As we all head to our parents’ or grandparents’ houses for Thanksgiving or plan to hold the celebration at our own homes with family and friends, it seems like a good time to remember how Thanksgiving reflects many of the core values that make us a remarkable nation.
I have always found it interesting, at least in my family for example, how Thanksgiving shows both the binding nature of our common, very American culture, and the beacon it has always been to people from all over the world whose greatest goal in life is to immigrate here. We always served turkey, of course, when I was growing up because that is the American way. But the side dishes we served came from my parents’ immigrant backgrounds. My German grandmother and mother would make dumplings, sauerkraut, red cabbage, and other traditional Silesian dishes to go with the very American bird we were consuming, with apple strudel for desert.
When my oldest sister married into a family of Italian descent whose forebears had immigrated several generations before, I discovered that they served pasta and other traditional Italian foods with their turkey. When I married someone whose family has been here since shortly after the Mayflower came to Plymouth Rock, we added some very traditional New England favorites to our Thanksgiving spread. That diversity of food, held together and molded around the American turkey, is symbolic of our history of immigrants from all over the world being molded into the melting pot that is America. It gives truth to our nation’s motto, e pluribus unum - out of many one.
Thanksgiving is the national holiday where our extended families get together. The importance of strong, nurturing families and the values they instill have always been a key part of our success, and the success of so many individuals throughout our history. Thanksgiving is the biggest travel holiday of the year because almost everyone is trying to get home to see their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other members of their families. I am traveling 11 hours this week to get home and I am really looking forward to the food, the conversation, the laughter, and the emotional high from seeing my family. America is a nation that celebrates its families, and Thanksgiving not only brings our own families together, it brings our nation together as the American family.