Posted by: donnatallman | November 22, 2011

Rewriting Thanksgiving’s History

It only takes once to make a tradition. Seriously, that’s all it takes.

One year at Christmas I made a few loaves of cinnamon bread for our friends and ended up kneading dough on Christmas Eve every year for a decade. Like yeast rising in a bowl, our friends list expanded every year and I was held captive in the kitchen by something that got away from me.

How did that happen?

I did it once and someone remembered.

A tradition was born.

Breakfast burritos on Thanksgiving morning are also a tradition at our house, but that only started a few years ago. A friend gave me her recipe and, on a lark, I tried it on Thanksgiving Eve. I didn’t realize the burritos would have to sit in the fridge overnight, so we had to wait until Thanksgiving morning to eat them.

Ta dah! Tradition materializes in such mundane of circumstances.

Thanksgiving is this week and traditions abound. Mr. Turkey, the guest of honor, arrives with a generous entourage of side dishes. There’s Aunt Rhonda’s mashed potatoes with lots of lumps, two types of stuffing – one with and one without. With or without what, I can never remember. With nuts? Without onions? I don’t know. Corn pudding, stuffed mushrooms, pumpkin pie and wishbone wars also accompany the family guests making each holiday predictably unique.

And then there’s football. Of course, we must talk about football. There is no Thanksgiving without football. Seriously. There’s probably some government proclamation buried in a time capsule underneath the Liberty Bell declaring there must be football on Thanksgiving.

It’s tradition.

The Indians and the Pilgrims invented it no doubt – played it on the first Thanksgiving.


Rewriting history.

One of the traditions I’d like to rewrite is the annual appearance of the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving Day. It’s like the TV stations that air the “Yule Log” at Christmastime. It’s always on, but nothing ever happens.

Why do we have to endure them every year?

Because once upon a time, the Detroit Lions were looking for a way to boost attendance at one of their games and the owner managed to schedule the game on Thanksgiving. He also convinced NBC radio to broadcast it nationally.

Ta dah! Tradition is born.


Ever since 1934 the Lions have played on Thanksgiving and it has been broadcast across the country whether we like it or not. And the Cowboys; why are the Cowboys on every year? Same thing. Nothing earth shattering. Somebody just wanted to boost the team’s profile.

I loved the Cowboys during the Tom Landry-Roger Staubach-Mel Renfro years. Okay, I adored them. Not only were they America’s team, they were my team – well, right after the Denver Broncos they were my team. But now, now I think I’ll spare you my rant about why I can’t watch the Cowboys anymore. I have too many family members and friends that will never forgive me.

So, how do we establish meaningful traditions? It only takes once. This year retailers are trying to rewrite my script for Thanksgiving Day by opening their stores earlier and offering sticker-slashing deals to shoppers.

I’m not buying it.

I will resist.

No, I will refuse because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is the one holiday our cultural hasn’t corrupted with materialism and mayhem. It’s the one holiday that I can celebrate in the quiet of the morning by giving thanks for all that God is in my life, all that He has done in my life, and for all the people He has put in my life.

At its core, Thanksgiving is a simple day, and I love simple.

We used to sing this chorus in church a few years ago and it’s been stuck in my head and my heart all week:

“Give thanks with a grateful heart

Give thanks to the holy one

Give thanks because He’s given

Jesus Christ His Son.

And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’

Let the poor say, ‘I am rich,’

Because of what the Lord has done

for us. Give thanks.”

What is it about giving thanks that makes the weak strong and the poor rich?

The change in perspective.

When the poor offer up thanks in the midst of their poverty, they are choosing to view their circumstances from a larger perspective – from God’s perspective. He offers them everything – and they understand that they have far more “wealth” than they ever imagined. When the weak exchange their limitations for all that God promises, they find the very strength they need to carry on. I love it that giving thanks can forever alter our lives. It can make the weak strong and the poor rich – it gives hope when there is none, and offers comfort when we are alone. Giving thanks rewrites our own history.

This Thanksgiving I’m starting my day in the quiet of the morning with a grateful heart. Before I lift one spoon to stir, one pan to fill, or one mushroom to stuff, I’m claiming simple. I’m claiming thanks.

It only takes once to make a tradition.

Seriously, just once.

And later, I might actually watch the Lions play this year. They play the defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers. The Lions are 7 and 3 this year, and the Packers are undefeated. This could be good. It could be great. It might even be a game for the ages.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

©Copyright, 2011 by Donna Tallman.



  1. I am thankful for a delightful lady who has been given the ability to wrap concepts wonderfully with words. You are welcome at my fire anytime.

    For your listening and viewing pleasure;

    Sue G

    • Thank you, Sue! And thanks for posting the link to “Give Thanks” – it’s such a great song.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving. I love any day that encourages me to stop and be grateful and thankful for the good in my life. So often, negative thoughts get to rule the day, but here’s one day starting with the simple joy of thinking about the good. One of the good things I am thankful for is getting to read beautiful heartfelt writing like yours. Have a lovely Holiday.

    • Thank you, Debz! Have a great day today celebrating the simple.

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