Granny wouldn’t eat much I guess because she was always doing up the posts and pans. I was so proud when I finally got old enough to help do the dishes. Kinda like a rite of passage. Although I only have Pa and Granny in my memory, I still try to do the dishes shortly after dinner.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the memories and traditions as much as I have! And I hope you’ll leave me a comment about a favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition you have.


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  • Reply
    delores (Rusty) ellis
    May 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Reading the blogs from folks is
    a precious gift to me. I have
    lost many female family members
    and close female friends that
    meant so much to me in my now
    ancient years. Now I feel energized and fun loving hearing
    from yo’all because it keeps me
    anxious to run to the computer and
    see what’s next on this marvelous
    GrGranE…..Rusty Ellis, Tucson, AZ

  • Reply
    Rhonda J.
    November 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I have fond memories of Thanksgiving when my Gram was alive.That’s when I learned to like the turkey heart and gizzard! Grams favorite part of the turkey was the neck.We would have a special lil table for my cousin and I,apart from the grownups table,which we thought was grand! I always got the big drumstick and Grams pumpkin pies were the best! Forever miss those days and my Gram and Pa!!!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2008 at 11:09 am

    What a wonderful post! I apologize for falling off on my posts and comments — I’ve been in Virginia! Josh surprised me by giving me an early birthday gift: a trip home to see my family and friends. It was wonderful!!!
    Love your post! I’ll be trying to catch up over the next few days.
    Much love,

  • Reply
    November 26, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Happy Thanksgiving Tipper!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 26, 2008 at 9:15 am

    I love the story about the leaf and the safety pin. Isn’t it always the simple things in life that bring us the most joy?
    And Remember—It isn’t to late to create a new Thanksgiving Tradition!!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    I hope you have a good one.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    November 25, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    It was always a day of bounty when I was young. My best memories, however, are of the days when my older sons were teenagers and my youngest was just a baby. In those days, the morning was filled with men getting out to hunt–boots clumping, guns stacked at the door, gloves and hats and orange vests everywhere, coffe constantly being made, and lots of excitement, even i no one got a deer. If it was snowing so much the better. I’d be inside cooking and getting the big dinner ready. We raised our own turkeys and vegetables, and often had a venison roast as well. It was day full of the richness of late autumn, late childhood, and good food.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I love that first picture – I love farmhouses, drafty though they may be, and it looks like it was plenty drafty there based on her clothes! Traditions – always a turkey and dressing but mostly laughter and children and stories. blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    November 25, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Tipper: Why thank you for the compliment along with posting my memory. We should always remember to give thanks for others during this special day. I am thankful for getting to know you and sharing with you on your neat site.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    November 25, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Wonderful ideas in how each celebrates Thanksgiving. Love the pin tradition. Thank you for sharing, Tipper! Hope you and your family are having a wonderful time!

  • Reply
    The Texican
    November 25, 2008 at 7:33 am

    I’ve moved a lot during my lifetime, but Thanksgiving and Christmas were always times to return to visit with family, or to enjoy the traditional fare where ever we happened to be. Pappy

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Sweet memories! I don’t remember any traditions when I was growing up, but now the traditions is that we go to my MILs. I ALWAYS make Applepie, Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potatoes, and bread. =) My MIL makes the other half.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 5:25 am

    I enjoyed this post, and I laughed out loud about being an adult before you realized you could eat a turkey any time you wanted. I can relate to that! Also, the fact that pumpkin pies can be made at other times of the year! Wow. First time I made one in January, I felt kind of unfaithful to family tradition.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Wonderful post!
    Just checking in…wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Wonderful memories … I am looking forward to lots of family, food and fun! Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of yours.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Tipper, are you starting a new tradition this year?
    Great post and I love those pictures. Especially the first one.

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    November 24, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Since I have 12 cousins and we are all married, with kids, then the aunts and uncles etc., etc., we have a Christmas exchange. We all put our names into a hat and everyone draws.
    We place a $20-$25 limit and one person is responsible for the master list.
    After we eat, all the kids who are of reading age, play Santa and pass out everyones present.
    Plus, Thanksgiving is a great time to try all the various animals that were hunted over the past year: deer, rabbit, pheasant, squirrel.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    November 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    What a great post Tipper! I love hearing how others celebrate, and you have me missing my family more than I thought I would.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I enjoyed reading the different traditions and memories. I especially liked the leaf pin game. What a neat idea!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I love this post and so much enjoy reading other traditions. Wishing you and your lovely family the best Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Cool! We always end up with extra folks who don’t have family, can’t travel etc. I really like meeting new people that always are a prt of the festivities. We also take a group picture each year and it usually has 20-25 people in it including my kids. It’s a chaotic mess but I just love it for some reason…we also seem to enjoy falling asleep somewhere in my grandparents’ little house…young and old, we all squish in somewhere and fall asleep in front of the Lions losing another football game…great stuff!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Loved reading about the memories. My mom always made the best stuffing and pecan pies. My kids liked eating the stuffing before it was cooked, also. Since my mom passed away, we all go to my sister’s house on Thanksgiving. For the past few years I have been taking supplies and making Christmas crafts with my nieces.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    November 24, 2008 at 10:49 am

    This was a great post Tipper! I enjoyed reading everyone’s Thanksgiving traditions, especially the pictures. It kinda brought a tear to my eye as I remember Thanksgivings past and I thank you for posting mine. I am also thankful this year to know you and your lovely family. xxoo

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