What Thanksgiving Means to Our Families

Each week the Tiller team answers a new question about our individual approaches to money,  budgeting, and finances.

This week’s question wasn’t directly about money – it was about gratitude. Specifically, Thanksgiving and what it means to our families. Research shows gratitude is an essential component of a proactive financial mindset – but that’s for a different article.

Today we simply want to pause, take a moment to reflect on Thanksgiving, and send Happy Thanksgiving wishes to your family from ours.

Randy: Almost three years ago, we set out on a grand family adventure. We left Seattle for Sevilla, Spain— sight unseen— without friends or family in country. We arrived filled with excited anticipation, but also a bit of disorienting isolation.

In the intervening years, many locals have welcomed and adopted our strange, displaced family. They’ve invited us to their beach houses, cooked for us, danced Sevillanas with us, taught us about sherry, and included us in the peculiar traditions of their hometown pueblos.

We’ve made a tradition of sharing Thanksgiving with our Spanish friends. Last year, we set the table for 22. The turkey was a hit, the candied yams devoured, the pumpkin pie inhaled… alas, the green salad went untouched. Moreso than the food, our Spanish friends are intrigued by the idea of Thanksgiving. Their earnest embrace of our foreign rituals reflects a deep curiosity for the mysterious American holiday.

Sometimes I think Thanksgiving is actually the most Spanish thing that we Americans do all year. After all, our once-a-year celebration closely mirrors what many Spaniards do most every Sunday: gather at a family member’s house around 2 PM, drink & eat for the next six hours, watch some football (or fútbol), let the kids run crazy, then crash hard (sometimes even before all the guests have left).

In Spain, our American holiday has taken on a deeper meaning for our family. We are profoundly thankful for the warmth, hospitality, and kindness of our Andalusian friends who have made Sevilla feel like home.

P.S. I’ve just joined the Tiller team and I’m laser-focused on publishing new templates that will help us all stay informed and make the best possible financial decisions.

Tom: The smell of the Turkey in the oven. The sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows on top. Stuffing (which I cannot eat anymore). Mashed potatoes with Turkey Gravy. Good times with the extended family. Great conversations. Catching up with loved ones you haven’t seen in a little while. The Turkey/tryptophan coma after dinner. Playing games together. Watching a movie together. And then (there has to be) arguing over something insignificant and making up. (Whenever you’re close to family there’s always a little tension along with the joy and gladness.)

Sharing what you are thankful for. Thinking of and remembering blessings. Going back over the year and seeing the “harvest” from the year. Recounting the good times, tough times, struggle, work, and joy in seeing how very blessed you are. It’s simply a celebration of the providential care of God over the past year and the deep remembrance that it continues through the years and will continue in the future. And most of all, it’s about sharing the blessings with others that are in need.

Edward: One of the best parts of becoming a full-grown adult was taking over Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday. Over the years, my family (and definition of family) has changed. But Thanksgiving has been constant. I absolutely love bringing family and friends together for a long, meandering, easy day focused on cooking, conversation, cozy warmth, and shared gratitude.

This year we’ll bake something indulgent for breakfast, brew a lot of coffee, take a brisk and chatty cold-weather walk, return home, probably look at screens for a bit while we warm up, then food prepping. For a few hours, the kitchen will fill with steam and the sounds and smells of cooking. And then dinner, wine, kids and adults and stories of Thanksgiving past. It will get dark outside. Next, pie and cleaning up. Another quick walk, perhaps to accompany someone home. Maybe a toasted turkey sandwich and a movie. It really is the best day.

Peter: Thanksgiving is a favorite big holiday. The good life for me is about family, friends, and shared experiences. Sitting around a table with family and friends enjoying a feast roots me in the health, joy, and love that graces my life.

Most Thanksgivings in my life have been spent at my parents’ house, so it’s a holiday deeply rooted in tradition for me.

That said, my most memorable Thanksgiving was one spent far away, with my wife’s father and step-mother in Alaska. Her step-mother cooked a turkey, all the extras, and several pies in a primitive cabin with no running water. With outside temperatures far below zero and only a few hours of daylight that far north, we enjoyed a grand supper by the heat of a wood stove. That was the last time I saw them before they both died in an accident, and it epitomizes for me the beauty of this incredible holiday.

My wish for the world this Thanksgiving is that many can enjoy a safe Thanksgiving with a warm meal, a friend or even new friend, and some meaningful conversation. Happy Thanksgiving!

Heather: I don’t live near most of my family. They live in West Tennesee, and this is the first year I’m traveling there in about 14 years for Thanksgiving so it’s pretty exciting to actually be able to think about what it means to my family. For one thing, cornbread. My grandma makes a mean cornbread!

But more than that just the time. I’m so happy I’ll be able to share my appreciation and gratitude with my grandma, my younger brother, and his three kids. I love my niece and nephews. Visiting my little sister who’s just started driving (where does the time go!). Maybe seeing my dad on Thanksgiving for the first time ever! This year it’s all about actually getting to be there and spend time with family. It feels like something brand new.